bird_manager_cracking_whipIt's possible that having to do more with less during the economic downturn has brought out the bully in more bosses since additional pressures have been placed on management. Another possibility is that they tend to stand out more now that behavior in the workplace is a hot topic and it has become less culturally acceptable to mistreat your reports. The good news is, in this age of career mobility, reduced expectation of cradle to grave employment at the same company and Gen Y strong tendency to move on when they aren't happy, modern day dictators and ogres no longer have it so easy to rule the fiefdom with Atillaesque etiquette .

If you have a boss that's a bully who has managed to run under the radar of someone that should have long ago stopped her in her tracks, there may still be hope. If you're determined to confront the monkey on your back it's important to know it's not personal even when it feels like it is. Take care of your self-esteem and reassure yourself by knowing that if you had performance issues that needed addressing, there are well established professionally accepted ways of doing that without causing humiliation. What's happening isn't your fault. Everyone is responsible for their own behavior.

That means you too...

If you have resisted running out the door because you love your job in every other way and want to work toward a more mutually respectable relationship, here is a process you can try. Disclaimer: It's not a magic bullet. Even if a bully boss has a change of heart and management style, damage has been done to the relationship that is hard to forgive and forget just like in any type of relationship. You may never be truly content working under the person even in light of seemingly miraculous recovery.

Ultimately, you'll need to make some tough career decisions.

Request a meeting with your bully boss and clearly state the behavior is inappropriate and must immediately be corrected. When you communicate keep in mind that you should not mirror her offensive style. It might not be easy to keep your composure but it certainly is in your best interest to be the "better person". Use "I" statements, not "you" statements and keep a calm demeanor and firm but not angered tone and try hard to not cry or show other visible signs of this behavior getting to you.

Here is an example of a conversation starter for a first attempt to have constructive dialog and bring your concern to the attention of your bully boss.

"I'm disappointed in our working relationship and how we communicate. I come to work each day enthusiastic with the goal to be highly productive and when I feel talked down to or bullied it really demotivates me and negatively affects my performance. It's not a win-win situation for anyone. How can we improve the way we work together?"

Once the conversation has ended and the situation is no longer emotionally charged, write a follow-up email to your boss containing a summary of the situation that was offensive, with focus on a commitment of mutual respect. It should be factual and not emotional. This email should be blind copied to a personal email address for purposes of documentation retention and serves to ensure that if your correspondence magically disappears off the company server you still have an electronic copy should you need it in the future if the situation continues. If the boss responds via email forward this email to your personal email and retain it as well. You should not feel compelled to respond to the email. In fact, I discourage it. The last thing you need is bully ping pong.

Many times the person who receives this type of email will have meaningful reflection on the situation when it's in black and white. They will also realize it has been documented and this alone can often have a revelatory effect. If the behavior occurs again request a meeting with the Human Resources Manager or in the absence of one, a Manager from another department. The ideal Manager should be of higher than but not less than equal rank to your Manager. In smaller organizations where this may not be possible, anyone in a supervisory position or the owner would be appropriate to speak with. Explain the situation, state it is unacceptable behavior that makes you uncomfortable and request assistance with a resolution. Ask when you will receive a response. Follow up with email documentation in the same manner as with the bully.

This should be the end of your problem. Most companies will reassign reporting structures, provide coaching and formal disciplinary action and eventually terminate bad bosses.

If you continue to be bullied and the company permits this behavior after having been formally notified, you may wish to consider visiting the EEOC website to see if you qualify to lodge a formal complaint with the government.

An employer must have a certain number of employees to be covered by the laws they enforce. This number varies depending on the type of employer (for example, whether the employer is a private company, a state or local government agency, a federal agency, an employment agency, or a labor union) and the kind of discrimination alleged (for example, discrimination based on a person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information).

Not every case of verbal abuse warrants or qualifies for an EEOC complaint. There is no law that requires people to speak nicely to one another or even to distribute workload equitably. Learning to manage the boss can be very effective but quite frankly, if the behavior hasn't been corrected after taking the above mentioned steps it is unlikely to ever improve and the best bet is to look for other opportunity.

You only live once, why allow it to be a bad experience?

Note: Bullying is inappropriate conduct and can be a form of harassment depending on the situation. This type of conduct should never be condoned or accepted. As with domestic violence offenders, the propensity to re-offend is probable especially if the behavior is tolerated.


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