Professionalism

Workplace Bullying when the Workplace Bully is your Boss



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Does your boss act like Gordon Ramsay on ‘Kitchen Nightmares?’ Rants and raves, makes you feel intimidated, has you either on the verge of tears of questioning your worth? If you answer “yes”, perchance your boss is a bully. Bullies thrive on power and being a boss makes it so much easier to find a vulnerable victim. When you are bullied by a work peer, you can choose to confront, ignore or report them. But when it’s your boss doing the bullying what do you do?

Bullying is a trait which is not confined to one specific gender. Therefore, it is deemed an equal-opportunity type of victimization. Unfortunately, once a bully finds a victim, they seldom move on to another target voluntarily. This is why it is imperative that a person who is bullied by their boss, needs to do something about the situation immediately. Unfortunately, in the case of a bullying boss, statistics show that the victim usually throws the towel in and leaves the workplace. Yet there are laws set in place for bullying and victims should take advantage of these.

Sadly though, staying in the workplace could be very uncomfortable for the bully’s victim. When the aggressor is the boss, the intensity of the bullying can become unbearable. Studies on bullying where the boss is the culprit has revealed that approximately 70% of victims lose their jobs once the victim has been targeted. 33% of victims leave voluntarily for health reasons which are often related to stress, anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies. 36% of bullied employs are ‘constructively’ discharged. Yet aside from the health risks of being targeted for bullying by the boss, the major risk is being chosen as the target.

Bullying can be in the form of hostility, verbal or nonverbal communication, withholding information, equipment, data, resources, training and so forth. The workplace becomes chaotic and you guessed it, the victim gets the blame. Bullying by omission creates divisiveness in ranks and ill-feelings between work peers. Bullying bosses come in all sizes; shapes, colour and creed, yet all bullies have the very same agenda, absolute control in every sense of the word. These people are power hungry and feed off their victim’s fear and lowered self-esteem. Most bullying bosses speak with a forked tongue. They usually talk about teamwork, pretend to have the company’s best interest at heart. But in reality, they are more concerned about themselves than anything else.

The bullying boss hates to think that someone is above them within the organization. They are also prejudiced about those who are lower than them in the work rank department. Yet bullying bosses seldom last long in the business world as they soon earn a reputation, one of which is so negative. Bullying bosses select their victims somewhat like a predator will select his/her prey. The victim will be the nice man or woman, the type of person who will go the extra mile. Thus, the vulnerable person who seems shy and somewhat weak in comparison to other people will be the victim. If you are weak and afraid to stand up for yourself, the boss will own you.  

Companies which are heavy profit driven enterprises, time intensive and competing with others for contracts for instance, breed bullies. The Workplace Bullying Institute (otherwise referred to as WBI), surveyed bullying of which resulted in the following information.  53.5 million Americans have experienced bullying firsthand. Studies also show that approximately 62% of men are bullies whilst 58% of victims are women.  In most female bullying episodes, women target other women in 80% of these.  The study also revealed that approximately 68% of bullying is of the same gender and that bullying is four times more frequent than episodes of harassment.  

Often times, victims are of the opinion that they have no alternative but to suffer in silence. But this is so wrong; there are laws to protect workplace victimization. Yet the major concern is the loss of a person’s career due to not feeling safe in the workplace any longer. Besides, stress, anxiety attacks and so many other medical issues arise such as depression. It then feels like one is in a cage with a wild animal. Yet no employee deserves mistreatment of any kind. Bullying is illegal irrespective of what a myriad of people tend to think.

Yes illegal, although there are no anti-bullying state or national laws, there are laws pertaining to stalking and harassment of which bullying basically is. In fact, because US rules against workplace harassment and prohibits workplace discrimination, if it goes too far you have just cause to take your boss to court. But do be aware that the American harassment policies only ban status-based harassment which is linked to a specific group. But if you are sexually or racially harassed or endure harassment based on a disability, your boss could be in serious trouble. If your boss bullies you in any other manner, take the following steps to nip it in the bud.

