Monday, September 14, 2015

When the Boss is a Bully

When the Boss is a Bully

"They verbally abuse you, humiliate you in front of others. Maybe it's because power hovers in the air, but offices tend to bring out the bully in people. We offer strategies for handling such bad bosses.
If the schoolyard is the stomping ground of bully boys and bully girls, then the office is the playground of adult bullies. Perhaps because power is the chief perk in most companies, especially those with tight hierarchies, offices can bring out the bully in people."
"Nevertheless, says Levinson, 40 years of consulting have given him some idea of what they do and why. They over-control, micromanage, and display contempt for others, usually by repeated verbal abuse and sheer exploitation. They constantly put others down with snide remarks or harsh, repetitive, and unfair criticism. They don't just differ with you, they differ with you contemptuously; they question your adequacy and your commitment. They humiliate you in front of others."
While bullies inhabit the middle ranks of large concerns, they are positively thriving at small companies. "There are lots of bad bosses out there,' says Atlanta-based management consultant Neil Lewis, Ph.D. "In smaller companies the quality of management is not as good as at large companies. They're not professional managers."
Stybel warns workers not to focus on where bullying comes from. "When observers see a boss behave as a bully, they attribute it to trait characteristics. That may not be the case. It's almost always a product of individual history and make-up--and the company atmosphere. But who cares? The most important thing is the behavior."
Bullies do a lot of damage in organizations. They make subordinates run scared. They put people in a protective mode, which interferes with the company's ability to generate innovation. They don't build in perpetuation of the organization, says Levinson. "It keeps you in a state of psychological emergency. And add to it the rage you feel towards the bully and a sense of self-rage for putting up with such behavior." These are hardly prime conditions for doing your best work--any work.
As with kids, bully bosses have blind spots. They don't see themselves accurately. They see themselves as better than others--which only acts to justify their bullying behavior--a feeling reinforced by promotion. Another big blind spot: sensitivity to others' feelings. Often, says Levinson, this arises in competitive settings, where "you learn to focus on your own behavior. It breeds a kind of psychological ignorance."
Here are tactics from seasoned organizational consultants:

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