“Grin and Bear It” Doesn’t Work with a Bully Boss

Working for a Bully Boss is hard and, unfortunately, so relatable. We’ve seen the Bully Boss portrayed in movies and shows as the incompetent idiot to the raging lunatic. And you know why those movies and shows are so popular? Because everyone can relate to the Bully Boss experience to some degree.

I certainly am one of them. For some reason, I’ve had more than my fair share of Bully Bosses (both men and women), from the manager who didn’t know how to speak at a normal volume (read: I was always yelled at) to the one who changed department goals overnight without communicating them to the team. It can feel like you’re being pulled in 20 different directions with no clear direction to find your way out.

It’s exhausting. It challenges your self-esteem. It inspires self-doubt. It impacts the way you show up to work and the way you show up to your relationships outside of work. And worse, these Bully Bosses always make you feel like you are the problem.

Working for a Bully Boss is hard.

And though others may try to offer to help, the options presented are always one of two things: make a change or suck it up.

Sometimes, making a change isn’t an option due to a variety of reasons, so it leaves people little choice but to grin and bear it.

But this is important: accepting a “grin and bear it” attitude with a Bully Boss doesn’t work.

Here’s why:

  1. Your attitude changes. You try to protect yourself in some way, so you adopt an indifference approach to how you show up to work. In your effort to let the nasty and toxic behaviors roll off your shoulders, you unwittingly shut yourself off from everything else. You become a shell of yourself, lacking enthusiasm, dedication and, perhaps most importantly, your personality. You are disengaged and disconnected. The difficult things in life seem to rise to the top as your attitude has shifted from optimism to pessimism.
  2. Your work changes. When you adopt the indifference attitude, your work starts to suffer. You don’t go the extra mile or engage in new ideas that can generate great opportunities for you and the business. Instead, you do just enough to not get fired. You try to fly under the radar, delivering items as they’re due, and never before. You stop looking for ways to expand your career or develop yourself because you just want to get through the day, and that’s all you can think of. And sometimes, the harsh criticisms you get from the Bully Boss about the quality of your work start to materialize.
  3. Your home life changes. When you work for a jerk and feel defeated throughout the day, it’s hard to not bring that defeated attitude home. And whether it’s intentional or not, as soon as you become indifferent to your work, you start to become indifferent to many of the other things around you, even things you care most about. You start to lack energy and excitement for the things you really looked forward to and instead opt to just sit and rest. You feel tired more often and you disengage from your friends and family. Sometimes, you can even begin to recognize real health issues.

You can’t just grin and bear it when you work for a Bully Boss. It’s a cascading thing; they intrude into every part of your life if you let them.

So before you tell yourself to just “grin and bear it” and push through your day, stop and notice the person you’ve become. This can be an enlightening moment for you, if you let it.

Take Action
If you work for a Bully Boss or find yourself in a toxic work environment, ask yourself: am I staying true to who I am?

The person you are, at your core, cannot be changed unless you allow it. You control the direction of your life. If you can’t control a situation, you can control your response to it. Decide who you want to be without regard to who others are. You own you. Choose your attitude and your approach. It is empowering.

So, if your Bully Boss is impacting how you show up (to work and life), consider looking for new employment options. It might not happen overnight, but know when it is time. And, be sure to properly vet each new opportunity to avoid moving from one Bully Bos to another. Stay clear about who you are and how you will show up to the things in your work and life. Make changes as necessary. Your sanity and happiness is yours to create.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How You Act Won’t Influence How I Show Up and take our quiz Do I Work for a Bully Boss?

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