This is a question I have been asked on a number of occasions, especially during assertiveness workshops so let me give you some insight and tips.
First of all, as with any subject mental health related, it’s useful to try to understand the issue at hand before trying to solve it. So in understanding adult bullies, I have found that they demonstrate a combination of antisocial and narcissistic personality traits in that they disregard the rights of others and consider themselves to be the most, if not only, important person in the room. They usually communicate on the aggressive end of the assertiveness continuum, and are most likely to pick on those that interact at the opposite end of this continuum, which is passively or submissively.
When it comes to interacting with any person regardless of their personality traits, you need to understand and accept that you cannot change them, and therefore you need to focus on yourself in the interaction as this is where your power lies. The way in which you interact can definitely help to limit abusive behaviour from others as well as to making you feel better about yourself.
Bullying bosses, unlike bullying children and adolescents, are not likely to use physical expressions but rather psychological ones. Their egos are in fact very fragile and their bullying is often an attempt to make themselves feel better – by breaking you down they gain a feeling of superiority, a sense of achievement.
Bullying bosses, just like bullying children and adolescents, almost always choose battles that they feel confident they can win. In other words, they are not going to pick on the person in the office that will stand up for themselves and exert their rights assertively, but rather the one/s that will submit to their every demand without even a modicum of resistance. In their eyes, the more they can dominate, manipulate and break you down, the more successful they have been, and the more they will continue to target you.
So what is the solution? You need to learn about what it means to be assertive and practice this style of interaction and communication. Although you may not see the benefits immediately, with time I can assure you, your boss is going to give up on you as a target and move on to someone who is more accommodating of their bullying behaviour. Remember, you are not changing your boss as you can’t do that…you are changing yourself and in so doing, you are alleviating yourself of being a victim to a bullying boss.
If you would like to understand more about the power of being assertive, you can watch this short video clip or enquire about my 2-hour workshop, “The Power of being Assertive” currently being facilitated on-line or in-house for groups of 6 or more participants.
Take care everyone.
Your partner in mental health matters in the workplace.