Dear ABC, ABC Answers Your Questions

Dear ABC,

How can I stop bosses from being really demanding and rude?

Discouraged in Denver

Dear Discouraged,

There are two general types of demanding, rude managers that you’re likely to come across and they need to be dealt with differently.

The first is a true “bully”. A true bully has emotional or mental health problems which robs them of their empathy and compels them to emotionally assault subordinates. These predators use premeditated tactics intended to control, subjugate or eliminate their “target”. They enjoy watching their target’s distress, that their abuse of power causes. True bullies think in ways that are inconceivable to most people, but they are skilled at mimicking normal emotions which makes them seem quite normal. These bullies use subtle tactics or abuse behind closed doors. They choose one target at a time. These factors make it hard for others to believe that the target’s reported abuse is real. This helps the bully turn coworkers against the target. By using lies, twisted or half truths, together with feigned concern for the emotional distress the target begins to display, the bully manipulates coworkers into participating in the abuse. This is called “mobbing”. Once chosen as a target, there is an 80% chance that the target will be forced out of their position within two years. These bullies then choose another target within two weeks after elimination of a current target.

The second type of demanding, rude manager is simply arrogant, believing the importance of their position entitles them to treat subordinates as hand-maidens. Their rudeness is not premeditated and is often intensified by their stress level. They do not intend to hurt others and often don’t realize that they are.

Arrogant bosses often respond to honesty and flattery. Tell your boss you would like to meet with them to discuss a “problem”. Start the meeting by acknowledging the importance of the boss’s role in the company and state your commitment to supporting them in their role. Give examples of positives things you do that supports them. Then tell the boss that sometimes you are spoken to or treated in a ways that you don’t deserve. Describe what you mean and how certain behaviors make you feel. For example, “When you yell at me it makes me nervous and less able to understand your directions”. Give examples of positive behaviors that help you help them. For example, “When you demonstrate the way you want me to do it, I can do it the way you want, correctly, the first time”. After the meeting, make positive comments whenever the boss behaves in the positive ways you suggested. For example, “Thank you for taking the time to show me how to do this, I know I’ll do it correctly now”. If the boss lapses back to old behaviors, give reminders. For example, “Remember, it makes me nervous when you yell, lets continue when you can speak to me calmly”.

The first type, the true “bully”, is obviously more difficult to deal with. These people are dangerous to a “target’s” emotional and physical health. It’s best, whenever there is a way possible, to just leave a job in which you have become a target of a true bully. There are many reasons why people can’t leave their jobs, if that is the case, as it is for me, there are ways to minimize the bullying.

First, reduce your exposure and interaction with the bully as much as possible. Do not get into an elevator with a bully, take the stairs. Do not enter the restroom, if you see the bully enter first. Do not sit near the bully during a meeting or at lunch. Do not try to reason with the bully or engage the bully in a discussion to try to find out the reasons for the abuse. Remember, this type of bully thinks in ways that are inconceivable to you. You cannot reason with this type of bully and there is no valid reason that they are treating you this way, other than their whim or amusement. If a bully goes into a tirade, simply state that you will talk with them when they can talk to you calmly. Then hangup the phone or walk away. When you can’t avoid the bully, be polite but brief, such as saying “good morning” and interact as minimally as possible in the course of your job.

DO NOT REACT to anything this bully says or does. This type of bully is motivated and is entertained by your distressed reaction. If you don’t react, they may choose a more entertaining target. No matter how distraught you may feel, NEVER show these emotions on the job. Cry at home. At work be a pillar of emotionalstrength and stability. Bullies will use any sign of weakness against you.

Build strong relationship with coworkers. Be supportive and go the extra mile to help coworkers whenever possible. Give no one a reason to complain about you. Then, tell select coworkers when you are treated badly by the bully, but do so carefully and calmly, not excessively or distressfully. Don’t seem angry or distraught, instead seem perplexed and concerned for the bully. Make coworkers your allies by showing them the nasty e.mails or telling them the exact words the bully used, then ask their opinion. Also, be sure to show them articles about work place bullying and mobbing.

If the bully states that someone else made a complaint against you, go to that person and apologize. Every time I took this approach, the person I apologized to, denied ever making the complaint against me. Respond in a perplexed way and if your bully e.mailed or otherwise documented the complaint, show them the documentation. This person not knowing the true nature of the bully, like you the target does, will want to straighten things out with the bully boss. The bully boss will be taken by surprise and will seem really foolish trying to explain why they made a complaint, on behalf of someone who never make a complaint.

