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Dealing with Adult Bullies: Does Your Boss Give You Too Much Work?

Does your boss give you too much work?

Are you realistic about determining how much work you can realistically do without “burning out” or becoming ill?

Do you get the support and resources you need to accomplish your tasks on time?

Are you aware that you may be dealing with adult bullies?

Let’s look at Ted: Ted works overtime nearly every day in his job as a liaison to the field staff in a large corporation. There’s basically too much to accomplish in a work day. He is used to working longer days and tells himself that his efforts will pay off someday soon. When Ted’s boss sees him leave at his normal quitting time for a few days in a row, she comes up with two more projects that Ted will have to fit into his work day. He responds by asking for more resources–there’s a computer program he knows about that can cut the project time in half.

She counters without giving a second thought, “We don’t have the budget. Maybe next year.” She is obviously ignoring Ted’s needs. There’s an impression that she is creating the overload in order to control Ted.

When a boss knowingly loads on the work without considering the employee, she is communicating these things:

• She doesn’t respect the employee
• She is ignoring the employee’s need and right for personal time
• She is not looking at the big picture. Sooner or later, the employee will experience burn out. Then, he’ll apt to become demoralized and accomplish less, or just quit.

It’s not unusual today to find bosses who assign too-heavy workloads. In the United States, severe downsizing has occurred in steady waves since the 1980s. “Doing more with less” has become a mantra for managers and workers, as managers seek to maximize productivity and keep employment costs low.

Sometimes, however, giving an individual or a team more work than they can accomplish within their work hours becomes a tool used by bullies. Workplace bullying is defined as “repeated, deliberate, disrespectful behaviour, which harms the target.” Bosses who consistently assign too much work to an individual or a group falls into this definition if they are intentional about it.

When dealing with adult bullies who assign too much work, there’s a temptation to go along with it. For example, Ted might say to himself, “I’ll just try harder,” or “I better get this done now and then I can sort this out.” One project leads into another, however, and before Ted knows it, he’s been carrying a heavy burden of work for weeks, months or even years.
Denial isn’t a strategy–it’s a long term commitment. Instead of denying the seriousness of the bully boss’s demands and the toll it takes on you, keep a work log that shows the demands. The work log will help you see the numbers of actual hours you’re giving to your job. No wonder you feel tired and resentful!

In the work log, also:

• Note the instances when you haven’t been given enough time, short notice and changing deadlines.
• Compare your job to other jobs in the company and the marketplace. Are others being asked to devote the time you are?

The key is to be aware. You are the only one who can decide what workload is manageable. If you find that your boss is consistently asking you to go “above and beyond,” and it’s taking a toll on your health or attitude, enlist the support of your peers, other managers or your union. These people may be able to convince your boss that “enough is enough.”

Valerie Cade, Founder
Bully Free at Work