Yesterday I did a book signing at the IM Gallery in Highland Park New Jersey. As I do before all of my book signings, I had an informal presentation/chat with the group. The conversation turned toward the work environment and I listened as several people shared how poorly they are treated at work. A boss who is so paranoid that her employees are gossiping about her she has forbidden them to talk to each other, even during breaks. Another who uses the poor economy to threaten his employees, “If you don’t work unpaid overtime I will fire you and you’ll never find another job in this market.” And still another who demanded that employees be available to be his personal limo service to the train station.
Since the theme of bullying bosses was so prevalent in the group yesterday, I thought I would share some of the insights we talked about with you.
First and foremost it is important not to let a bully affect your self esteem. Often when someone in authority puts us down we to take it to heart and begin to think less of ourselves. Watch out for that and fight it.
Second – What is yours and what is actually their stuff? Remember the post Everybody Has Stuff? Don’t allow someone to pack their emotional stuff into boxes and make you carry them. Determine what, if anything, they are saying is useful to you. Can you use it to grow or improve? Take what can be beneficial to you and ignore the rest. It is your responsibility to protect yourself from abuse.
After you are emotionally safe, you can work on creating change. Schedule a meeting or invite you boss to lunch. Have a conversation with him/her about how you could be more productive with some changes. Outline exactly what is happening that doesn’t work for you and specifically what you would like to see happen differently. Rereading the post Six Steps to Having Tough Conversations might be helpful.
If talking to your boss does not prove to be helpful, you may want to go over his/her head. Tread carefully. It is often wise to have a meeting with your boss and his/her boss to try to sort through the options.
Finally, talk to your coworkers. I am not suggesting that you get together and have a gossip and gripe fest. Instead, brainstorm solutions. How can you work together to protect yourselves from the bully and be as successful as possible?
Don’t forget that you always have the option of leaving. Staying in a job with an abusive boss is not good for you on any level. If you are unable to solicit change it may be time for you seek greener pastures.
Have you had an experience with a bullying boss? Share it in the comments and Doc Robyn will respond with her thoughts and pointers.