Unstable Manager

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about bully boss: Although she appears to be shy and retiring, when you suffer at her hands she will be abusive and swear at you.

We have a manager who has argued with and bullied every member of staff. Although she appears to be shy and retiring, when you suffer at her hands she will be abusive and swear at you. How do you deal with this?

Signed, Don’t Like It

Dear Don’t Like It:

You should not like being sworn at and bullied. Actually, however, a boss arguing with a subordinate is not bad in itself if the tone of that argument allows for give and take on how something should be done. Arguing can belittle others’ opinion or can result in clarification and reconsideration. You don’t report if and how you or other members of your staff have responded to your manager’s swearing or bullying.

Apparently you have talked to each other about it but not to her. Why does she do this? I imagine that she has learned that bullying works and she swears to vent her frustration. Swearing probably is a habit. Her bullying behavior will continue until she is given a reason to stop it. I assume you and your coworkers are afraid to tell her you don’t like it.

In short, you are working scared. If you don’t like it enough, there are several options you might consider:

1. Confer with your coworkers about how your manager bullies and swears. Collaborate on a brief note requesting that she speak to you all respectfully and no longer swear and bully. Send it anonymously or sign it. It is better to sign it. Better still, meet with her head-to-head to talk through how she talks to you and how she wants you to talk with her.

2. Log instances of times she has sworn and bullied. Take that log to Human Resources and request that your manager’s behavior be investigated. Choose to do this secretly rarely remains secret. In my opinion, it’s better to inform her you are doing this. Even if you think she is “unstable”, it is better to inform her you are asking HR to investigate.

3. Individually respond to her the next time she bullies or swears by saying, “Jenny, (or whatever is her name) please don’t swear at me or bully. I work better when you help me correct my mistakes and speak to me respectfully. Do you understand?” You might also raise your hand (not your fist) in a stop sign kind of way, to let her know that you don’t want to talked to that way.

4. In a staff meeting, talk about talk. Hammer out do and don’t communication rules. Brainstorm about how you as a work group might communicate more effectively; so that your manager and your work group: ·Keep each other and your manager informed about how you are progressing on assignments ·Communicate assignments so that they are clearly understood and followed ·Handle conflict and differences serious but not with belittling argument ·Give and respond to criticism constructively ·Make bullying and swearing at one another off limits ·Make each others’ job easier and more effective.

5. Engage your manager in transforming your work group to a coach-team approach. Confer with her about the advantages of making her job easier and more effective when your work group feels they have a say and feel responsible for improving quality by cutting wasted supplies, time, and money and finding ways do their jobs efficiently and well. Some of these options are overlapping, but all of them require courage. There is no quick fix to changing a boss’s bullying. You and your coworker staff have a voice. You are adults and should be treated as adults. Think through these options. Don’t make your manager a topic of gossip; however, there is power in collective action, especially when you don’t have a union.

Think optimistically. Managers, just as you do, want to be liked as well as respected. Think about the bigger picture; the success of your staff and how it fits into the larger organization. Think big. By that I mean working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. If you think big, I predict your manager will become excited with your commitment and courage to voice your selves.

William Gorden