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Work Place Bullying, boss as bully

Prof. Dr Pashupati Chaudhary

Work Place Bullying is common practice, be they an abusive boss, co-worker, or subordinate. Roughly 90% of people say they have directly experienced workplace bullying. Workplace bullying can occur between anyone in the workplace. But perhaps the most difficult situation to deal with is bullying by a boss—the very person responsible for your advancement within the institution/company.

Many times people do not realize that their boss is bullying them. Instead, they believe that they have a tough boss or one that simply pushes his/her employees to get results. But it is important to be able to identify workplace bullying because it can have significant consequences.“At its core, bullying is about power, “According to specialist. “When someone feels threatened or powerless, they try to exert power over other people through bullying.”

Bullying is defined as “repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees; abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; work sabotage; or verbal abuse” Some experts say it goes further than that. “Workplace bullying is psychological violence,” says Lynne Curry, author of Beating the Workplace Bully: A Tactical Guide to Taking Charge. “A bully is someone who repeatedly and intentionally goes after a target.”

Being a victim of workplace bullying can have devastating effects on your career. Approximately 65% of bullied targets lose their job, either because they voluntarily leave to escape more mistreatment, quit when conditions become worse, or are terminated by their employer, The poll found that 51% of respondents were bullied by their boss or manager, whereas 39% were bullied by co-workers, and a surprising 4% said the perpetrator was someone other than a co-worker, such as a client or customer.

Also, despite common misconception, there is same-sex bullying in the workplace: Male perpetrators prefer targeting women (65%), but many target other men (35%); conversely, 33% of female bullies target other women, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute Quitting may also be the right move for your health, since research shows repeated bullying can trigger physical and mental health problems such as high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and depression.

 Signs Your Boss Is a Bully

  • Verbally abuses you. Bullying bosses are notorious for humiliating employees in front of others. For instance, he/she might shout, swear or yell at you on a consistent basis. He also may make offensive jokes at your expense. Verbally abusive bosses also make snide remarks or offer unfair criticism.
  • Intimidates you. Intimidating behavior might include threatening to fire you as a way to maintain power and control. He/she also might make threatening gestures or threaten to physically harm you. Other examples of intimidating behavior include towering over you, invading your space, and giving intimidating looks.
  • Questions your adequacy and your commitment. Bosses that bully questions your adequacy by belittling your opinions and ideas. This behavior may take place in private or in front of others. They also may blame you for problems at work while boasting that their skills are responsible for good outcomes. And they may question your commitment to the job unless you work long hours and sacrifice personal time.
  • Intrudes on your privacy.Sometimes bosses will spy on you or even stalk you. They also may listen in on your private conversations, open your mail, and go so far as to tamper with your personal belongings or your work equipment. It is not uncommon to find a bullying boss snooping through your office when you are out. Ultimately, a bullying boss is looking for ammunition to use against you.
  • Undermines your work. Bullies set unrealistic deadlines that are bound to cause failure. They also change project guidelines on a regular basis causing extra work and increasing the chance for failure. They also withhold necessary information and sabotage your success by causing your projects and papers to be late or incomplete. Refusing to sign off on projects or not providing needed feedback are other tactics used to undermine work.
  • Impedes your success. Remember, bullies do want to see you succeed because they will lose control over you. As a result, they may punish you for mistakes that are not yours or bring up past mistakes in order to shift blame during a discussion. They also may make it impossible for you to apply for a promotion, a transfer or additional training.
  • Spreads rumors about you. Bullies often go to great lengths to make others look bad. As a result, they may gossip with others about your work, your appearance, your health or your personal life. Sometimes they even lie about you in order to damage your reputation. Their goal is to make others believe you deserve the unfair treatment you are receiving.
  • Isolates you at work. Bullying bosses might exclude you socially. They leave you off party lists and do not include you in company outings, sporting events, or after-hours meetings. They also may schedule meetings when they know you are on vacation or have a conflict in your schedule. Additionally, they may make important decisions while you are out of the office.

   Types of workplace bullies

• The mean-spirited prankster- Like the class clown in high school, this person plays jokes on co-workers. Some office gags are perfectly innocent, but there’s a line between playing a harmless prank and intentionally humiliating someone.
• The jerk- Some people, like the jerk, are simply mean by nature. This person brings a toxic attitude to the office environment by delivering angry or condescending remarks to their co-workers. Poll results show that 23% of those who were bullied at work were victims of aggressive tone, language, or emails.
• The saboteur-This bully’s agenda is to undermine your every move and prevent you from succeeding at your job. Saboteurs view their peers as competitors that they need to squash—not collaborators.
• The constant critic- This person, typically in a management position, talks down to direct reports and picks apart your work
• The gossip- Every office has one, in fact gossiping was a frequently cited form of bullying It can really take a toll on your job performance as well as tarnish your reputation.
• The gatekeeper- Taking a more indirect approach, this person withholds resources that you need to succeed (e.g., a boss who doesn’t provide you with adequate time to complete a project).

Why Workplace Bullying Is Harmful

Many times, employees will endure bullying and poor treatment from their bosses simply because they are afraid of losing their job or creating a tense situation. But letting bullying bosses get away with humiliating and demeaning can be a bad idea too.

Not only is the bullying bad for health, but the bullying likely will continue if you never address it. If you are at the point where you feel like you are walking on eggshells around your boss or you are feeling anxious, sad, or frightened around your boss, then it may be time to stand up to the bullying.

