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madeline's avatar

How do you deal with a bullying boss when quitting isn't an option?

Asked by madeline (60 points ) January 31st, 2011

I have become the latest target of a cruel bullying boss. He gives me a workload with impossible to meet deadlines. He insults me in meetings in a sly but obvious way.
I’ve considered going to HR, but I fear it will backfire. I feel trapped and would love to know how others have dealt with or would deal with this situation.

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18 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

First, you are going to need proof and evidence, before going to your HR. Start a diary of events you believe qualifies as making you a target. Write down dates and times and who said what. When you feel you have enough proof, then go to your HR. You know its going to be your word against his. Make sure that you win this situation or there will be hell to pay. I think you know this, so make sure you have your act together. Use your friends as witnesses, if possible. good luck.

blueiiznh's avatar

I have had many managers over the years and can only count 3 really good ones.
First off, make sure you journal all that is REALLY going on. Make certain that you understand the deliverables you need to perform and negotiate the date if you feel you can’t meet it. Its ok to push back if it is unrealistic. You certainly can get HR involved, but make certain you are only going to them with facts and not emotions.
If there are emails that track some of this, make certain you print them out and take copies home if the information is allowed to leave campus.
Make sure that you keep your cool, do all you can and don’t talk behind backs.
I have seen many a poor/bad manager get ousted by HR, but it takes time for that to happen. Insults or character defimation is one thing, but try to not take comments personal. Some Managers take a hard line approach and it can come across harse to some, but is merely facts to others or HR.
Find a way to stay focused on doing a good job no matter the type of boss. You are going to have many in your career and you will more than likely outlast the poor ones.
It is frustrating and makes for a crappy work day, but try to just focus on the tasks.
Good luck and make sure you journal and keep your cool.

filmfann's avatar

As was said before, document everything.
A lot depends on how big is the company you work for.

Jeruba's avatar

You said “latest target.” Have you seen him do this with others before you? What happened? Their experience might be your best guide.

Can you form common cause with them?

How often does he change victims? Can you wait him out?

Meanwhile, agreed: document.

YARNLADY's avatar

Tell him nothing. Do your job to the best of your ability and ignore everything else.

madeline's avatar

@Jeruba Yes I’ve seen him do this to others but didn’t realize it at the time. They are all gone now. They either quit or were fired. He’s that good. Unless he’s doing it to you, it’s not easy to recognize. He’s very charismatic, never sexually inappropriate though.

So much more makes sense now about how people act around him and seem to lovingly fear him.

I’ve worked for this large company over 3 years and this has been going on several months.
I have been documenting and saving emails. Some days I’m all geared up to take this man down and the next I just want to give up.

I plan to keep up with my documenting (my second job now) and have everything ready in case it ges to that, but really I just hope to hang in long enough to get out of there before it drives me crazy.

Jeruba's avatar

Any way to get in touch with former employees?

madeline's avatar

I’ve contacted three. One said, “Where were you when this was happening to me,” and hung up on me. The others have been supportive and just tell me to get out of there, it’s not worth it. They’re certainly not interested in helping me prove anything.

As far as current coworkers, it’s a mixture of people who know exactly what’s going on and completly avoid me now, and people who are under his spell and oblivious to what’s going on.

However I handle this, I’m on my own.

choreplay's avatar

I’m going to take an unpopular position here. You need to shore up your performance in addition to standing up against someone else’s poor behavior.

Now I don’t know the moral or conscious make up of your boss and I’m not saying you’re not justified in standing up for something that’s right, but….

Do you suppose your creating a catch 22 for yourself?

To quote you “Some days I’m all geared up to take this man down and the next I just want to give up.” So what I’m hearing is you’re in one of two modes at work, subversion or apathy. In response to this any boss, regardless of right or wrong would have the wagons circled and guns loaded. Do you suppose he senses you want to take him down and how do you suppose that affects his behavior and attitude towards you?

I know that sounds harsh, but I am a boss and am dealing with an employee that performs in such a cavalier disregard for appropriate work behavior that I am in the opposite position from you. I have to document everything she is doing wrong so that if she can’t get her act together, I have documented why I will have to ask her to leave. Most days her sense of entitlement precedes any commitment to her responsibilities. I’m sure I have not played this out perfect but I’m struggling with wanting to see it work out, I’m trying to be loyal to my commitment to her as an employer.

Your post is void of any reasoning of what you might be doing or not doing to feed into this conflict. Only a, I’m going to take him down attitude. If he is a cruel unjust person, than more power to you, but if this more of a personality conflict than an, “I want to take him down” attitude, only exacerbates the issues.

Let me project your accusations into my situation as if it were my employee making them to me.

Impossible work load:
She often leaves early and spends an excessive amount of time socializing, so maybe the work load is too much or maybe not but we won’t know till an appropriate amount of effort is put forth.

The sideways remarks:
I am also highly frustrated with the issues between us and vent in the wrong way. I shouldn’t be doing this.

