You’ve probably heard a lot about what to do when confronted by a schoolyard bully, and if you’re a parent or educator, you might have even shared those tips.
But what if the bully is in the corner office?
Handling a boss who is a bully isn’t an easy thing, and there are no absolute answers. But here are some strategies you can use to protect and stand up for yourself:
1. Remember that documentation is your friend. Find ways to keep records of everything, such as how much you worked, when your projects were completed and the kind of responses you got. You might need to turn to these records as evidence if things get ugly.
2. Spelling is your friend, too. As in spelling out exactly what your job entails, when you’re supposed to do it and how your performance will be evaluated. If your boss is a real jerk, being able to demonstrate that he or she really did move the goal posts might not calm things down, but it can buttress your position.
3. Copying is your friend, too. Whenever you come to some kind of agreement with your boss, write it down and shoot it right back as a confirmation and try to find a responsible party you can legitimately include as a “cc”.
4. Don’t play capture the flag. Bullying bosses often seem to divide their offices into warring camps. Even if you sympathize with the insurgents, try to avoid these battles. They usually wind up hurting everyone and keep you from doing your best work, which is one of the best defenses available to you.
5. Go pro. This doesn’t mean you should press to be treated as a free agent. Even young children know that bullies taunt you because they want a reaction. If you don’t give bullies the reaction they want, they’ll eventually leave you alone and search for more responsive preys. If you keep a professional demeanor at work, and don’t get drawn into the drama games some office bullies like to surround themselves with, you’ll be better able to avoid the bully’s clutches.
Try developing and adding your own techniques to this list, because chances are you will have to deal with the bully at some point.
That’s because bullies at work have uncommon staying power. You’d think someone who screws up as much as the average bully does, and who has so few real friends would be shown the door in short order, but that’s not how it works all the time.
Maybe that’s because the bully terrorized the HR department.
Just make sure you learn how to stand your ground, and maybe someday you’ll get to a place in your company where you won’t have to deal with bullies.
by Danielle Dresden