When the Boss is a Bully

Have you ever had a boss who micromanages your work? What about one who asks if your college gave away degrees? Do you now have a boss who goes out of her way to make you miserable? Unfortunately, everyone who has the title of supervisor or manager is not a leader. Teddy Roosevelt said that, “A leader leads, and the boss drives.” Sometimes supervisors and managers cross the line and harass the individuals they should be leading and inspiring.

Perhaps this post lets you know that you are not alone. Here are some tips for handling a boss who is a bully:

1. Try to stay under the radar. Does the boss get bent out of shape when people are late for meetings? Does she go on the warpath when her team does not look good? Notice the patterns. Do what you can to avoid the words and behaviors that seem to increase the bullying.

2. Avoid workplace gossip. Although it may help you feel better to compare notes with others, these discussions often get off topic and become personal, petty attacks on the person as opposed to addressing the workplace bullying.

3. Establish boundaries. You can meet with the boss and ask her to stop the behavior. Here’s a script. “Kate, when you get very close to me and raise your voice, it makes me uncomfortable. Would you mind keeping a reasonable distance and lowering your voice?” You can also respectfully remove yourself from the room when the boss violates your physical and emotional boundaries.

4. Get counseling through your health insurance or your Employee Assistance Program. Discussing the issues with someone who is neutral will help you cope with the day-to-day problems and could help you develop a strategy for addressing the situation.

5. Consider your options. Should you contact human resources, leave the company or take legal action? The Workplace Bullying Institute at www.workplacebullying.org is an excellent place to start for information about this problem and possible solutions.

If you’ve survived a boss who is a bully, what advice would you offer to those who are enduring a workplace bully?


  1. Sunil Raheja on September 19, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Great advice Connie and very practical when you feel in the thick of it all. One further reflection I would add is that when the dust has settled to ask yourself, what is it about me that allows myself to get drawn into such situations? How can I create a boundary between myself and the other person? What is it God is trying to teach me through this experience? The key is I think not to let the other person’s weaknesses control you, but find a higher way. Easier said than done, but a lifetime’s journey!

    • Connie on September 19, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      Excellent advice, Sunil. It occurred to me too that we should empathize with the bully. People who spew venom are miserable.

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