8 Ways to Tell If Your Boss Is a Bully

Is your boss just strict, or a bully?

Posted Oct 07, 2015

Workplace bullying has reached epidemic proportions. A 2014 poll by the Workplace Bullying Institute showed that 27% of workers are currently, or have been, the target of bullies at work. Many additional workers have witnessed bullying toward others, and nearly three-fourths of employees say they are aware of workplace bullying.  Bosses make up the majority of bullies.

Targets of bullying can experience a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder, and in rare instances, bullying is linked to suicide and workplace violence. Interestingly, there has been little attention paid to workplace bullying in the United States, as many bullying activities can "fly under the radar" of workplace harassment (i.e., the targets are not members of protected groups; the harassment is more subtle). There is growing concern and interest in workplace bullying and legislation designed to prevent it.

Although peer-to-peer bullying is quite common, bullying can be particularly harmful when the bully is your boss—a person in power.  In an effort to control others, the bully mistreats, shames, and tries to humiliate the target.

Based on the research of Gary and Ruth Namie, here is a test to see if your boss is a workplace bully.

1. Does your boss blame you for fabricated "errors"?

2. Are you given unreasonable job demands or goals?

3. Does your boss threaten you with pay cuts or being fired?

4. Does your boss insult you and/or criticize your abilities? Does this happen in front of others?

5. Are you excluded by the bully and his/her "henchmen" or given the silent treatment?

6. Does your boss yell, scream, or curse at you?

7. Does your boss inconsistently enforce rules?

8. Does your boss deny or discount your accomplishments and/or take credit for your success?

The first step in dealing with bullying, is to recognize it for what it is, to realize that you are not to blame, and to protect yourself from harm.  Here is a post designed to help you specifically with a bullying boss.

Here are some valuable resources to help you understand and fight workplace bullying:

Gary Namie & Ruth Namie (2009). The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job (2nd ed.), Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks.




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