My boss is a bully.*
Your boss emails you at all hours and demands that you reply, rages when you make a vacation request, and throws more temper tantrums than your three-year-old. You wouldn’t allow anybody to treat your children like this so why do you put up with it yourself?
Ignore it, talk it out, or play somewhere else.
One of the best books we’ve read on the subject of childhood bullying is called Simon’s Hook. It explains a few strategies and also an important and often overlooked first step: considering the bully’s intentions. Is he trying to hurt you or is it possible you’re overreacting? If your boss’s actions are mild enough that you can ignore him, that’s the simplest solution. If, however, you find it difficult to laugh it off and it feels like he’s trying to purposefully antagonize you, something more needs to be done.
As daunting as it sounds, you need to have a conversation with your boss. Practice the key points you want to discuss beforehand, and during the conversation, take a deep breath before reacting so you don’t say anything you’ll regret. Open using a ‘when’ statement about something concrete, for example: ‘When you contradicted me in the meeting yesterday it made me feel like you don’t value my opinion’. Avoid using absolute words like ‘always’ or ‘never’, as in: “You always ignore me”. Absolute statements only make the person they’re directed at become defensive, which quickly leads nowhere. If you express your position in a well-thought out manner and are not accusatory, your boss will not feel under attack and hopefully you’ll be able to come to a mutual understanding.
However, if your boss is simply a bully and talking about it doesn’t help, it’s time to come up with plan B. This could mean switching into another group at your workplace where you don’t have to interact with him or it could mean finding a new job entirely. Drastic? Definitely! But hindsight is twenty-twenty and once you’re outta that toxic environment you’ll find it hard to believe you put up with him for as long as you did. When I was pregnant with our last baby my stress levels were off the charts because I was working for a tyrant. We had The Conversation and although the situation improved for a couple of days, things quickly went back to his normal. Had I not already had my plan B cooking in my oven, I would have hightailed it out of there at the first opportunity and never, ever looked back.
You’ll likely feel nervous approaching your boss about such a sensitive issue, but the more often you speak up for yourself the easier it will become. If your boss is open-minded enough to listen to you, you’ll be able to work in a much less hostile environment which will increase your productivity and lead to more self-satisfaction through your work. If he’s not, you’ll never feel good enough in your role no matter how hard you work or how self-sacrificing you are. Life is too short to waste time on people who make you feel like crap. Spend your energy looking for a new job where you’ll be appreciated and feel more self-confidence as a result.
*We’ve been getting some inquiries about this CRUNCH – enough to merit further clarification. We’ve had some amazing bosses (Hi Ray!) and don’t want any of the good ones to think we’re pointing fingers at them. So, if you did not furiously insist that your seven-months pregnant employee show up to work at four o’clock on a Monday morning for a self-imposed deadline, rest assured, this is not about you.
Email any questions and let us know how this worked for you!