Home About Robert Anna Incident Report Book Reviews Tips & Strategies Women Work Is Not Family

Contending with Bullying Bosses
By Robert Mueller, JD
Author of “Bullying Bosses: A Survivor’s Guide.”

One of the first steps in defending yourself against a bully boss is to stop believing the myths. Here are some of the most common ones.

Myths: It’s a good idea to confront your bully so he sees that you’re not afraid.
Truths: Personal confrontations with bullies are almost never productive.
Myths: The first thing an employee should do following a bullying incident is talk to management.
Management team members interpret any confrontation an employee might have with a boss as also being a confrontation with them, and without well-documented proof of a pattern of behavior, they will likely view the employee as the problem.
Myths: You should avoid your bullying boss whenever possible.
Truths: If bullies notice you’re ducking them, they will not see this as sensible avoidance, but as cowering behavior.
Myths: Don’t look a bully right it the eye. It’s provocative.
Truths: On the contrary. Assume an obviously relaxed posture while maintaining steady eye contact. If too difficult, then focus between his/her eyes on the bridge of his nose. One bullied employee even removed his Coke-bottle-thick glasses before a meeting so he maintained direct eye contact with his boss without feeling intimidated.
Myths: Get personal with a bully to diffuse some of his or her anger, and to show him your human side.
Truths: Bullies not only don’t do the personal, most don’t tolerate it in others either. Details of your personal, spiritual, or emotional life are weapons in your antagonist’s hands.
Myths: Seek help from the company’s HR department. That’s what they’re there for.
HR can be the chilliest place any employee can visit, and also one of the most dangerous. HR’s allegiance is to the employer—and protecting the employer from legal claims. Approach rarely, with caution, and only when fully prepared.
Myths: It’s good strategy to relate your story to as many coworkers as possible, right after an incident, if possible. 
Truths: Unfortunately, your story has a negative emotional quality that can repel listeners. Allies must be identified and groomed carefully before you enlist their support. Moreover, it’s better to be circumspect about sharing your story—write down detailed notes about it first. You can present it in a more organized and effective way later, when the timing is strategically advantageous.
Copyright © 2007 Bullying Bosses: A Survivor’s Guide