Employees that stood up to the bullying also earned the respect of their coworkers and gained back power in the relationship with their bosses. They also were more committed to their jobs and they believed their careers were not impacted negatively by addressing the boss’ bad behaviors.

How to Confront a Bullying Boss

Strategy will depend on who is bullying you, If a peer or subordinate is bullying you, turn the tables by deflecting the person’s attacks. To achieve this, you should have nonchalant responses ready to use the next time the person says something negative to you (e.g., “Give it a rest,” “Nice try, but I’m not biting”).But if the bullying continues, compile evidence that you can present to your higher authority. “Document says everything,”ie “Dates, times, and places the bullying happens.”

If your boss is the bully, you’ll have to take a delicate approach. You can’t stand your ground as readily, since there’s a power dynamic, you need to break the silence with co-workers, Chances are you’re not the only person being bullied, and you can use your collective power to mobilize as a group.”

Together, you can build a case that highlights why your boss’ bullying is hurting the institutions/company’s bottom line—“turnover, absenteeism, and lower productivity,” If you can’t get the workplace bullying to stop, there’s no shame in resigning from your company or institution. Leaving a job and embarking on a job search might initially add to your anxiety, but it doesn’t have to. There are plenty of employers who will ensure that you’re treated with the respect you deserve.

But having said that standing up to your boss is not easy. However, if you feel like he/she is taking advantage of you, it might be worth considering. But first, think about the possible repercussions. You have to be comfortable with the fact that you could be disciplined or lose your job for standing your ground. For some people, confronting bullying is the priority over maintaining their position in the company or institutions. Others would prefer to learn coping mechanisms while they hunt for a new job. Whatever decision, be sure you are prepared for the possible outcome.

Here are six steps for handling the situation in the most effective way possible:

  • Stand up for yourself. Remember, bullies count on you being passive about their behavior. Show your boss that he made a mistake in targeting you. Address the issue with your boss in a calm and assertive manner. The goal is that you can defend yourself without being aggressive or mean in return.
  • Be specific. When addressing your boss’ behavior, have specific examples ready of how he/she has offended you because chances are high that he/she will want proof. If you don’t have examples prepared and ready to go, it will look like you are overreacting. Keep in mind though, that most bullying bosses will not take responsibility for their mean behavior. In fact, he/she will likely shift the blame for his/her actions back to you or simply brush it off saying that he/she doesn’t even remember it happening.
  • Be confident. Bullying bosses are able to quickly discern whom they can control and manipulate. Avoid looking nervous, insecure, or defeated. No matter what happens during your discussion stay strong and remain professional. Keep your chin up and do not give in to the pressure.
  • Recognize what you can control and what you cannot. Remember, you have no control over what other people say or do. But, you do have control over your response. Keep your confrontation free of emotion and anger. If you can’t address your boss in a calm manner, then you need to postpone confronting him. You also need to be prepared for your boss to retaliate. Be sure you have a plan in place in case your boss fires you for addressing his mean behavior.
  • Continue to work hard. Do not allow your boss’ bullying to derail you at work. For instance, don’t spend time talking with other co-workers about what is happening. Instead, focus on continuing to produce high-quality work. Also, do not allow the turmoil your boss creates to cause you to fall behind on projects. And be sure to keep good documentation of all your successes.
  • Know when to get outside help. If your boss continues to bully you despite your efforts to address it, contact your boss’ supervisor. Keep a record of all the bullying incidents including dates, times, and witnesses. You should also keep all electronic correspondence. And if you feel emotionally drained, depressed or anxious, contact a counselor. It is never a good idea to ignore the effects of workplace bullying.

The presumption is that tough boss gets results & rooted partly in published life stories of successful CEOs. Bobby Knight, The Indiana basketball coach and the author of “The power of negative thinking“, was notoriously harsh and extremely successful. So, was the Steve job, co-founder of Apple. But the researchers who study organizations, productivity and leader styles attribute the achievements to exceptional ability. The research thus far found no evidence to support the axiom that harsh boss/tougher bosses get better results. There has been a lot of research that there are good aspects of abusive leadership or not. Productivity may rise in short term/duration, But over time, the performance of staff or team dips or deteriorates, people quit

Now, the question arises if an abusive management /leadership styles provides so little benefit, then why do so many abusive managers of bosses rise in any organizations? Studies led by Jennifer Overbeck, Associate Professor at Melbourne business school has found that in simulated work groups, people gave high ratings to leaders who make quick decisions, particularly in moral dilemmas. It is not that snap decisions were more correct than deliberate ones, rather, they are perceived to be correct, and the decision-maker seemed more morally assured  than other potential leaders.

People tend to give leaders or bosses benefit of doubt, at least for a time.Oberbeck called this tendency as ‘leaders rosy halo” As these people or individuals rise through the ranks, they internalize the belief that they are natural, morally instinctual leaders. This view in turn, affects how they view people under them. These Kinds of behavior is generally not pre-meditated, it comes when bosses/leaders fail to control themselves, involve in unethical work practices, having vested personal interest & unholy relationship with corrupt business people and it is worse when bosses have bottom-line mentality, that I will do anything to achieve that goals.

* Pashupati Chaudhary: Professor, Department of Orthopaedics (Consultant Orthopaedic and Spine Surgeon) at B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences,Dharan, Nepal.

** Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Asia Live.

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