Bully Boss Has It Out For Me

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coping with a bully boss:

My supervisor asked me for help. He was loading doors on a cart, “Can you give me a hand?” I said, “Yes, no problem.” He was loading two at a time. When he saw me carrying one,  he said “My five year old daughter could lift more than you. I have a three inch tear and a hernia sticking out, are you that big of a pussy?” He has had it out for me since day one, My response was, “Joe, I’m not trying to give myself a hernia.” That is only one example of the way he treats his employees. Signed–Has It Out For Me

Dear Has It Out For Me:

That was a good humored response to your boss’ belittling insult. Coping with him, no doubt, requires as much good humor as you can muster. Apparently you think continued employment under his bossing is what you must do rather than seek work elsewhere, but the fact that you submitted your question suggests you hope that there might be a way to make working with him more civil. Therefore, I’m sending a few overlapping suggestions for your consideration despite the fact that bullies rarely change their meanness. These suggestions are meant as options you might choose in light of what is going on from day to day.

  1. Accept the fact that your boss is who he is. He probably grew up with a parent who insulted him and might be insulting wife and kids. Understanding how bullies got the way they are makes us sorry for them, better able to tolerate, and respond to them assertively/firmly when we decide it is time to do so. Likely you being assertive will be necessary from time to time in order to maintain a sense of self-dignity.
  2. Fill your head with what makes you feel good–a close friend, time to relax after a long day, song you like, a favorite recreation–rather than anger at being put down. Good thoughts make the day go better than sour ones.
  3. Be prepared for specific times when you will speak up–with such short phrases as, “Joe, I follow orders better and remember to do what you want when you don’t insult me. Do you understand?” There may be another time when you want to say, “Joe, that’s too much yelling and bad mouthing. Let’s take a time out to see if we can’t talk decently to each other.” There might also be a time when you will decide to say, “Joe, if you can’t treat me as a good employee, I would like for both of us to go to your boss and talk about how we can work more cooperatively together.”
  4. Think beyond him about the value of having a job. Be grateful you are physically and mentally able to do it.
  5. Take on a cooperative attitude–one of asking for clarification and ways to get the job of your workplace accomplished efficiently and effectively, rather than of just complying with a boss’ orders.
  6. Imagine if you managed your work area and workplace what you would do to cut wasted supplies, cut wasted time, wasted energy and to make it more safe, more pleasant place and more money.
  7. Put yourself in your boss’ shoes. Rather that hating him, informally tell him when he does something good. Learn from him–learn how not to boss, learn how to speak up when necessary. Ask for advice about what he thinks and what he would do if he were you to make your life better.

Please understand that these suggestions are made not knowing what has happened in your workplace and that your experience will dictate if any of them apply. They are free and sent with the hope they might make sense. Reject those that don’t. Let me know if any do and how they work out or go over like a lead balloon. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. –William Gorden