Bullying Boss And Afraid To Ask Questions

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about bully boss:

My boss has yelled at me in front of others. She has embarrassed me and I get so nervous. She even has teased me in front of others. I have worked at this place for 2 years, but am stuck till I get another job. She does not even work with me as a team. I am even afraid even to ask her questions because she is so difficult. I have talked to her 3 times about it. It’s cool for a while, and then it starts up again. Can you help?

Signed, Yelled At

Dear Yelled At:

People who yell usually have a pattern of getting their way by raising their voice. They have learned that yelling works. Possibly their parents, teachers, or their own bosses yelled at them. As a child is about to dart into the road, a parent yells. There are times when yelling is the quickest and most instinctive way to prevent injury. And for bosses, it also might prevent injury should she/he see an employee with long hair walking close to machines in which it could be caught.Most generally a boss that yells has learned it scares a subordinate and he/she gets action. Stopping habits that have worked is not easy.

Whatever you do will probably will not change your boss’s way of bossing, but it might. Yelling is bullying. Stopping your boss’s yelling depends mostly, but entirely, on you. You need to have courage enough to confront her when she yells. This brings me to ask: When has your boss yelled? What triggers her yelling? And how have you reacted? If she saved you from injury or making a mistake that could not have been corrected, have you thanked her? Or when her yelling seemed unnecessary and simply was a frustrated explosion, have you held up your hand as a stop signal to her and said, “Mary, do you realize that you are yelling at me? I have told you that I don’t like to be yelled at and I work better if you respectfully tell me what is bothering you.”You say you have spoken with her about her yelling for three times and it seems to stop for a while.

But then it starts again. So probably you need to persist in a more assertive fashion, such as requesting a private session in which you can discuss how you and she might work together more effectively. In this kind of session, you can ask her to be specific about what pleases and troubles her about your work. And also you can come prepared with a list of what pleases and bothers you about the way she bosses you. Here is the time for you to say you want to work as a good team member and want her suggestions.

Here is where you can say you want to make her job of bossing easier and you want to make her look good. However, when she yells you can frankly ask, “Do you think it looks good to other of our employees and to her own boss to be seen/heard yelling?” In short, you need to speak up assertively. You will work scared and want to find another job until you do. You also can say that if this kind of time-out session does not work, you want to know if it would be wise to bring in a third party, say from HR, her own boss, or an agreed on person who might act as a facilitator. Work is hard enough without working scared. So think and act as you would if you owned the place and wanted to have a workplace that was known as a good place to work. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is the kind of spirit that makes a good place to work.

William Gorden