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How to deal with a bullish boss


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Bullying in whatever form is a very emotive subject especially to someone who has been on the receiving end of it. Bullies are most often associated with the school playground, but unfortunately that is not where it ends. Bullying in the workplace very much exists and it can make your life a misery.

We spend and invest a lot of our time at work but if the thought of going to work fills you with dread because your boss is bullying you, it can make you extremely anxious, destroy confidence and cause depression.

How To Recognise A Bullish Boss?

Being verbally abused, intimidated or having your work excessively criticized and undermined are some of signs that you are being bullied. A bullish boss likes an audience when undermining your work enabling them to cause maximum humiliation. They may have constant digs about your work and have a very low tolerance of answering anything you need to ask and may enjoy making you look stupid for even having to ask a question.  They may isolate and exclude you, leaving you with a sense that you don’t feel you belong.

Bullies can be quite clever however, they can often recognise when they have gone too far and sometimes “pull it back” by doing something nice for you. They might buy you a small treat such as a bun or let you leave early on occasion, making you confused as to what is really going on.

Why Do Some Bosses Bully?

There are different types of bullies, and many reasons why they bully.  A bully may have actually been bullied or may have an over inflated self-ego and low tolerance of others. It can be that they feel it helps them gain more status and power. They may be actually quite insecure and feel threatened. They may perceive you as a rival and feel the need stifle progression for you. Some bullies actually have no empathy and bully for the sheer joy of seeing a person suffer. Often bully bosses have an unbalanced life where work is an exaggerated priority to them and they are intolerant of others who do not share their ideal work ethic.

What Are The Effects Of Bullying On You And The Organisation?

bullish bossA bullish boss will never get the best from an employee. The victim of a bully can feel humiliated, intimidated and afraid, to the point where they are don’t want to attend work. It can make them physically ill too and they may have trouble sleeping due to worrying about going to work creating a poor attendance record. The victim can have low esteem and make more mistakes due to fearand their work will ultimately suffer,  impacting on the company’s productivity both in terms of quality and quantity.

What Can You Do To Deal With A Bullish Boss?

It depends on the circumstances, structure and often the culture of an organisation –

  • Speak to them Direct – If the bully is actually the owner of the organisation, the best thing in the first instance is to ask to speak to the person and let them know how you feel. If you work for an organisation and it is your supervisor that is behaving in a bullish manner you could also in the first instance speak to them about it. This may resolve the matter straight away as they may have not realised how their behaviour was affecting you.
  • Lodge a Formal Complaint – If there are no changes in behaviour from there on then there should be procedures and avenues which allow you to take the matter further by lodging a formal complaint. However, Bullies at work can be very adept at making themselves appear “indispensable”, creating belief that the company cannot function without them.  It is for this reason, even in the face of several complaints from other employees; bullies are often not seriously challenged about their behaviour. The higher ranks in the organisation falsely believe that that if they rock the boat the “indispensable” manager will leave.
  • Speak to Others – If you have other colleagues around you that you can trust ask them how they find the boss. Ask if the boss has behaved towards others the way they do with you. You probably won’t be surprised to find you are not the first one.
  • Make a Diary – You need to record the instances of bullying by making a diary of events.  Record everything that is said and done. This way you have a comprehensive and chronological record to refer to should you have to take the matter to a tribunal at any point.
  • Leave – This is not a cop out, it is a positive step to changing your life for the better. If you have exhausted all avenues of dealing with this matter, or get the sense that the situation for you is unlikely to change, look for another job. There are plenty of good organisations where your work will be valued. It does not mean that the bully has got away with their behaviour; there is still the option of taking the matter to tribunal for constructive dismissal if you wished. It simply means you are free from the horror of the situation you are in, and the bully and indeed the organisation have lost a hard working employee who had a lot to offer the company.

It takes courage to change the situation you find yourself in , but one thing is certain if you don’t tackle the situation it will remain the same or  become even worse.  Work is important but nothing is worth allowing your health and well-being suffer so you need to either improve the situation or remove yourself from it.



About Shani Fowler

About Shani Fowler

Shani is 46 years old and a mum to a five year old little boy, Zak. Together with her husband and German Shepherd Bo, they live in Rothwell, Leeds. For over twenty years Shani worked as a Practice Manager in a Solicitors Practice. During her time there she was lucky enough to have been put through University and studied for four years, obtaining a BA (Hons) Degree in Business Studies. Sadly, the Solicitors Practice closed in September of 2012 but the time felt right to spread her wings a little and set up a Freelance Bookkeeping Service which so far has been successful. The flexibility also allows Shani to focus on her passion for writing too. She love reading, writing and dancing and has been dancing for about ten years now despite her husband insisting she's not improved, and informing her she possesses the fluidity of movement similar to that of C3PO (the robot from Star Wars)! Her favourite film is Shaw Shank Redemption, closely followed by Chicago, American Beauty and Philadelphia and her favourite book is Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes. Shani loves to holiday in Ixia, Greece, loves the Lake District and most of all loves her family (including Bo), friends and loves to laugh!

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