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Ask Dr. Karen - February 13

Dear Dr. Otazo,

I work for a great company and really love my job: 9 years worth. The company is restructuring and I now have a the new manager that is not only surprisingly demanding but on a few occasions has reprimanded and belittled me in front of my peers. It is becoming increasingly difficult to work under these conditions. What recourse do I have?

Cynthia M.

Chicago, Ill.

Dear Cynthia,

In a case like this the issue is not that the boss is “demanding,” which may simply imply high expectations.  It’s that he is still new and is already bullying and belittling in public.  All unacceptable.  What is the work equivalent of punching this boss in the nose? Physical violence can create a backlash and doesn’t work in the workplace. If you were on a playground instead of in a workplace the best technique might be to punch the bully in the nose.   Research in school age populations has shown that bullies are insecure and basically full of fear.  What do you do with someone who is basically fearful? How do you push back with an aggressive manager? Most bullies test you to see how far they can push. Just when you want to freeze you need to practice assertive words to use to let the manager know he’s out of line. Bullies like to push those who are easiest to push around. So what should you do and not do?  Some things work but not everything. Try different approaches. Remember that bullying is about laziness in the use of power. Over-the-top bullies are obvious.  The less obvious ones are insidious.  Pushing back is key, especially at the beginning of the relationship. You need to find your “line in the sand.”

Don’ts

1)     Say something rather than freeze like a rabbit in the headlights

2)     Don’t react with defensiveness or anger in what you say; don’t explain or complain.

3)     Avoid negativity. 

4)     Don’t argue

5)     Don’t criticize
 

Do’s

1) Stay polite and courteous in all that you say or do.

2) Look the bully in the eye with square shoulders, a neutral expression and no tears.  If tears start look up and walk around.

3) Keep your comments positive or neutral.

4) Instead of “No” you can say “That could be a problem” or “There is a case to be made for….”

5) Get others (like your boss’ or your peers) to support a different set of behaviors for the boss going forward.
 

I hope that this helps you to find your “line in the sand” Cynthia.

- Dr. Karen  
 

 

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