How to Deal With a Bully Supervisor

by Cynthia Myers; Updated September 26, 2017
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Every job has its challenges, but everything is a lot tougher if your boss is a bully. Unfortunately, workplace bullying is not uncommon. In a 2010 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 35 percent of people surveyed reported being bullied at work, though the survey did not specify if the boss was the bully in this case. A bullying boss operates from a position of authority, making it more difficult for the worker to address the problem. If you're the victim of a workplace bully, however, you do have alternatives to deal with the bullying.

Step 1

Show strength. A report about workplace bullying in the March 2006 issue of "Personnel Psychology" found that bosses tend to focus bullying on people who appear weak. It's not unlike the middle school bullies who pick on the littlest kid on the playground. If you react with tears, defensiveness or shrinking, you're giving the bully the reaction he wants and opening yourself to more bullying. The supervisors who bullied in the "Personnel Psychology" report felt bullied themselves by the corporation, so they asserted their power by picking on someone weaker. If a bully goes after you, better to remain calm, respectful and impassive, as much as possible.

Step 2

Marshal your forces. Document bullying episodes. Save emails and memos, copies of schedules and any other written communication with your supervisor that you feel indicates bullying. Keep a journal and document the date, time and circumstances of bullying episodes. Note the names of others who witnessed the bullying behavior. Bullying is more difficult to prove than sexual harassment, because there's no specific law against workplace bullying. Yet, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, bullying occurs at four times the rate of harassment.

Step 3

Contact your boss' supervisor about the bullying behavior. If you belong to a union, get your union representative involved. Ask for a meeting. You might have to ask more than once, but persist. Present the evidence and propose a solution. This might be a transfer to another department or counseling with a mediator.

Step 4

Find a new job. Because the law doesn't specifically penalize bullying behavior, unless you can prove discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, religion or handicap, the company might not take your claims of bullying seriously. Some companies turn a blind eye, or there could be a company culture of supervisors bullying subordinates. In this case, your only choice is to find a new job.

About the Author

Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.

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