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Don’t Simply Endure Bullying from Your Boss

On Monday mornings Sam goes to work hopeful that this week will be different than all the ones before. His supervisor will greet him with a pleasant, “Good morning.” He will be trusted to work on a project without interference. If his supervisor corrects his actions, she will do it quietly. Sam’s boss will recognize his value and reward him accordingly.

But every Monday he sees very soon that this week will go the same way the last one did, and the one before that, and the one before that. He will start one project only to have his supervisor tell him, “Save the Smith account until later. Work on Jones now.” That kind of boss bullying will happen two or three times during the day. Sam’s supervisor will get upset with him over small things and her temper will escalate quickly. He will not be able to find any consistent way to please her. The only difference from week to week will be in the number of hours she will expect him to work overtime without compensation.

Sam is like many others who put up with boss bullying. Why does a target remain at his job when he’s the object of his boss’s bullying ways?

The most obvious reason is economic: the target needs his job. Perhaps he has family to support, or it has taken him a long time to find this job, and he can’t afford to give it up. To make matters worse, maybe there are few jobs in the area where the target lives or works.

However, there may be other reasons that a target remains at a workplace where he’s being bullied.

• Denial is one reason. The target may tell himself, “This isn’t so bad. I can take it.” Or he blames himself for the bully’s behavior: “If I weren’t so (stupid, slow, etc.) my boss wouldn’t get so upset.”
The person in denial is unable to face the facts: he’s a target, and no amount of “good behavior” will put him in the bully’s good graces. The problem is not him or his work. The problem is the bully.
• The target loses sight of what he wants. He may have wanted to work in a company that developed software, or in a department that valued teamwork, or even a group that prized loyalty. These attributes attracted the target to the job, and he still wants them. So he stays. The job doesn’t give him what he was looking for, and he “forgets” all the other things that are important to him, such as self-respect.
• “It’s too much trouble to change jobs.” Some people will stay at what they know, even if it’s a demeaning or unhealthy situation, just because it is what they know. They fear change more than dissatisfaction. And nothing–absolutely nothing–will remove them from the job, short of being let go.

An old saying, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know,” means “stay with the familiar; you’re better off than striking off on your own–no telling what you’ll find.” That may be good advice, but if it’s keeping you in a job that fills your life with misery instead of satisfaction, is that the best you can do?

Valerie Cade, Founder
Bully Free at Work