Know this – bullies often choose a target because they are threatened by the target’s good performance and/or popularity which increases the bully’s feeling of shame or makes their feelings of incompetence seem more evident by comparison. Don’t point out your successes to your bully boss thinking this will gain your boss’s approval. Instead, keep successes to yourself and congratulate yourself, knowing that each compliment and/or positive outcome for your company validates your true value to the company as opposed to your bully’s lies. Know that positive observations by others in the company may win you a transfer to a better position and will make your bully boss seem foolish to others when he makes invalid negative comments about you.

The bully’s biggest weakness is fear that their true nature will be exposed to others. If you can muster the emotional strength, subtly and with confidence and courage, let the bully know that you have a knowledge of the phenomenon of “work place bully and mobbing” and that you perceive the bully’s behavior as that which the literature on the Internet describes as that of a “work place bully”. Like most people, the bully probably never heard of the phenomenon. When the bully sees themselves accurately described on the Internet, and learns that there is a growing momentum to spread the word about it, the bully will be filled with fear of exposure and hopefully will steer clear away from you and any mention of “work place bullying”.

Most of all, live well and be happy. No one will believe the bully’s lies if your performance, demeanor, productivity and emotional stability prove otherwise.

I know this was a long answer to a seemingly simple question, but work place bullying is really a very complex thing. Hope this helps some folks out there. ABC


User: anonymous

Date: 4/3/2008 8:18:00 PM


Thank you so much for your insightful article. Having just worked for the President of a company who was a bully, your words about “true” bullies, resonated and truly made me know that I am not alone.


User: anonymous
Date: 4/30/2008 2:22:00 AM

I have to say, it took me a while, maybe ten years of working, to figure out what I really wanted: a) to work part-time not full-time, even if it means less income bc it’s all I can do with my stress levels, and b) find good people to work with. Not perfect people, but people whose idiosyncracies I can stand. Last year, I was busy complaining on these boards about the hell I was in with my boss. I saved up enough money, then quit. It was scary quitting without another job ahead of me. I had to contract for awhile with no steady income but a little here and a little there. Then with my good luck and help from God, one of those contract people needed a permanent employee – that was me! I was hired about seven months after I quit. It was a hard period to get through, but within a year, it’s been a nice change. I can look back at where I was before and I just hated it. I hated the person I worked for. Now, my good boss seems even better knowing where I’ve been. It takes courage to walk away but I believe if you put yourself financially in a position to do it, it’s the best thing to leave.


Comment from shopgirlove | Email shopgirlove
5/2/08 8:43 PM | Permalink

Thank you, thank you! I’m experiencing the psycho-kind of bullying. Nothing I do or say seems to make a difference. Avoidance has definitely been the best policy…difficult in my position. But a life saver. Also: “I’m sorry, what do you mean?” She is a master at innuendo and challenging her to get specific instances of where I’ve gone wrong always leads to “you know what I’m saying, you know?” I have started to reply with”no, actually, I don’t” She doesn’t seem to know how to respond to that. It’s served me well.
Comment from drpharmacy | Email drpharmacy
7/7/08 2:14 AM | Permalink

I agree with the concept presented of a true bully. This type of bully is sociopathic in his or her dealings with employees. While avoidance is best whenever possible, there may be times when you cannot. Things that I have done that have worked are: 1) Documentation: very important–who-what-when-where-why, and if necessary, how. Save e-mails and any written media. 2) Hotline complaints: in our corporation, we have a compliance hotline. Complaints go directly to the bully’s boss, sometimes two levels up depending on the position. These complaints are anonymous, and to this date no one (by policy) has been retaliated against. 3) Direct confrontation: although unpleasant, STAND YOUR GROUND. If the issue is something illegal, tell them point blank what your options are if they do not cease. Bullies do not like people who stand up to them, especially if it makes them look foolish or stupid in front of other employees. 4) Do not go behind closed doors alone with this person. If you must, tell furnish a tape recorder, and if they protest, tell the bully it’s this or a live witness.
Comment from dds35day | Email dds35day
7/8/08 10:40 AM | Permalink

Thank you for your insight. I have a bad bad bully boss. She fits the nasty psycho boss- she definitely does not like my good work- I appreciate your advice to essentially get out ASAP. She’s pernicious. It’s been really getting me down very badly- like seriously depressed- The interesting thing is my twin just broke out of an abusive marriage after 28 years- I see this as very similar. She is fake in any real nice ness- her sniping and put downs are endless and very accomplished-
she’s good at it. i feel sometimes like i have knife wounds when I leave work.The board came here & talked to staff. we hoped they would help. it did not. they told on us- though they swore they would not. so, my experience is dont expect any body else to help. said but true. the board made it worse- they know her professionally for 25 years- what did we expect?

