A bully boss can make work feel like a nightmare.
The bullies in our lives aren’t always left behind in the schoolyard. In fact, they can travel all the way to our professional lives and disrupt our careers. A recent survey by TopCV has found that a staggering 81 per cent of respondents in the UK workforce have felt bullied in the workplace at some point in their career. To break that down, 84 per cent of female respondents and 75 per cent of male respondents reported being bullied by a peer or superior. Clearly, it’s more common than you may think.
TopCV wanted to hear it from you, so we sent out a survey asking for your bully-boss horror stories. Ranging from the frustrating to the distressing, these stories are an insightful look into toxic work environments and how they can affect professionals’ work, health and well-being. If you are in a situation similar to one shared here, it may be time to address the issue.
How long have you been here?
I have been excluded from conversations and left out when new projects or processes are introduced. Sometimes I am spoken to in a patronising manner, and I’m often micromanaged. My boss seems to go out of his way to make me feel like my experience doesn’t count.
Once, a member of the management team asked me a question. As I was explaining the answer to her, she cut me off and told me to answer only with a yes or no. I replied that the situation wasn’t so black and white. This time she told me not to be funny and again, to answer the question yes or no. I felt like I was being interrogated and bullied about how I was allowed to use my voice. I resigned three weeks later.
No mistakes allowed
If there is ever a mistake on a document I’ve prepared, my boss lashes out at me really intensely. She tells me that she won’t rely on me, and when I ask if she would review the information beforehand, she says she won’t spoon-feed me and threatens to fire me for not being focused.
Mom, you’re embarrassing me
My boss at my previous job used to embarrass me in front of other colleagues. At every single briefing, he would address me with common-sense questions as if I couldn’t keep up. He used to ask only me whether I understood the topic or not. He took every opportunity he could to humiliate me.
My boss would override any reasonable decision I made and do anything to embarrass me in front of fellow workmates. He always made snide comments, like saying 'Don't you have an office?' when he saw me working outside with another member of my team.
Playing the blame game
She always saw the worst in everything I did. If something was found where it wasn't supposed to be, to her it was always me who left it there ‒ then she'd start swearing at me. She even blamed me for things that happened on days I wasn’t even working! I finally realised that I would never be able to satisfy her, so I left.
I used to get the blame for everything, whether I was involved or not. I was told off for the slightest thing and always being scolded by my manager. After a while, it felt like giving 100 per cent every day just wasn’t enough ‒ my confidence got really low because I started to think that maybe I deserved it. I hated going to work because I knew how bad I would feel after getting blamed for something again. I finally started trying to stand up for myself, but ultimately I couldn’t stay there anymore.
Related: How to deal with a bully boss
Fueled by discrimination
I attended a university training course and found myself being bullied, harassed and discriminated against because of my religious affiliation. I suffered 8 months of continual threats, intimidation, open mockery of my religious beliefs and aggressive emails. What’s worse ‒ my coursework was being marked by two of the people who were bullying. This included marking my work according to unfair and non-existent criteria. When I informed my professor, he dismissed it and told me I was being paranoid.
I lost some of my sight due to illness, and it took time for me to adjust to my new disability. Instead of being accommodating, my bosses seemed to deliberately give me tasks they knew I could not do. Did they think it was funny to watch me struggle?
I constantly felt pressured by my boss to give up my free time to fit in unplanned pieces of work. He would never deny taking on a new client, so he gave me no choice but to work a lot of extra hours. I was afraid I would lose my job if I said no.
When I was an intern, I was obliged to come to work on weekends and worked odd hours during the week ‒ I wasn’t even allowed to leave the office for a lunch break. They threatened they would not renew my contract if I didn’t.
We can’t be sure why it happens ‒ perhaps the old saying is true that bullies tear others down to make themselves feel taller. But no matter the cause, it’s important that you take care of yourself as you navigate your bully boss. That may mean standing up to your boss or going to HR. It may also mean leaving altogether to get away from the situation. Regardless of the course of action you take, keep your chin up and know that you’re not alone.
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