Workplace Woes – the Bully Boss

January 14, 2019
MRA Edge
Conflict Management
Read time: 3 mins

Bully bosses can do a lot of damage. From screaming directives to snubbing colleagues, bullies can create a "war zone" in the workplace.

So what does a bully boss look like? Common behaviors include:

  • Talking about someone behind his or her back.
  • Flaunting status or authority.
  • Belittling someone’s opinion to others.
  • Choosing not to return phone calls or respond to memos.
  • Giving others the silent treatment.
  • Delivering insults, yelling, and shouting.
  • Staring, giving dirty looks, or other negative eye contact.
  • Use of condescending or demeaning language.

When you add the anger you feel towards the bully and your frustration for putting up with such behavior, it hardly creates a prime condition for doing your best work, or any work at all.

These are never easy situations to resolve but here are some tactics that can help you cope with your bully boss:

  • Confront your bully boss. It can be startlingly effective. Bullies lack boundaries on their own behavior. A boss can’t bully if you don’t let yourself be bullied. Conduct the conversation in neutral territory such as coffee or lunch chat in a location outside of your department.
  • Be firm and honest. Point out how your boss’s behavior is affecting you. "I’m embarrassed when you humiliate me in a meeting. If you have a concern or issue with my performance, please address it with me in private."
  • Talk to the human resources department about your bully boss and then be sure to document each and every incident of bullying. Keep all memos, emails, and replies to your emails. Forward anything of a bullying nature to HR. Sadly, companies often don’t learn about bullying experiences until an exit interview.
  • If you are in HR and your own boss is a bully, communicate your concerns all the way up the chain of command until you are heard.
  • Set firm boundaries to take care of yourself. This means deciding on the things you are not willing to do, no matter what pressure someone places on you. No person, including your boss, can force you to do something without your implicit or explicit consent.

Every time you allow a bully to get a reaction out of you, you are giving away your personal power. But don’t fight fire with fire by becoming aggressive or hostile. Instead, take the steps needed to protect yourself while trying to make your bully boss see the error of his or her ways.

MRA’s certified HR Hotline Advisors are always on standby to assist you with questions on bullying, or any other HR issue at 866-HR-HOTLINE (866.474.6854) or

Source: Debra J. Schmidt, Owner/CEO, Loyalty Leader Inc.

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