Unfortunately, bullying can go beyond the playground and into the workplace. A boss who is a bully is more than just a person who is hard to please. She can be an individual whose language is abusive, uses intimidation as a management tool and creates a hostile work environment. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 35 percent of United States workers report being bullied at work. As of April 2011, there are no laws that protect employees from bosses who are bullies.
Tough Boss Versus Bullying Boss
One of the biggest differences between tough bosses and bosses who bully is that bullies act with malice. A tough boss may seem hard to please, expect the best from employees and have a hard exterior, but his actions are not motivated by self-interests. A boss who is a bully misuses her authority and focuses on her interests instead of the those of the company for which she works. A tough boss acts professionally and fair and holds employees to high performance standards. A bully tends to exhibit emotional outbursts and acts inconsistently when it comes to the treatment of her employees. On the other hand, a tough boss acts in a self-controlled manner that is not dictated by emotions in order to help his organization reach its goals.
How Bosses Bully
Occasionally, a boss may have a bad day and snap at employee. This is not necessarily bullying. Bullying can take the form of verbal abuse; verbal and nonverbal behaviors or conduct meant to intimidate, threaten or humiliate an employee; or actions that sabotage an employee's work. Bosses who bully continuously act inappropriately over the course of months or years. It is common for the bullying to escalate, be intentional and be a way for a boss to show his employees his power.
Why a Boss Bullies
A boss bullies employees because of her need to control the environment or get employees to side with her. A boss who bullies does so to belittle her subordinates. She purposefully wants to undermine the integrity of employees, prevent employee access to company opportunities, overwork employees and create a destabilized environment. A boss may believe she is controlling the workplace and making herself look superior by setting employees up to fail, reminding them of past failures and not acknowledging achievements.
What to Do
When a boss bullies an employee, it is important for the employee to remember that it is not his fault. The Workplace Bullying Institute recommends that employees who want to take action against a bullying boss take some time off to make sure he is in good physical and psychological health. The employee should research state laws and his company's policies and procedures regarding workplace harassment and list instances when his boss' behavior caused employees to leave the company, be absent or experience a loss in productivity. This time off is also a good opportunity for an employee to look for a new job. A boss who is a bully will more than likely retaliate against an employee who exposes him. Present the information you gathered regarding bullying incidents in a manner that is objective and only states facts to an authority figure within the company.
- "Workplace Bullying: What We Know, Who Is to Blame and What Can We Do?" Charlotte Rayner, et al.; 2001
- Workplace Bullying Institute: Definition of Workplace Bullying
- Workplace Bullying Institute: The WBI 3-Step Method
- Society for Human Resource Management; Tough Boss or Workplace Bully?; Teresa A. Daniel; June 2009
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