Bully bosses: how to fight back


Many working people have suffered at the hands of a boss from hell – and it seems intimidation and abuse in the workplace by bully bosses is a growing problem.

‘‘Workplace bullying is definitely on the rise,’’ Dr Susan Steinman, founder of the Workplace Dignity Institute in South Africa, says. ‘‘Workplaces are more competitive and more and more people revert to survival behaviour that’s less than dignified.’’

America’s Workplace Bullying Institute defines this bullying as ‘‘repeated, health-harming mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work’’.

‘‘Workplace trauma has a devastating effect on the victims’ productivity and emotional and physical health,’’ Dr Steinman says. Research shows victims can waste up to 52 per cent of their time at work defending themselves, networking for support, thinking about the situation and being demotivated and stressed.

‘‘In 55 per cent of workplace bullying cases the victims end up suffering from depression,’’ she says.

Some bullies are obvious – they slam doors, yell angrily and are insulting and rude; others are much more subtle, says Dr Harvey Hornstein who wrote a book on the subject.

“While appearing to be courteous they engage in vicious character assassination, petty humiliations and small interferences . . . which poison the working environment for the targeted individuals.’’

A bully boss might set you up to fail by demanding unrealistic deadlines or overloading you with work then replacing it with demeaning jobs.

If you’re a victim don’t just cower and take the abuse while simmering angrily in silence. Take concrete steps to change the situation, especially through the the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration of SA (CCMA).

Read the 15 April issue of YOU for guidance on how to put a stop to workplace bullying, whether by your boss or a colleague.

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