I am trying to get out now. I’m so down it’s hard though.


ABC responds to dds

Dear dds,

I always feel so sad when I read comments like yours. It’s such a pity that the bullies in our workplaces make so many people depressed like you described. You want to seem upbeat and confident to a prospective new employer which is tough, because the depression robs you of the motivation and confidence you need to land the job of your dreams.

First things first and in your situation you need to lighten the burden of the depression that you’ve been carrying around before you can move forward and out of this situation. You may be able to lift your mood by yourself, without outside help, by simply coming to some hard conclusions about your life, then making the necessary changes to improve the quality of your life. In other words you need to get to the place in your mind, where you’ve come to the final conclusion that nothing is going to change your bully boss, despite your best efforts. and there is nothing you can possibly do to change that. You need to give up on the notion that there is something you or something someone else can do, to change your bully boss. Once you’ve officially given up on your current job in your mind, you may feel the need to grieve for it. Most targets love their jobs, often holding their positions for decades, and strongly identify with their position as a big part of who they are. It’s natural and normal to grieve over any kind of loss. Losing a job that a person loves and strongly identifies with, can be devastating.

Once you’ve come to these hard conclusions, you should take some time off from the job in order to grieve over your loss, and plan your exit. It’s important to take care of yourself during this critical period. Eat nutritious foods, take vitamins and do light, fun exercise. Spend quality time with family and friends that you don’t work with. Get creative and indulge in flexing your creativity by reestablishing old hobbies and pastimes. Relax.. Sleep as late as you want for several days in a row. After you feel rested and relaxed, indulge in feeling relief, relief that now you are finally ready to make the necessary changes to rid yourself of your bully for good. Feel the joy of knowing that everything you do from this point forward is in anticipation of your new job. The position of your dreams with a wage to match! Then, return to your job filled with the joy of your new little secret, that you have embarked on a job search.

If the depression does not lift, and you find you simply cannot move forward, it is important to seek both medical and psychological professional help. Start with your general practitioner. Tell the doctor the simple truth about your circumstances. Include information about the duration and severity of your depression. Are there physical symptoms as well? Do you think about suicide or self harm? Are you suffering from insomnia, over eating or are you unable to eat at all? The doctor may advise a period of time away from work, which could be the period of time off I mentioned above. Sometimes it’s necessary to take antianxiety or antidepressant medications, at least initially. With antidepressant medication it’s important to take the medication for at least a few weeks before you feel the full affect. Antidepressant medication may give you the additional boost of motivation you need to start your new job search and antianxiety medication may give your self confidence a boost, a necessity during a job interview. There is no shame in needing help to get you through this crisis. Keep in mind, any mental or emotional symptoms you are experiencing, are the result of emotional injuries that you are sustaining at the hands of a workplace bully. It is not a mental illness, or a weakness on your part of any kind. It takes courage to admit when we are down and in need of support from outside of ourselves. So if you do need help, be courageous today and seek the help that you need.

Either way, once you are ready to move forward with your plan to find another job, make this the new focus of your life. As long as you are still employed, you can take your time to find the job of your dreams. With this new focus, let the trivial problems of workplace bullying take second place in your life and consider your job search the most important project of your life. There are tons of things on the Internet regarding everything you need to know to find the job of your dreams. There are sites about how to write your resume as well as loads of information regarding how to prepare for interviews. There’s information about how to dress, what to ask and what to consider while job searching etc, etc.. There are also many sites on the net in which jobs are posted or you post your qualifications for prospective employers. Have fun on this new project as you learn and go through this experience. If your job search is extended due to the thoroughness of your search, so what? You’ll get better and better at interviewing and your confidence will boost your chances for more diverse opportunities.

Good luck dds, you have what it takes to land the job of your dreams, now go for it! ABC

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