When Your Boss Is a Bully

How to stand up for yourself and come out on top

Posted Dec 12, 2016

Source: Pexels.com

We’ve all dealt with bullies at one time or another. But, it can be especially difficult when the bully is your boss. After all, it’s not like you can ignore him or avoid direct contact.

Bullies believe they can maintain control if they use hate and fear as weapons. They appear self-confident and strong because they intimidate weaker people.  If you act afraid or react with rage, then that proves to them that you are inferior and “deserve” to be disparaged.

When bosses belittle you, your best defense is an offense. You must stand up to the bully.

What You’re Thinking

My boss tortures me with emotional blackmail. My stomach is in knots just thinking about seeing him in the office. He has me right where he wants me—I’ll never get a raise or move up unless I do as he says. I can’t afford to upset him, so I just hide my anger and try not to take it out on my loved ones at home. I can’t stand being so upset and on edge.

A Bully’s Thoughts

Barb makes me so mad. The whole office staff is so weak and stupid. No one can think on their own. I have to tell them how to do everything. Well, I sure told Barb the other day. That issue is not negotiable. I must prove I am right. If I frighten her now and show her how weak she is, then she will know how strong I am.


Protect your job by redeeming your self-esteem and thereby gaining the Bully’s respect. Stop accepting the situation. Arm yourself with friendliness and self-confidence and avoid a clash of wills.

  • Practice confrontation at home. You want to appear firm, strong, and unemotional—even if you are shaking in your boots.  Make a video of your practice run. Review it to perfect your content, tone, and body language. The more that you practice in a calm setting, the more comfortable you will be in the heat of the moment.
  • Let Bullies vent their anger without interrupting them; then focus on their concerns. In a pleasant tone, pose questions to get them to disclose what’s really bothering them. They may be bullies, but they are human, so don’t be surprised if they react positively when you show concern for their feelings.

Tactical Talk

Boss: You’re flat out wrong. You’d better just listen and do as you’re told, or today will be your last day.

You: Okay, boss, I see you don’t agree. Of course, you have the final say, but it would seem that—(Boss interrupts, but you continue, interrupting the interrupter.)

You: Excuse me, I’m not through. Give me 30 seconds to finish this point…. (Keep talking without pause so that the boss cannot interrupt you, again, before you share your idea.)

Tip: Bullies lose their power if you don’t cower. Deep down, they doubt they deserve your respect. They admire you for speaking with self-assurance and confidence. So when they bombard, don’t counterpunch. Rather, win them over with your strong, firm, courteous demeanor.

Our grandmas were right: You can catch more flies with honey.

Want to learn more about handling difficult people in today’s workplace? Friend me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter. Read Working with Difficult People.

Copyright© 2016 Amy Cooper Hakim