When the Bully Boss Intrudes at Home

A majority of the working world does their work from home. When we were all sent to the safety of our homes at the start of the COVID pandemic last year, organizations rushed to find a way to ensure the work would still get done. And a lot of them succeeded.

But there was an unforeseen consequence to the shift to the remote world: inviting the Bully Boss into your home.

A Bully Boss is one of the most challenging bullies people can face in their lives. They’re mean and ruthless, unafraid to point out a person’s flaws to the largest audience possible without offering any guidance into how improvements can be made. They’re loud, they scream and they’re quick to anger. They can be manipulative and love to point the finger instead of accepting blame or admitting mistakes.

Though this sounds like any type of bully, the big difference in a schoolyard bully and a Bully Boss is this: they have a direct impact on your ability to make a living.

For this reason, many people just grin and bear it, pushing through the mental beating day after day because they need the paycheck. And they look forward to the end of the day when they can escape to the restorative place they call home. Some would call this a hostile workplace.

When you work for a Bully Boss, your home becomes your safe haven, your sanctuary, the place where you can escape from their wrath and get refocused and re-energized before the next day.

But now that you work at home? Your Bully Boss has direct access to you any time they want. They’ve intruded into your safe space, erasing the line you precariously drew to keep work and life separate for your mental wellbeing.

So how do you manage the Bully Boss when your safe haven is now your workspace?

Here are 3 ways to shift your mindset to manage the presence of the Bully Boss in your home.

1. Find your voice.
Up until now, actively trying to avoid the Bully Boss, especially if they were having a particularly bad day, became almost an office game. Just like buzzword bingo, the game created a sense of unity with those you worked with. People would tell you where the Bully Boss was headed or where they were so you could take the long way around. You knew to keep your head down and avoid eye contact.

But now, when the Bully Boss wants you, there’s no hiding. They have direct access to you. They can email you repeatedly, ping you on a messenger app or use Zoom for face-to-face discussions. There’s little escape here. This may seem particularly daunting, especially when you lose your squad; no one has insight into who the Bully Boss will zoom in on next.

But when you’re at home, you’re able to tap into a unique strength: your space. You can decide how you will and won’t be treated in your own home. Use this as your launching pad to decide the type of language and behavior you expect in your home and embody it. Use it to find your voice.

This doesn’t necessarily mean telling them off. Start small. Recognize the tone you’re using and the words you choose to use. Keep your language positive and upbeat. Lean into that restorative energy your home provides to use your voice in a productive way. Sometimes, that positive shift in your voice unintentionally boosts your confidence and can easily rub off on those around you.

2. Take control of your image.
I mean this literally. Since so many organizations rely on Zoom and other video chat options to engage with each other face-to-face, take control of the image you want your Bully Boss – and other colleagues – to see. When you dial into a video call, you know everyone looks at the image behind you, so think ahead: what do you want them to see? Whether it’s your home office organized or decorated a certain way, or even just a personalized background image, take control of the image you project. Similar to your word choice and tone, knowing you control your image can also create a confidence boost, letting you show up stronger and more engaged, regardless of what the Bully Boss might be throwing your way.

3. You don’t live with them.
At the end of the day, it’s all about perspective. Yes, they are still your boss and yes, they have intruded on your private space. But here’s the great silver lining: you don’t live with them. You can log off and walk away from your desk with the peace of mind that they don’t live there. If nothing else, this should give you an instant boost in morale and confidence that you can control just how much they see of your space and how much you’re willing to let their behavior impact you in your own home.

Though these tips are helpful to manage your response and approach to dealing with a Bully Boss, sometimes, your physical and mental health are threatened and you requires an intentional next step: be prepared to make a change if necessary. It all comes down to your physical, mental and emotional health. Remember the adage, “people quit people before they quit companies.” If you like working at your company, determine if you can transfer to a different department or team. If you’re looking for a completely fresh start, create a list of potential organizations that would be a fit for you and start exploring new options.

You are worth the support, care and encouragement of a great boss. You never should put up with a bully – anywhere in life – but particularly in the workplace.

Do you work for a Bully Boss? Take our quiz to find out.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How You Act Won’t Influence How I Show Up

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4 Tips to Not Be Bad at Working from Home

I was talking with a client recently who kept saying they are “bad at working from home.” Throughout the conversation, they mentioned their ability to be a forward or strategic thinker was hindered because of distractions at home.

Though we can all relate to having distractions at home in whatever form they come in (kids, roommates, the pile of laundry you’ve been meaning to do, food, neighbors, pets), learning how to be more efficient in your work-from-home approach will help you in the long run, especially as we try to imagine what life will be like during cold and flu season just a few short months after the stay-at-home orders around the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, first, create your space. Assess what you need to get done and create the space that will ensure you can achieve your performance expectations. Do you need privacy and quiet? Do you need a large computer screen? Do you need additional technology and connections? Do you have Zoom meetings that will show your space on screen? Create what you need to be successful.

