I am at a complete crossroads. I love my job, the content of the work I do, I really like the company and most of the people I work with. For the first 6 months at my company I worked for someone wonderful and we did great work together, for the past 4 months, things have taken an awful turn. My new line manager is what I would describe as a bully. My peers and other business leaders, including my manager’s boss appear to understand the problem, and while they are sympathetic, no one seems prepared to take definitive action. My boss provides little direction, and yet, when I produce a draft product indicates all they ways in which it needs to change in order to be correct, I am spoken down to in meetings, my ideas undermined. I get emails and calls constantly until late into the evening which I’m expected to answer immediately. The work I do is good, and there are others I could work for at my company where I know I would get the support and direction necessary to do an amazing job. I’m afraid working for this person is going to start affecting my health, already I cannot sleep properly and find I cannot stop looking at my phone, fearful about what might happen next. Please help!
Ugh, that sounds awful and like an all too common story. Sadly most of us have or will experience workplace bullying at some stage in our careers. It’s disheartening to hear your manager’s superiors are not intervening.
When we are the victim of a bully, we can start to feel powerless and that is intentional on the part of the bully. The most important thing to do when you are powerless is to take the power back in no uncertain terms and in your case, that can happen in a number of ways. Here’s what I recommend.
Even if you don’t intend to leave, start actively looking for another job. Reach out to head-hunters, network with friends, former colleagues and family. Make sure your LinkedIn and resume are up-to-date and looking amazing. A new great headshot always does wonders for my confidence!
Push back on your manager, if you are told your work is failing to meet expectations. Indicate in writing you will require clear objectives and outcomes for the initiatives you’ve been asked to work on. When you meet one-to-one, keep the door open, speak in a slightly louder voice than normal. Ask a lot of questions about expectations. Send an email recapping the discussion and the expectations as you heard them and request approval or clarification.
If you receive abusive emails file them and if you can, bring someone else with power into the exchange by ccing them on your response. This way other leaders will see the way you are being treated and your boss will know there will be other sets of eyes on your correspondence.
You may be reeling on the inside but try not to let it show in meetings. Have strong body language, shoulders open, keep eye-contact and do not touch your face. Speak to HR and other leaders one-to-one about your concerns and focus the discussion on business impacts rather than your well-being. Avoid turning these discussions into a gossip session. Remain composed, professional and focused on business impacts. Present solutions. Point to your excellent work with your former boss and explain you are capable and would like to be empowered to continue working at that level; outline the barriers.
If your boss’ behavior escalates, and it may because they will try and reel you back in, and you do not get the support you need from the business, I’m afraid it’s time to leave. A good friend of mine David Malesich who runs a small (and incredible!) research firm always reminds me that he does not work with ‘jerks’ period. Life is too short. There are other jobs and many wonderful people out there. Take the power back, go and find a new job and enjoy your life!