Most of us have been affected by bullying in one way or another, either as a victim, a bystander or perhaps even the perpetrator. Though many think bullying occurs primarily during childhood and adolescence, there can also be a fair amount of it in the workplace as an adult. In a recent survey of more than 2,000 corporate employees, 96% of respondents said they had been bullied or had witnessed it occurring at work.
But what happens when the bully is your boss? When you’re dealing with a bully who is not your peer, but the person you report to everyday, things can get complicated. Examples of bullying include unfair criticism, public humiliation, repeated verbal abuse, intimidation and extreme micromanagement.
Here’s some advice to improve your situation at the office:
- Analyze the situation/Speak with your boss. The first thing you need to do is to determine if the behavior is intentional or a one-time miscommunication. Does the behavior happen regularly and are you usually the target? Approach your boss to see if you’re able to find out more information. Keep the conversation friendly and positive, while reinforcing how much you enjoy working for the company. By doing this, you may be able to decrease the bullying behavior, possibly stopping it altogether.
- Document any bullying behavior. Begin keeping a record whenever bullying behavior occurs and make sure to be as specific as possible, including dates, times and what happened.
- Keep an ongoing list of your accomplishments. It’s a good idea to document any projects or emails that support you as a hard-working, responsible employee. This can provide proof that you are maintaining quality work, just in case your boss calls it into question.
- Do not be insubordinate. The worst thing you can do is retaliate verbally or physically, especially if you are being baited into doing so. Remain calm, take yourself out of the situation (if possible), and count to 10.
- Talk with HR. If the bullying does not cease and the work culture continues being negative, you may need to meet with Human Resources to discuss the situation. Present your documentation and any efforts you have made to resolve the situation.
- Contact your EAP. If you’re having difficulty managing your emotions and the ongoing stress, check to see if your company has an employee assistance program. This is a free, confidential service where you talk with trained counselors telephonically or in-person to get guidance and support.
- Plan your exit. Ultimately, if you’re being bullied by your boss on a consistent basis and you’ve continually tried to resolve the situation to no avail, you may need to decide if staying in the situation is worth it. If not, you may need to remove yourself from the organization, especially if you believe that your boss will not be reprimanded. Leave on your own terms, not the bully’s.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any personal stories you are willing to share? Please feel free to ask questions or share your experiences below.
Jeremy S. joined Empathia in 2007 as a Manager, Client Care Services, then became an Account Manager/Sales Consultant in 2012. He is also a certified wellness and tobacco cessation coach. Jeremy has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Organizational Development. Prior to joining Empathia, he spent 14 years in the EAP industry in a variety of managerial/leadership roles at another behavioral healthcare organization. Jeremy enjoys reading, photography, music and spending time with his wife and daughters.