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To ask for advice on dealing with bullying boss?

(28 Posts)
oolajoola Fri 14-Feb-14 16:55:33

Started a new job about 6 weeks ago. I'm enjoying the job, and the hours fit in well with my commitments, but from what I've seen so far my boss is a bully. I've come across a few bullies in the past and she behaves in the same way that they do. I know that sounds a bit silly but I've picked up on things that she says/does and they're similar to how bullies behave. I also know that the department has quite a high turnover of staff.

It's just things like her being nice one day and not nice the next, blaming me for mistakes that she's done, shouting me down if I try to speak up for myself and not listening to anything from anyone else's point of view. She will also do things that I think she does to let others know that SHE is the boss, such as contact me at home on my day off to ask me to make a phone call that she could easily make during the time it took her to email/phone me.

I know I need to put some boundaries down from the start with her, has anyone got any tips on this? I am quite good at rising above nasty behaviour in general but could do with putting a few boundaries in place.

Joysmum Fri 14-Feb-14 16:59:22

It depends how much you value your job? I certainly wouldn't be taking calls outside of work hours, just ignore. Any mistakes that aren't yours you can sympathise with and say you don't know who's responsible but it's not you.

oolajoola Fri 14-Feb-14 17:01:39

I really like the job and enjoy it a lot, Joysmum. If I ignore her calls on my days off she calls over and over again until I pick up. I took my son to a swimming lesson the other day on my day off and she literally phoned my mobile constantly until I answered.

She also says things, then denies she's said them, so she'll tell me to do one thing and I'll do it, then she'll criticise it and say she didn't say to do it. It's hard to explain but I can't help but feel she is a bully who tries to bully everyone.

jacks365 Fri 14-Feb-14 17:07:20

Allocate a silent ring tone to her phone number and ignore she will have to give up eventually. With regards to the work just send an email confirmation with a read receiot just confirming what she's asked you to do and to reply if she disagrees with your understanding it then gives you a paper trail.

jacks365 Fri 14-Feb-14 17:07:55

Read receipt*

CailinDana Fri 14-Feb-14 17:09:51

Don't answer phone calls or emails on your day off.
If you have something to broach with her email her first and set out your points then talk to her face to face. If she starts to shout you down stop talking as soon as she interrupts you then start again once she's quiet. Keep doing that, over and over, without getting angry or flustered.
One boss I had was very vague about deadlines but then used to get annoyed when I didn't have something done when she randomly decided it should be. So I bought a notebook and said "Seeing as there's an issue with tasks getting overlooked/things not getting done on time I'm going to write down everything we discuss and decide so we're clear on where we stand." She was a bit put out at first, then it became a joke "oh no here comes the notebook" but when I was leaving she said (genuinely) "what are we going to do without the notebook?" She wasn't a bully as such just disorganised and prone to taking her stress out on others. The notebook actually solved practically all of our problems as it was like a neutral third party who could solve disputes. It also forced her to be clearer and more organised.

Are you in a probation period? If so, then play nice and keep a record of things like her ringing you on your day off. The day after your probation period ends speak to her firmly about ringing you on your day off etc. If she is still doing it, then raise the issue with HR using the evidence you have gathered whilst you were on probation.

she calls over and over again until I pick up
You should be keeping a log of this and letting her ring over and over. Then showing your phone to her boss as part of a formal complaint about harassment. Not on.

BakerStreetSaxRift Fri 14-Feb-14 17:13:16

I think some phones have a facility where you can tell it to divert calls from certain numbers straight to Voicemail. Mine is Android and it can do it. Do that when you're not at work.

That's shocking.

oolajoola Fri 14-Feb-14 17:17:04

Great advice everyone, thanks.

If I leave the phone and don't reply she then starts on the home phone, and tries to Skype me. She doesn't seem to get that a day off is a day off. If it's my day off and she asks me to do something and I say I can't do it as I'm off, she just ignores the fact that I say I can't do it and then contacts me later to ask if I've done it! A paper trail regarding this is an excellent idea!

Minnieisthedevilmouse Fri 14-Feb-14 17:17:07

Minimise spoken contact. This is someone who majority of contact needs to be witnessed or email for proof.

Always preview first
Short emails never ever more than two sentences.
Avoid any emotion
If emotion required start 'I feel.. X because of y and expect z because of this.'
Push back little by little. Thanks for call, I will respond by x. Stick to it but be flexible

Show willing but not stupidity

Are you a secretary?

Minnieisthedevilmouse Fri 14-Feb-14 17:17:56

Ie if boss says I prefer this time negotiate

oolajoola Fri 14-Feb-14 17:22:09

No, I work for a marketing company, Minnie. I guess it involves a bit of secretarial work, but generally it's making calls, sending out information and designing new marketing material/campaigns. Only a small company though, and sadly no HR department as such.

CailinDana Fri 14-Feb-14 17:23:06

X posted.

Email her asking if it is normal company policy for staff to be contacted on their day off. Wait for her reply then mention how many missed calls you had on your last day off then strongly imply you will have to talk to hr about it. That is blatant bullying, very clear cut, and you must challenge her on it.

I think the notebook would work very well for her saying she didn't say to do things.

Minnieisthedevilmouse Fri 14-Feb-14 17:27:36

Ok so deadline orientated. Clear project work and tasks then yes?

