Tips for Managing a Bully Boss
Dealing with a bully boss is difficult and stressful. If you are unfortunate
enough to have one, you must deal with the behavior dispassionately and
avoid engaging your emotions.
Don’t spend time attempting to analyse his/her behavior.
Resist the impulse to defend yourself, share your feelings or get angry.
Use short, direct statements.
Do not confront your boss publicly.
Focus on actionable issues, stay calm, be direct and clearly articulate
what you need/don’t need to do your job. Remember your boss
succeeds if you do.
Remember you have a professional code of conduct to support you
and which your boss needs to abide by (whether s/he admits it or
Use phrases such as:
“Comments like that are unproductive and do nothing but create bad
“Please don’t call me, or my ideas, ‘stupid’”
“Comments like that are unprofessional and against company policy.”
“If you have negative feedback about my performance, please give it to
“Please stop [name the behaviour – yelling, talking over me…]
“I don’t appreciate jokes that belittle me or my family.”
“You must address me by my name.”
Demonstrate you’ve heard your boss but be clear about what you need:
“I respect your opinion, but I will not listen to inflammatory comments.”
“I would like to improve my performance, but comments like that give
me no direction.”
“I would like to increase my sales volume, but hearing how bad a job
I’m doing doesn’t help.”
“We all try to deliver great customer service, but embarrassing my team
in front of the customer destroys our efforts.”
Be specific about the direction you want:
“I would like to know specific ways I can improve.”
“Please let me know what results you expect and how I can recognise
them once I’ve reached them.”
“If we need to deal with this again, what would you rather I do?
Point out repercussions that may hurt or embarrass your boss:
“Because you yelled at the group, three people have switched teams.”
“You may notice that Jenny seems dispirited since you ridiculed her in
“Since you started calling people ‘dumb’ they’re not speaking out at
“After you called our plan ‘ridiculous’ my team is no longer engaged.”
Document your boss’s behaviour in a file at home. Include dates, places,
specific comments and witnesses. Use objective language.
Don’t say: The boss yelled really loudly today.
Do say: Several people in the finance team commented that they heard
the boss yelling at me yesterday. He said that I …”
Don’t say: The boss was rude
Do say: Yesterday the boss made several lewd jokes about my wife.
Don’t say: Every time I walk into the office, the boss makes me feel bad.
Do say: Every time I walk into the office, the boss calls me…
Adapted from ‘Dealing with Difficult People’ by Susan Benjamin