Call a spade a spade:

If your boss is harassing you, call it how it is. Try to keep your cool and simply say something such as “The way you treat me is in my opinion, a form of bullying Sir/Mam”. Your boss will then need a come-back such as “But you work so slowly” or “You annoy me so much”. This then gives you the opportunity to ask your boss to be more specific so that you can work together to get past this clash of personalities.

Responding in this specific manner, works very well as bullies love to add more fuel to their animosity. When you don’t give them what they want, you take away their power.  Another response one can give to a bullying boss is, “Sir, I’m a glutton for punishment, there’s nothing I like better than to be humiliated, insulted and undermined.

Jeannette West a retired psychologist from Sydney Australia personally told the author that this particular response often puts a bullying boss in their place. Although it can come across as facetious, it’s the ideal response when bullying has gone that little too far. Often times, a blunt response like this, is all that is needed to shake a bullying boss up. The facetiousness is often just what it takes to tell the boss “Stop right there!”

Get a doctor’s certificate:

If your boss is subjecting you to consistent bullying, get a doctor’s certificate whilst you have a couple of days off. Tell the doctor what is happening and ask that they be relatively blunt with the certificate they write out. Something such as “Averill has been suffering from anxiety attacks due to a work peer subjecting her too some type of consistent bullying. This makes a clear statement to the bully that you now have some type of evidence in your hot little hands that you are being bullying at work. At times, this will make a bullying boss back off as a doctor’s certificate is all that is needed at times to get the ball rolling in court if needed.

 Tell the bully to stop:

Asking and telling are two different things. You should never ask a bully to stop, tell them. Jeannette West is quoted as saying “Asking a bullying to stop is giving them an option, telling them to stop is the better choice. Use a firm voice but don’t yell. Simply say “Stop the bullying right now, I am a human being and deserve to be treated as such!”

Visit your attorney:

If you wish to keep your job but want the bullying to stop, a ‘desist letter’ is your best option. Unfair dismissal is against the law. You could end up having one up on the boss if he/she has simply singled you out for no other reason other than they enjoy bullying. Talk to an attorney either while you seek another job or dig your heels in and refuse to accept this type of treatment.

Become loud:

Talk louder whenever the boss begins to show his/her nasty bullying traits. It will get the attention of your work peers and have the boss worried that his/her nasty mannerism with you will be noticed.  As he she deals out the insults, say something like, “Please speak up sir, I’m not sure if you really called me a moron or not!” This will have the boss’s hair turning grey quick smart if he/she has been hiding his/her nasty persona.

Expose the bully:

Bullying bosses need to be exposed for who and what they are. If speaking loud doesn’t stop the bully, go one step further and start telling your work peers about what you are constantly subjected to. You may be quite surprized to learn that others have been victimized by the same person.  If others have been subjected to the same brutality, you may just have a case ready to go to court.

Make an appointment to talk to the boss:

At times, a bullying boss becomes the way he she is because they have a load of insecurities. If you make an appointment to speak to the boss, do say something such as “Your workload must be humongous, is there anything I can do to help? “This is a great option if you wish to keep your job and try to meet the boss half way. Often times, a bullying boss only becomes this way due to work related stress. When you offer a hand, you may just gain a lifetime friend, who simply needed a wake-up call.  

Never blame yourself:

A bully is a bully because he/she chooses to be one. Not because someone did him /her wrong.  So don’t blame yourself for the situation.  Everyone is accountable for their own actions; your boss chose to be a bully.  Hopefully, you can work something out with your boss; ask for a transfer to another section if it is simply a personality clash which has triggered your boss off.

Weigh up the pros and cons:

Having a job is a blessing to many in this day and age. Therefore a myriad of people stay in a job they detest, with a bullying boss, simply because they need the money.  Weigh up the importance of your job before you tell your boss what he/she can do with the job. Hopefully there is a possibility that you can be transferred to another section or work a different shift and not have to come in contact with a bullying boss. 

If you don’t really need the job you can tell your boss to take a long walk off a short pier. Maybe a little mediation may help ease the situation as well. Perhaps speaking to the boss’s boss, may help ease the situation also.  But no one deserves to be bullied, when one person speaks out about bullying, then another, perchance the laws will change and bullying will eventually be a thing of the past.

More about this author: Krystal Waldron

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