A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
– Proverbs 15:4
How are you feeling right now about your boss? Are you feeling like you’re part of their team – or like they want you off the team? Are you dealing with a coach… or a bully?
I visited a good friend of mine in the hospital recently. She was dealing with a number of health issues and was diagnosed with one cause: stress. That one cause had one cause: her boss. Her boss was nothing short of a bully – and my friend is not alone.
Do you feel singled out: for the good things you do, or to be embarrassed in front of others?
Do you feel watched: and applauded? or nit-picked about every detail?
Do you feel: appreciated? or depreciated?
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. While workplace bullying isn’t discussed a lot, being bullied by a boss is not typical water-cooler conversation either. Being the target of bullying is tough to deal with day-in and day-out, and the consequences are life-changing. According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 35 percent of workers said they have felt bullied at work. This is up from 27 percent last year. Sixteen percent of these workers reported they suffered health-related problems as a result of bullying, and 17 percent decided to quit their jobs to escape the situation.
An effective manager empowers others and knows how to communicate with the people they are supposed to manage. While bullying behavior may be thought of as outwardly very cruel, such as yelling, cursing, and being physically abusive, bullying can also be very subtle while being extremely cruel. Anytime someone is singled out to be treated in a less than respectful way the relationship can become bullying.
Does your boss humiliate you in front of others without warning? Do they question your adequacy or commitment without genuinely showing they want to support you? Do you feel like you’re walking on eggshells or thin ice – just waiting for it to crack? These are all signs that you are being bullied. Check out these 8 signs that your boss is a bully and see if what you’re feeling may be your reality.
What you’re feeling may seem unreal, as your boss can seem like the epitome of being wonderful to others. Bullying doesn’t have to be obvious. The bullying boss may simply ignore the employee or not include them in meetings anymore. There are many types of bullying bosses, and singling out one employee is not unusual. Typically others can see the behavior but will not acknowledge it (they need to keep their own job). Gary Namie, PhD, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute, has listed 25 of the most common tactics adopted by bullies (according to targeted victims), including these:
- Falsely accusing someone of “errors” not actually made.
- Staring, glaring, being nonverbally intimidating and clearly showing negativity/hostility.
- Discounting the person’s thoughts or feelings (“oh, that’s silly”) in meetings.
- Using the “silent treatment” to “ice out” and separate from others.
- Making up their own rules on the fly that they don’t even follow.
- Disregarding/discounting satisfactory or exemplary quality of completed work despite evidence.
- Harshly and constantly criticizing: having a different ‘standard’ for the target.
- Starting, or failing to stop, destructive rumors or gossip about the person.
“All of these forms of bullying are problematic,” says Anne Kreamer, author of It’s Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace. “Bullies suck the air out of offices, destroying camaraderie, robbing work of normal satisfactions, and demoting workers from bringing their best performance to the job. Bullies turn work into a fearful gauntlet to run each day. And there’s no question that working in unfair conditions will create a level of anxiety and stress, of powerlessness, that will infiltrate personal life.”
There are things you can do to deal with a bullying boss. However, we all know that the best bosses are the ones who aren’t.
Feeling like your boss is the best coach in the world? You are very fortunate.
What makes a great boss? A great boss views their position as both a leader and a coach, someone who educates and encourages their players, who leads their team by example.
An effective boss uses their coaching skills effectively. They do not assume their employees know what to do and how to do it. Like a good coach, they call in the plays from the sidelines. Often a boss might be tempted to run in the game and play it themselves, while their employees don’t learn a thing. A great boss recognizes that success in coaching is found in the balance of control – that fine line between being over-controlling and under-controlling – to be enough of a presence as a source of help and support, but not so much as to overshadow and control the team’s efforts.
An effective coach sets clear expectations, without doing everything themselves or leaving others hanging about how to achieve the desired results. They train, they lead, they set a clear directive, and they trust the team members to fulfil their responsibilities. The team members feel supported, not confused or controlled, and know they can ask questions without feeling “stupid.” After all, no one knows everything and the word TEAM can be broken down to:
Think you’re immune? Think again. If you see your boss singling someone out to display bullying behavior and believe you’ll never be the target, just remember that your boss has the ability to treat anyone that way if they treat someone that way.
Think you’ve got it all together and have earned your own “Amazing Award?” Think again. No one knows everything, and everyone can benefit from effective coaching. No one needs to behave as a bully, though. NO ONE.
Feeling bullied, or know someone who is the target of bullying? Get help. Find trusted friends or professional resources to work through the situation and – if it’s feasible – polish your resume and find another work environment. Let the boss bully someone else, and go somewhere that you will find co-workers who value you – not bully you. My friend did.