Second, remove the obvious distractions. Working at home can put many distractions right in your reach. Scan your area for anything that will distract you such as the TV remote, the availability of snacks, piles of laundry, dirty dishes, other household activity. Take a step back and just observe your workspace. Ask yourself: what could disrupt me in an unproductive way? Then remove it.

Third, create a daily to do list. Spend whatever time you need at the start of your day getting your head in the right place. Review your calendar so you know what calls or deliverables are required. Consider creating your to do list in order of priority with the items at the top of the list that need to be done today. Or, if you like to see the red marks as you cross things off your list, consider creating an “at work” list and an “at home” list. Identify 2-3 big things for each list you want to accomplish for that specific day and stay focused on getting those tasks done.

And finally, divide your day into blocks of time. This includes work and home times. For work times, set your day up to tackle the biggest, most important or thought-provoking items you need to complete during the part of the day when you are most productive. Be sure to define a clear start and end to your workday to also be able to accommodate the home requirements. This may take some time to notice what works best for both your work and home responsibilities, so challenge yourself to take note of what works best to get done what has to get done.

Working from home can be challenging when there are multiple distractions outside of your control. But following these four tips can help you set yourself up for success as a productive work-from-home employee.

Take Action
Take each step on its own. Master each one before you move on to the next. Take a day to get adjusted to the approach and give yourself some grace in learning this adjustment. There will need to be some flexibility for the first week or so, but stick to your new guidelines. You’ll see a drastic improvement in your productivity and mental capability.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Balance Working From Home With Kids

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Do You Have What it Takes to Be Successful Working From Home?

As the workplace continues to compete for the best talent, organizations need to consider how they think about where their employees do their work. Though there’s an increasing number of employees who want and need to work at home, organizations must define when it makes sense for both the organization and the employee. Sometimes, employees lack the skills and discipline to be effective in a remote environment. Sometimes, the organization’s business approach or use of highly sensitive information may not lend itself to be outside the building’s four walls. And sometimes, it comes down to this: getting the work done correctly and on time.

As someone who has had a home office for the past dozen years, I have learned some things that work well and other things that should be avoided to ensure effectiveness when working remotely.

If you’re thinking about working from home and need to first get permission, ask yourself two questions:

1. Does working at home make sense for the work I do, the culture of the company and my impact in my job? Just because you want to work from home doesn’t mean it makes sense for the job you have or the way work is done in your organization. Making it all about you is a great way to have your boss say no.

However, if you can assess how working remotely aligns to the work you do, and you can show how it could improve your output while still fitting within the organization’s beliefs and work approach, it’s worth asking about. Showing that you have thought about working remotely from the organization’s perspective is the way to lead in this discussion.

2. Do I have what it takes to be successful in a limited supervision and remote environment? Before you say yes (because you really want to work remotely), be realistic. Are you organized? Can you create a space at home where you can be focused, thoughtful and able to deliver what your role or job expects or requires from you? Can you create a workday in your personal space that does not have you distracted by friends, neighbors, family, pets or other things so that you can be successful with your expectations? Do you need interaction and contact with your peers on an ad hoc or frequent basis to brainstorm, solve or deal with workplace issues? Do you need resources that are best supplied in a centralized workplace environment? What is your real motivation for working remotely? Answer these questions honestly to give you a full reality-check image of what working from home could really be like for you.  

Spend some time with these questions and be sure that your reasons for remote work accommodate both your company and the way for you to deliver your best work.

Now, consider the other side of the story: you already work remotely, but you need to improve your output.

Consider the following things to improve your effectiveness:

  • Assess whether you have the talents and skills to do the job well. Most remote employees with poor performance are employees who are hired into roles that don’t align to their abilities. If you need specific talents to be effective in the role and do not have them, you will likely struggle to perform. If you are missing some skills that would improve your performance, reach out to your manager and have a plan to develop the skills. If you are misaligned in your job, either you can’t do the work well, or are just not that interested in doing it well. The outcome is the same – average performance. Focus on alignment; does your remote job fit you? If not, start to locate opportunities in the organization that better align to your core talents and strengths.
  • Look at your remote workspace and make it a successful workspace. Consider your remote space your “office.” What do you need to have in it to facilitate your effectiveness? What gets in your way that you need to modify or eliminate? It is up to you to create a space conducive to your performance success.
  • Assess your personal organization and self-discipline. If you are not organized, get some guidance in activity management or spatial organization. If you are not self-disciplined, develop a reward schedule that defines your performance expectations and the reward you give yourself the more you comply with your expectations. For example, you may create an expectation that when your office door is closed, you are in work mode. Your focus is on your work and not on other things. When the door is open, you are available to the house, snacking and other things. The door becomes your tool to improve your self-discipline. Or, consider engaging a coach or mentor to help develop your personal organization skills and self-discipline habits. Get them to the level they need to be to ensure your success.

The goal is for you to be as effective, efficient and extraordinary working remotely as if you were working locally. That means you have to be in a job that aligns to your abilities and skills, and that you have the organization, focus and self-discipline to work by yourself. Remote work is not for everyone. Assess whether it works for your organization and works for you.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Panic (until it’s time to panic)

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