How to Handle a Bullying Boss

A bullying boss can make your work life difficult, but there are ways to get this kind of boss to stop targeting you.


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    Write it down. This is really important. When your boss says or does something inappropriate, write a memo stating that the behavior is unacceptable, distracts from work, and you want it to stop. If it happens again, copy her/his boss, or an HR manager, on your second memo to the boss.
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    Contact the corporate ethics and/or employee assistance groups. Both of these groups should be confidential (hopefully), but may not exist in smaller companies. The fact that you contacted either group may be helpful later to confirm the duration of your complaint.
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    Talk it over with a confidant to help enable you to clarify your thoughts. Try not to just vent anger. Be calm and talk about real issues, not mere gripes.
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    Formally document the boss' action (or inaction). The next time you are getting ready to work on a big project, run off a few documents and attach a formal memo, with the date and your name, to one of the documents stating "This looks good to me, but I wanted to run it past you. What do you think?" and date the note. Make a quick copy and tuck it in a CYA file. If your boss does not answer the memo, write another one saying, "Since you haven't responded, I am proceeding on this project with your approval." If others work on the project with you, copy them on the memo.
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    Update your resume and begin a job search just in case your boss continues to abuse you.
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    Recognize that it may be time to leave, if you are becoming ill, physically or mentally. You may spend more on doctor's bill than you make, if you allow the abuse to continue. When you feel you must leave, give two weeks notice in writing.
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    Try to have another job lined up first at this time. Be aware that your boss may ask you to leave immediately -- in this case, two weeks pay is often offered.


  • Keep your personal life private--do not discuss what you do outside of work, especially another job.
  • Document everything, because that's what they'll be doing.
  • Don't confide in co-workers, no matter how sympathetic they seem. They may pass along your comments to the boss.
  • No matter how angry you become, never say anything that could be construed as a threat. You may find yourself being interviewed by company security or a police officer.
  • Some bosses think that just because you work for them they can talk to you any kind of way especially if you don't produce well for them. The first time this happens let them know in a kind way that you made a mistake and you would appreciate that if you don't talk to me in a disrespectful way.
  • Make sure you have a back up plan - know what you will do, if you have to tell them that you are quitting.
  • Remember you're a man/woman first and if the abuse continues it's time to start looking for another job.
  • Try to see if there is any chance of a transfer to another department. If you are a good employee, most businesses would rather you did this than had to leave the company due to a clash of personalities with your present manager.
  • Take look at the U.S. Government Benefits and Assistance site before doing any of the above.
  • If you are discriminated against, and in a protected demographic group, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may help you.


  • A hot temper or "in your face" attitude will escalate any issue.

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Categories: Interacting with Bosses