How to Deal With an Office Bully as a Boss

by Beth Greenwood

Managers take the office bully role 81 percent of the time, according to the website CIO. Unfortunately, some of the same qualities that make them bullies -- aggressive behavior, win-at-all-costs thought patterns and a hard-driving style -- might be tolerated by the senior leaders in the organization if they're producing what the company needs. Meryl Streep’s performance in "The Devil Wears Prada" is one example of a bully who's also an achiever.

Recognize the Behavior

Recognition of bullies' behavior is the first step in dealing with the problem. Bullies use many different tactics. They may shout, verbally abuse you, micromanage or make demeaning comments about you in front of other people. Although anyone might lose his temper occasionally, with bullies the behavior happens repeatedly, and they neither apologize nor stop what they're doing. Subordinates may be scared and often concentrate more on protecting themselves than innovation.

Manage Your Reactions

Unlike the schoolyard, when it comes to the workplace, your boss has the power to change your life by firing you. Challenging the boss might not be the best first option, according to the Wall Street Journal. Instead, try dealing with the behavior by managing your own reactions. Remain calm and focus on your work. If necessary, excuse yourself for a few minutes. You could also look for a bully's better characteristics as a leader. It’s possible that the bully's trying to achieve better performance, even if the techniques aren't the best.

Talk to Your Boss

A boss who is a bully may be unaware of the effect he or she has on you. Ask for some time in a private setting to have a conversation. Be specific about the bullying and what you'd like to see change. For instance, you might say: “When you yell at me, I find it hard to concentrate, and it makes it difficult for me to do my job well. I would appreciate it if you would not raise your voice or swear at me.” Don't let the conversation become a confrontation, which could mean you’ll lose your job. If the boss begins to shout or verbally abuse you, say politely, “This is the sort of behavior I’m talking about. Perhaps we could finish this conversation when you’ve calmed down.”

Talk to Human Resources

If your organization has a human resources department, you could try taking it up with the staff. According to the LiveScience website, some specific tactics will help the HR manager take you seriously. Be rational, specific and express your emotions appropriately; don’t make accusations, cry or raise your voice. Document details and provide a consistent picture of what’s happening. Tell a relevant, plausible story. Emphasize your own competence and show consideration for the bully’s perspective.

Leave the Job

Being the target of a bully can affect your health, according to psychologist Michelle Callahan in the Huffington Post. Headaches, depression, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, panic attacks and even post-traumatic stress disorder can result from being bullied. Although the company is responsible for preventing bullying on the job, it may not take action. Be prepared to leave your job if necessary, especially to protect your health.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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