Should You Stand Up To An Abusive Boss?Posted: 11th of March 2015 by
Bullying is bullying, whether it is in the playground or the workplace, and if you are subjected to it, it can have a negative impact on your work, self-esteem, and even impact your home-life. Allowing yourself to be victimised by an abusive boss is simply not an option, but what do you in such a situation – can you really stand up to your boss and win?
Let’s get it straight, you shouldn’t be getting yourself into arguments or even physical fights with your boss – that clearly won’t solve anything. Instead you should try to speak (calmly) with them, have a word with their superior about what is going on, or speak with your H.R. department. However, interesting new research has shown that pushing back against an abusive boss can also have positive results.
Being bullied at work is not just a career problem, but it can also have a negative impact on your self-esteem. Going into work and taking abuse for several hours each day, or having to try to avoid your boss, is no way to live. However, a new study has shown that those who responded to “downward hostility” from their bosses with passive aggressive behaviour felt a boost in their self-worth.
This behaviour included actions such as ignoring an unpleasant boss, or simply purposefully not putting in their full effort to a task. It may sound risky, but Bennett Tepper a management and human resources professor at the Ohio State University, noted, “My assumption was that these passive aggressive behaviours would be counterproductive. But we found that's not the case. People who reciprocated the most were more committed to their jobs, more productive and less depressed."
This means that those who pushed back against their abusive boss felt more worthy and less depressed than those who didn’t. Those who used the passive aggressive behaviour felt more in control and less like victims. Of course, this in itself won’t solve the problem of the abusive boss, and so it is certainly worth reporting the abusive behaviour to someone else.
While this is all interesting advice, you may be wondering what effect this passive aggressive action might have on your career. Amazingly, the study, which was published in the journal Personnel Psychology, found that "upward hostility was positively related to career satisfaction and career expectations" and that "subordinates fare better when they perform acts of upward hostility."
What was that? Is this saying that being aggressive may actually be good for your career?
Not quite, as Tepper explained, “If you're firm, you're less likely to see yourself as the victim. It sends a message to the hostile boss. We know from other research that abusive bosses are very strategic in who they go after. They pick and choose targets. Who do they settle on? It's the ones who seem weak or vulnerable. If a person is engaging in some form of standing-up behaviour, to the extent the boss notices what's going on, there's a message they're getting that this might not be the right person to go after."
Of course, ultimately, abusive bosses need to be weeded out as they can create a situation that lowers morale, productivity, and could cost a company money. So, while it is good for you not to take the actions of a hostile boss, you should also speak to their boss, H.R. or even the boss themselves to try and solve the situation. That said, a little bit of subtle pushing back while you do may just keep you from feeling like a victim.
And remember, ultimately, you have the power to walk away and look for work elsewhere!
You Might Also Like:
5 Steps To Being More Employable
5 Small Tips To Help Your Week Go Well
Have a Productive Week: How to Cut Out the Distractions
When you are looking for an apprenticeship, or your first job, it’s probable that most of your attention will be focused on landing the role. ...
Applying for an apprenticeship can be a very competitive process and many organisations use video interviews as an initial screening process. Most...