Got a Bully for a Boss? How You Can Survive a Toxic Workplace

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The Schemer: The schemer attempts to undermine your status by repeatedly withholding key information from you, excluding you from e-mail distributions, and intentionally leaving you out of meetings when you ought to be in the loop. The schemer nitpicks and micromanages, somehow always finding fault with your work, and fails to give you credit for the good work you do. A demanding boss can push you to deliver the best and can set the bar high with big expectations for excellence, but the schemer is never satisfied because of barriers that he or she puts in your way.

Document Details: Complaining about these toxic tactics can make you seem petty -- "Oh, I wasn't invited to the meeting; oh, the boss never told me about this" -- so to avoid that impression, you want to document the details over time. It could be a couple of weeks or even a month where you write down exactly what happened, when, where and any witnesses, so it's all spelled out in meticulous detail. Keep copies of any supporting documentation. That prevents you from being brushed off as a petty complainer or thin-skinned.

Depending on the size of your organization, you'll bring this to HR or you may have to go directly to the boss. You're not just going to report this behavior, but also going to demonstrate that it's impacting your work because it has created an uncomfortable or even hostile work environment. Even though bullying has been proven to be costly to the company's bottom line, which is why they should take action to nip this behavior, don't expect HR to be instantly on your side. HR works for the company's benefit, not that of any individual employee. If you don't find satisfaction, you may have to contact a labor lawyer who can advise you on your situation.

Walk-Away Time:

So many people have told me in recent days and months that they're really stuck on this one. They can't afford to quit -- and they're afraid they won't easily find a new job, which is very natural -- but they're also at a breaking point in an unhealthy environment.

While I'd never cavalierly tell anyone to walk away from a paycheck without a financial safety net, there are two considerations:

1. Your mental health and self-esteem are far more important than any one position. As hard as it may be to pound the pavement while unemployed, you always can get a new job but it's far more challenging to rebuild your crushed confidence and your declining health.

2. Focus on plotting your Plan B right now as a positive distraction while you're still employed. Get serious about job searching or starting your dream business to go out on your own. Just knowing that you're taking steps to make a change -- and bring an end to this misery -- will likely make you feel better. Doing nothing and feeling trapped is the worst. You have choices -- make them.

Support Co-Workers: Even if you're not subjected to a toxic boss, as colleagues we shouldn't sit silent while our co-workers are subjected to this form of bullying. Let someone know that you see what they're going through and you'll support them any way you can.

Seek Help: If you've done everything you can to no avail, seek professional help. This may be from your state's labor department, a lawyer or a counselor to weigh your options.

Among the many online resources are workplaceviolencenews.com and workplacebullying.org.

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