Mendoza School of Business

How to handle a bullying boss

Published: October 16, 2015 / Author: Alain Sherter

In honor of “National Boss’s Day,” let’s take a moment to recognize all the hardworking CEOs, managers, supervisors, directors, (ahem, editors) and other fearless leaders out there who do their utmost every day of the week — nights, too, and very likely weekends — to make the rest of us well and truly miserable.

Abusive bosses have a range of reasons to beat up on employees, said Charlice Hurst, an assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and co-author of a recent study that explores the dynamics of bullying in the workplace.

Perhaps the boss is himself bullied in his job or treated unfairly in other ways by the organization. Or perhaps he had a bad day — or a good day, made that much sweeter by the opportunity to intimidate, humiliate, demean or terrorize. (The masculine pronoun here is appropriate because, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, most bully bosses are men.) Or maybe some employees ask for it, just a little, through their abject performance and dubious hygiene.

But for anyone forced to deal with an abusive supervisor, the obvious question is: How do you stop it? And at last there’s an answer: You can’t.

Hurst and her fellow researchers spent six months talking to 244 employees in a range of organizations to observe how people’s interactions with an abusive supervisor affected the relationship. Would standing up to the bully help, or is it better to quietly suffer the indignities while just trying to get on with the task at hand?

Neither, it turns out. Both approaches — attack and retreat — generally make things worse, Hurst said.

Read the entire story on the CBS Moneywatch website.