Developing Your Response to the Bully Boss

I’m going to share an amazing secret with you: you may not have control over every situation in life, but you have control over how you approach and respond to it.

Read that again. You have the ability to control yourself in every situation you encounter. You get to decide how you show up. You get to decide what the next moment will be like. This is an incredibly important thing to note.

And when it comes to dealing with a Bully Boss or some other toxic workplace situation, this can take you far.

I previously wrote about why adopting a “grin and bear it” mentality just doesn’t work when you’re working for a Bully Boss. And this can be particularly challenging when some people find themselves in a situation where finding new employment isn’t an option (or might be taking longer than you want).

But it’s possible to develop an effective response to a Bully Boss, even when it seems like it takes a lot of energy from you.

Here’s my guidance to help you consider how to stay true to yourself when you work for a Bully Boss and feel like you’ve lost control of the situation.

  1. Stop and Notice. Maybe the Bully Boss just yelled at you in front of everyone in a big meeting. Maybe they teased you in a very mean and unprofessional way. Maybe they encourage toxic gossip behavior with others. Whatever their behavior, take a breath and analyze the situation. Stop and notice what you’re thinking and feeling. Maybe you feel insulted or embarrassed. Maybe you are frustrated and annoyed. Maybe you feel pressured to answer an unwelcome invitation for fear of retaliation. Whatever you’re thinking or feeling, don’t judge it, just notice it.
  2. Figure out what inspires those thoughts and feelings. Recognize the feelings you have when you encounter a challenging moment with the Bully Boss and ask yourself why you’re feeling those big emotions. Frequently, we have big feelings and emotions when our values are called into question or if they are challenged. If you take great pride in your work and the Bully Boss constantly berates you for a poor job, you’ll have very powerful feelings around that. If you feel threatened in your job security because of an answer your Bully Boss doesn’t like, you’ll feel very strong feelings around this (and possibly conflicted thoughts that challenge your values). Notice when your feelings are the direct result of a value or belief you hold that you know is core to who you are. This also comes from gaining greater self-awareness.
  3. Choose your next action. You’ve intentionally recognized an event that is out of your control, why it inspires certain feelings and why those feelings come up. The next step is to decide what to do. Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean show up fighting or quit with no notice; there are options in between these extremes. What it means is that you can choose your attitude about this situation and the thoughts and actions it inspires. As you decide who you are (and will be) regardless of what others say and do, you create the internal strength to control your thoughts and actions. You stay in control of you.

Think of it this way: if you know you work for a Bully Boss, chances are that those around you know it too. If you’re yelled at in front of others or if you’re invited to join in a toxic gossip conversation, and you control your response to the situation, you’ll find it’s easier to always pick an action that is aligned to you. And a bonus: you just might become the inspiration for others to find their voice, as well.

You’ve figured out the Bully Boss is the issue, so what can you do about it? If you have control over the situation, go change it. If you don’t have control, figure out who and how you want to be in the situation. Remember, as you control your feelings and attitude about the situation, you will control your thoughts and actions. You will be who you want and believe yourself to be in any situation.

Take Action
This approach most definitely takes practice and a bit of resilience, as well, especially if the Bully Boss has been a presence in your life for any extended period of time. So practice it. Start to recognize when events in life inspire strong feelings, and notice when those feelings are positive and productive, too. This will help you build up your stamina to build your confidence to know that when confronted by a tough situation or a Bully Boss, you will be the person you choose to be.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Create Your Stopper

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