It’s no secret that there are abusive bosses out there — you know the type. Bullies with big job titles that make the people working for them miserable.
According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute, an abusive boss is more likely to be a woman than a man.
Woman to woman bullying represents 50% of all workplace bullying; man to woman is 30%, man to man 12% and woman to man bullying is extremely rare - only 8%.
What should you know if you’re the victim of an abusive boss? Here are five tips.
Identify the behaviour
There are all kinds of abusive bosses. There are the constant critics who use put-downs, insults and name-calling. They may use aggressive eye contact to intimidate.
There are also two-headed snakes who pretend to be nice, while all the while trying to sabotage you.
Then there are the control freaks.
These ones ultimately want to control your life while at work.
Another type is the screaming ‘mimis’ who are emotionally out of control and explosive.
Don’t take it lying down
If your boss insults you or puts you down, Susan Futterman, author of, When You Work for a Bully suggests responding with something like, “In what way does calling me a moron or an idiot solve the problem? I think there is a better way to deal with this.”
If your boss has been defaming you, that’s illegal. You may want to consult an attorney.
If your boss is a control freak who’s breathing down your neck, you should address it. Say, “I can’t function effectively if you’re going to be micromanaging me and looking over my shoulder all the time. If I’m doing something wrong, let’s talk about it.”
If someone screams at you, don’t be a doormat. If you’ve made a mistake, acknowledge it. But let your boss know that they’re creating a difficult work environment.
Documenting your boss’ bad behaviour is important for two reasons.
First, you might not even realise the extent of the problem. Futterman explains: “Taken in isolation, these events may seem trivial, but taken as a whole, it often becomes clearer what’s actually going on. Your written records can document how severe the situation is.”
And, of course, if you decide to take legal action down the line, you may need the information. It’s best to document these incidents as soon as possible so they’re fresh in your mind.
Documentation is also important if you plan to report the behaviour to your boss’ boss or to your company’s human resources department.
Know when it’s too much
Bosses may exhibit bad behaviour sometimes. Hey, no one is perfect, not even bosses. But if your boss is abusing you, that’s a problem.
The problem takes on greater urgency if the abuse starts to make you feel bad. If you chronically suffer high blood pressure that started only when you began working for your boss.
When the bullying has had a prolonged affect on your health or your life outside of work, it’s time to get out. It’s also time to leave if your confidence or your usual good performance has been undermined.
Control your destiny
Even after you leave your nightmare boss, you’ll still have to explain why you left to potential new employers.
Futterman advises against dramatising your old work situation.
“You don’t want to start recalling and recounting the abuse you suffered. You’ll inevitably get upset and that’s not the way you want to handle a job interview,” she says.
Try to control the interview situation to the extent you can. Don’t give your abusive boss as a reference. A good choice might be a colleague or a peer you’re on good terms with or someone who can speak about you professionally.
Also, if you only worked for your bullying boss for a short time, you may want to consider leaving that job off your resume altogether.