Career strategy requires planning for difficult situations that tax your physical and mental health. One of the toughest challenges that people bring to career coaches is, “My boss is a bully.” A workplace bully can be a major source of career stress. It is important to handle the bully boss carefully without doing serious harm to your own career.
Bosses are bullies when they use power to attack and confront their subordinates. They refuse to serve as supporters and advocates. Often they berate their employees publicly. They seem to relish signs that they’re getting through to you. When they think yo are upset or distressed, they just keep pushing further.
Here are some suggestions to get started. Be aware that nothing presented here is intended to replace legal or psychological advice from licensed professionals. Don’t be afraid to seek that guidance if you need it.
— Begin by documenting our boss’s actions.
Be specific and neutral. For example: “Tom entered my office at 2:05 PM on Monday, June 12. I was on the phone with a key client. He yelled, “Put down that phone and listen to me.”
Write down the date and time. You might consider setting up a private email account with gmail or yahoo. Use your personal computer or cell phone – not the company’s – to keep your records. Or hand-write your notes and take them home each night. Don’t keep anything in your office or on any company equipment.
— Be aware of what others are experiencing but do not share your views with colleagues.
You never know what will backfire. Besides, your own mental health will be stronger when you stop repeating negative thoughts and words over and over again. Distract yourself any way you can, especially when you are not at the office.
— The Human Resources department is there to protect the company, not employees, no matter what they tell you.
Often career coaches get to hear horror stories from people who trusted the Open Door policies of their companies. Find a confidante and advisor outside the company. Hiring a coach may seem expensive but run the numbers. If you can hang on to your job another month or two, how much will you save by not quitting immediately? How much more quickly can you find a new job?
— Claim your own power.
How can you use your company to prepare yourself for career advancement? Are you taking advantage of opportunities for growth and development? Have you taken steps to work with a recruiter and consider other jobs, and maybe other careers?
— Avoid one-size-fits-all solutions.
Some companies reward executives for surviving a difficult boss; others encourage openness and expression of feeling. Some bosses get their comeuppance after many employees leave; others are untouchable because they have friends in high places or they pulled off a big win many years ago.
Mid-Life Career change can be especially challenging because it’s so different from career success. Now you can download a FREE gift, “3 Secrets of Successful Midlife Career Change,” at Mid-Life Career Choice. For tips on dealing with a bad performance review (often the outcome of an encounter with a bullying boss) visit Manage a Bad Performance Review. From Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., an author, speaker and career consultant who specializes in helping mid-life mid-career professionals and executives navigate career journeys.