When it comes to childhood memories, we reminisce fondly on endless summer days, Saturday morning cartoons and a general lack of responsibility. But recollecting other memories, like an acne-ridden face, chunky braces and the bully who tipped over your books in the hallway, feels far less warm and fuzzy.
Although your complexion has since cleared and teeth have straightened, sadly, bullies are just as prevalent today as adults as they were 15 years ago. Just trade the cafeteria for the water cooler and hand-written notes for passive-aggressive emails, and not much has changed.
According to research from the Workplace Bullying Institute, nearly 27 percent of Americans have experienced or are currently experiencing some kind of bullying in the workplace. While there are varying levels of severity depending on the aggressor and his or her actions, when that bully is your boss, the stakes – and your emotional response – are heightened.
Maybe your direct supervisor has inundated you with difficult work out-of-the-blue, and has no concern that you’re leaving the office once the lights turn out. Or maybe, you’re miffed from being continually passed over for new, challenging work and promotions.
Regardless of the wrongdoing, there’s one thing for certain: you absolutely, positively must do something about it.
That doesn’t necessarily mean stomping into your supervisor’s office this second and offering her a piece of your mind. But it doesn’t mean slumping in your desk and simmering, either. You’ll need to approach your higher-up with a calm, collected demeanor and tactical game plan if you want to ensure a harmonious work environment and, most importantly, the growth of your career. Here are the seven most important steps to take before approaching a bully boss.
1. Are you in danger?
While bullying (in any shape or form) is unacceptable, if you feel as though you are in danger or becoming hurt, tell a trusted friend, family member of confidante and leave the situation now.
2. Decide early on what you want to accomplish.
Not all resolutions end in fireworks. If you feel as though nothing good will come of approaching your boss, it’s 100% okay to consider leaving your position. Workplaces are oftentimes riddled with difficult politics and hierarchies, which can make a bullying predicament difficult to overcome. While you search for a new job, try to remove yourself the situation as best as you can and lean on other coworkers/confidantes for support.
Of course, if you believe that directly confronting your boss will bear the best results, there’s actually evidence to support your action. According to research from EHS Today, individuals who approached a hostile boss reported higher levels of personal satisfaction at work, removed from feeling like a ‘victim.’ Regardless of your method for coping, ensure you know exactly what you want before diving in headfirst.
3. Start writing everything – meaning everything – down.
In the event you will approach your bullying boss, you’ll need to start writing every interaction or instance of bullying down. And we mean everything.
Whether it was a demeaning, condescending email or eighth consecutive night you left office after nine o’clock (while he left at five), make sure to log every action, no matter how seemingly insignificant. No matter if it’s used to draft your speech once you approach your boss or to show your boss’s boss, build your case as meticulously as possible.
4. Before outlining your next move, take a moment to step into her shoes.
Whether it was Miranda Presley in The Devil Wears Prada or Dolly Parton’s superior in 9 to 5, totalitarian, ruthless bosses are a popular narrative in our culture. And while your gripes with your boss are certainly warranted, there might be an entirely different story you’re not aware of.
Is your boss shoving piles of work on your desk because she is swimming in work as well, or is he still reeling from his divorce? You’ll still need to express your feelings to your supervisor, but try to remember, he or she is a person too. Refrain from pointing fingers until you know all the facts.
5. Arrange a meeting (but prepare a game plan in advance).
Once you’ve assembled your ammo (factual evidence) and mustered up your courage, you’ll need to finally do the dreaded deed: schedule a time with your boss to talk.
Try to pick a time when he or she will be the least overwhelmed, like in the morning earlier in the week. By Thursday or Friday, your boss might be less inclined to listen to your feelings, especially when they are seemingly negative about him or her. Before you enter the room, know exactly what you will say – and what you want to come out of it. Do you want a promotion or a decreased workload? Ensure there’s an end goal, and your boss is made aware of it early on.
6. Think positive.
Although tempting to blurt out to your bully, statements like “I feel like you’re continually turning me down for raises” will get you nowhere. Instead, try to take the emotion out of your complaint and spin it in a positive light.
For example, try: “I’ve noticed that you have turned me down for three consecutive raises. Can you please explain to me why, and what aspects of my performance I can improve for the review period?”
7. Continue to work hard, but know when enough is enough.
Once you’ve left the confrontation with your bully boss, things will undoubtedly be awkward for a bit. And of course, there will be a significant chance he or she will ignore your feelings and continue their bullying behavior.
If this is the case, know when enough is enough. Consider approaching your boss’s supervisor or HR. If that’s out of the question, there’s no shame in finding a new role – with a boss who will appreciate your talents and invest in your success.