Dealing With a ‘bully’ Boss? Let Your Mindset Be the Change


Dealing With a ‘bully’ Boss? Let Your Mindset Be the Change

I often get asked how do deal with bosses who bully, who are narcissists or who pick on their team members.

These questions often come to me from employees who feel disempowered, who feel like there is no way forward and are experiencing high levels of stress from keeping afloat in a workplace that is like being in an emotional war zone. The default position here is to blame the boss for their behaviour and look at how to change them so that this doesn’t continue to happen. While this is a nice and clean idea, we are going to look at it from a different approach today.

If you are facing this, I would like to offer you three other ways to work with this kind of situation:

Empowered ownership.

You and your boss have created this situation together. I know that these words may be already sparking resistance. I ask you to bear with me. Each interaction that you have with your boss sparks an emotional response in you. And it is often a heavy one; sadness, anger and fear based emotions all rise up from your dealings with them.

By putting empowered ownership into play here, you take full responsibility for that feeling. Your boss hasn’t caused that emotion, they have simply been the stimulus for it. Let’s put it this way: your emotional reaction to your boss is your internal road map letting you know how what they have done sits with you.

At the point that you have an emotional reaction to something your boss (or anyone in your life for that matter) does, you have a couple of ways that you could go:

  • The first option is to blame your boss for your reaction. If you go this way, you will find yourself saying things like, “He makes me so angry” or “She is so annoying”, or you may find that you start using victim language like, “He belittles me” or “She attacks me.” While these may seem like very normal things to say, they are giving you a hint that you are in fact, putting yourself in a powerless position.
  • The other option is to own your emotional response fully. Going down this track, you will look at your emotional reaction like you look at a road map. You will use your emotions to figure out how their behaviour sits with you and then use that information to move forward. For example, if your reaction is anger, that may mean that you need better boundaries or that you have a need to protect something or someone. Owning that you have these requirements and acting from that place is a more powerful approach.

Powerful and powerless.

So, what do I mean by each of these approaches being powerless and powerful?

In the first approach, the one of blaming them for how you feel. The moment that you believe that someone else is responsible for how you feel, the moment you do that, you have given away the power to change it. You then walk into the murky water of needing to change them. It is giving them the power to dictate how you are going to feel. That is not an empowered place.

On the other hand, if you take full responsibility for how you feel, then you have full power to make changes. So, instead of just needing your boss to change, you look at how your emotions are guiding you. Then you start to ask more questions. What would make this ok with me? What do I need to do to improve this situation? It may mean looking for changes with your boss, but they come into a big picture and ‘blame free’ approach.

Everyone is a leader. 

Leadership isn’t a position; it is a mindset and a way of being. If your manager isn’t displaying the leadership qualities that you would hope for, then a powerful approach, is for you to not let that stop you from showing and modelling them.

If you want acknowledgement and appreciation, then show those same qualities to your boss and your peers. If you want communication to improve, make an effort to listen to others and also speak up when you have something to say. If you don’t want to be criticised, don’t criticise others. You know the expression, ‘kill them with kindness’. Filling your actions and thoughts with positivity and good deeds has enormous power.

Now, if that just sounds like a sugar coating of mouldy behaviours, let’s look a little deeper. If your boss is throwing around blame, that means that they are not coming from an empowered place. If they see fault in you, they probably see fault in themselves. The cycle of blame needs to stop somewhere.

Why not with you? And whether things change with your boss or not, if you can make your thoughts and actions more empowered, more positive and more aligned with who you want to be, well, that sounds better than any change you could make happen in someone else.

The best thing that you can do for yourself, your team and your future is not to frame yourself in the mindset of the victim. No one can make you feel like a victim except you, and on the other side of that coin, no-one can empower you, except you.

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