PLEASE understand, I am not justifying your boss’s behavior, but there are often two justifiable sides to every situation and I am suggesting you take a long hard look at what you might be falling short on in addition to standing up against what is wrong.

blueiiznh's avatar

@Season_of_Fall It is nice to see the valid fact that there ARE two sides to every story. Without understanding what exactly is going on we can only empathize that there is something going on with the track history you mentioned.
I too have been on both sides of the aisle and Management is driven to get their goals accomplished and you are on that doer side. Good managers will fine tune the work and challenges to each persons strengths. This however all goes to hell when they aer pushed from above, don’t know how to manage a group, or has a team that is in whole not providing what is needed. I have seen some Managers who seemingly have a “whipping boy”, but if you break it down, they just need a job done and have a shitty way about getting it.
As I stated earlier, focus on you and not on others. Do all you can to understand what is needed of you alone. If you find areas where you can help the cause and make yourself more valuable. You also have to remember that this person reports to someone else and cannot be blind to the fact that people have left. They have exit interviews with HR, and those former people had a chance to vent their issues without backlash.
I currently work for a VP that has terrible management techniques. They micro manage, ask you to do things and then get pissed at what it causes and tell you not to do these things. All I can do at this point is focus on doing a great job, give the group value, and push back and correct them if I am asked to do things that I don’t feel right. In essense, I make them accountable for their own requests if it seems odd, but do the best I can. Other things I make my value shown and they end up turning to me because I can deliver for them. This works for me because they don’t want to bite the hand that is helping them look better and I have gained respect where some of my peers sit and get pissy about the VP and hold back.
To each their own. It’s your career. Find your grove and hang in there.

mattbrowne's avatar

The best would be to get transferred to a different department. If this isn’t possible, you need to confront him. Ask for a meeting telling him you need at least half an hour. Don’t do it without this scheduling. And you need a room with closed doors. Be vague what the meeting is about for example that you have got some suggestion how to improve your work and that you need his support. At the beginning of the meeting start with things that you appreciate about him. When you come to the negative feedback part never use the word “you”. Always use I and we. For example: To me this deadline is not acceptable, because… Talk about how you feel. And above all: talk about risks. Really. Risks are key. Managers are scared of risks and negative consequences of certain actions. Always give the impression that your suggestions are also in the best interest of the company.

If this doesn’t work and you lived in Germany I would recommend seeing someone from the workers council which is often better than contacting HR.

stratman37's avatar

In the meantime, sleep on it tonight, and dream that you’re going postal on him!

dayeshere's avatar

I have been in your situation. I decided to wait it out and eventually got fired due to made up charges. I would definitely report him. Record the meetings and have concrete evidence. Good luck!

creepermax's avatar

Evolve. Sleep with his wife.

madeline's avatar

@Season_of_Fall You are right in saying there are two sides to every story.
I understand what you’re saying about wanting to take him down or give up modes and I feel sure he’s unaware. I avoid any conflict with him wich is probably making it easier on him. I’m angry at myself for feeling or acting like a victim.
As far as impossible workload, I was always a top performer as documented by him. When this started I actually started staying late and taking more work home to keep up with his expectations. I really wanted to work well for him. After being so overwhelmed, I’m back at my normal, above average according to him previously, productivity. Now he says my work has decreased below par.
I’m sure he wouldn’t acknowledge any sideways remarks.

@blueiiznh I have always kept in mind that he is under a lot of pressure, and for that reason I let a lot of things go and actually felt for him and tried to work harder to help him meet benchmarks. He has chosen to bite the hand helping him. Makes no sense really unless he feels threatened.

gotham's avatar

@madeline I hope you looked at my link. Also, I hope you clicked on the author of that link “undercover lawyer” and not just read that particular article. There are a lot of articles written by that author pertaining to harassment in the workplace.

choreplay's avatar

@madeline, sounds like he has some burr under his saddle. Have you ever read the book How to Cope with Difficult People. It describes a personality type called the Sniper, as someone who shoots insults and jabs from the shadows. It explains that the more you let someone get away with this the more power they feel. The way to deal with someone like this is to approach them after, and ask, in a very non confrontational way, “When you said ________ that sounded like a jab did you mean it that way and why”. Madeline, maybe if you can get him to vent about what is bugging him it might release a lot of pressure from the situation. Whether he is right or wrong, just let him vent, but don’t respond to it, just let him get it out. Keep your emotions intact and be blank, don’t give him anger or false concession.

You sound like a great person to have on a team, given the description of your efforts. I am really bad about wanting to be a soft touch and feel taken advantage of many situations in life. I warned my co worker up front, “I will walk a hundred miles for a friend, but won’t budge an inch for someone who takes advantage of me. At this point I feel like she has abused so many freedoms I gave up front.

I feel my coworker’s subversion and jockeying for advocacy and it is all spiraling the situation downward. I have been sincere and tried to be fair. Now I feel like my guard needs to be up and need to protect myself. It’s a bad situation just like yours.

Give me your opinion, I have now stopped having direct conversations with my worker because they always end up in debates about who was responsible for something that wrong or something is taken wrong or too much emotion is involved. Just as everyone has advised above I am only communicating issues through emails to keep my points only to the facts, keep emotions out of it and for documentation purposes. Now she’s complaining about the emails and says I should talk to her directly, what am I to do.

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