Friday, January 21, 2011

KeFactors Friday: Demanding Boss—or Bully?

Very often in my classes, I see individuals who prefer to believe they work for bullies when in fact they’re resisting demands placed by a more exacting boss—eg, more appropriate work apparel, more reliable work hours, and higher standards for performance.

Over 75% of workplace bullies are bosses, so it’s easy to assume all bosses are bullies. The majority is also male, so it’s easy to assume all bullies are men, especially as female bullying behaviors tend to be less tangible and more covert.

Take a look at this criteria:

There should be clarity and consistency in what’s expected of you. A conscientious but anal-retentive manager may be a stickler for meeting performance goals, but a bully boss will cherry-pick and manufacture issues to make your life really miserable.

When you make an honest mistake, your boss should be able to state clearly how it needs to be corrected and prevented from happening again, even if it entails an unhappy conversation between the two of you with notes to your file. Bully bosses tend to inflate mistakes to personally humiliate you; but are just as likely to overlook and forgive them in pursuit of other targets or intentions.

Feedback from a demanding boss will focus on work and performance issues. A bully boss will personalize it, either by citing herself as “your model for success” or focusing on details of your life and personality irrelevant to work. You should also receive balanced appraisals, both positive and corrective.

Demanding bosses are human, after all, and will make errors in judgment if they’re under pressure or misunderstand your intentions. Consider keeping a “daybook” that logs any behaviors you think may be bullying, because if they’re good at anything, bullies are at least consistent in their inhumanity.

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