Second notebook. I often used an a4 diary. Big day a page thing. Used post its but added to a day page as day went on.

It's time to get knowledgeable on assertiveness. Lots on YouTube

Sorry. It's shit. Work methodical though and you could build a great working rellie. Don't quit yet. Not a cross roads just yet. Just need to be creative and not despondent.


pluCaChange Fri 14-Feb-14 17:29:14

Or maybe divert the calls right back to the office, where the request bloody belongs!

oolajoola Fri 14-Feb-14 17:37:24

Thanks again everyone. I'll definitely be taking all the suggestions on board and implementing them!

She just actually sent me an email asking me to go away overnight to a trade fair on Wednesday, 200 miles away. I don't work Wednesdays and she knows I can't go away overnight as we discussed it at interview. I will be emailing her back to say I am unable to do it.

hamptoncourt Fri 14-Feb-14 17:38:57

A lot of the women I work with have mobiles just for work and I wondered why at first but now I get it!! Would this work for you OP? Then you just turn it off on your day off, or when you get home in the evening. If your home phone has caller display just don't pick up and switch it off/put on do not disturb. How does she have your Skype address? Change it?
You are right you need to set boundaries. Does she behave like this with everyone? If there is someone she doesn't hassle watch how they behave towards her and mimic it.

It's such a shame when you say you enjoy the job but she is spoiling it for you. Most bullies back off if you stand up to them calmly though.

oolajoola Fri 14-Feb-14 17:43:03

I'd say that I get some of her nicer treatment, as I'm older than many of the other staff and a little more willing to speak up for myself or to be assertive/constructive about things. She speaks to some of the very young staff like crap.

TheGreatHunt Fri 14-Feb-14 17:45:43

Honestly, can you be very specific and say I'm sorry I don't work on Wednesday but will deal with it on x. Don't answer the phone. Why does she have you home number?!

Who is her boss?

daisychain01 Fri 14-Feb-14 17:51:01

oolajoola I think it may be worth booking a specific meeting with your boss. I'd suggest planning out exactly what you want to say in advance, then go prepared. A few ideas here (btw, these are only suggestions, I'm not telling you what to do smile )

- Be very calm, polite and constructive throughout.

- Use phrases like "I want to increase my effectiveness", "I want to ensure I'm clear on what you expect from me", "I am committed to working as a team" ... I know it sounds like corporate speak bollox, but actually it can give you a sense of calm and stop you feeling flustered, you are the "good guy".

- It sounds like you enjoy your job, it's worth trying to get things out in the open. It can be an effective way of "calling her on bad behaviour" - it is giving a clear message, you are meeting her more than half way, you are in control of your emotions, you do want to cooperate.

- Pick your battles. Don't make comments about her manner or way of speaking to you, it can become subjective and she can deny it. Stick closely to your script, what are the 1 or 2 'big issues' that are affecting you at work and at home.

For example - your boss phoning you at home:- can you clear the air and get her to talk about what she expects - so, is she saying you have to keep your mobile switched on, when you are not due in the office ...? On days off? As you are new to the role, you need to understand this ... Get your boss to open up, she may find it difficult to defend, and by making a specific statement out loud, it will expose her as being unreasonable.

She is exploiting her position, which often happens in small companies with no HR dept or formal policies. Hopefully the above might help you 'stand your ground' - bullies sometimes back down (if challenged carefully) and pick on someone else

anothernumberone Fri 14-Feb-14 17:51:43

I used to have stand up rows with my boss in my first job. The work environment was male dominated and he was a complete bully. The other men would quake when he started his roaring sessions on them but I was fucked if I was going to be spoken to like that. He roared I countered, it was stressful but he very quickly got the message I was no pushover and went back to making the other men's lives a misery. Do not stand for it. Bullys do not bother with strong people. Call her on it, defend yourself, easier said than done I know but it really is the only way to stop a bully.

daisychain01 Fri 14-Feb-14 17:53:51

lots of xposts with other posters great advice - sorry :-)

anothernumberone Fri 14-Feb-14 17:54:27

Btw he totally respected me and often said, that is what you think, I am not going to argue with you because we all know where that will get me. He knew when he was beaten.

FunkyBoldRibena Fri 14-Feb-14 18:09:05

Has she got a boss or is she the owner?

Firstly, the probation period is a red herring; now you have to be there two years before you can take anyone to a tribunal for unfair dismissal so forget about keeping your head down and then letting rip.

So; lets tackle the issues separately.

Saying one thing and then saying that she didn't say that she said this...

Note down in your notebook word for word what she asked you to do. then send her a follow up email saying 'Hi boss, just confirming that you asked me to do this by that date in this fashion'. Once it is completed, make sure that you email her with the original email at the bottom saying "Hi boss, just to let you know that X is done now'.

Record in writing each and every request and read it back to her as you have written it. Then do the email thing. If it comes to it then you can say 'I emailed you on x date to confirm your instructions and I didn't get a response, if I had understood them wrong that was the time to say so. I wrote down word for word what you said and also read it back to you'.

With regards the phone thing: if you don't work on Wednesdays email/say to her on Tuesday lunchtimes 'Is there anything pressing you need me to do before Thursday so that my work is covered on my day off as I can't take work calls on my day off, if so can you let me know by 2pm so that I can ensure it is covered'.

If she does call, and you do answer the phone, say 'I can't do any of that today as it's my day off. I'll have to deal with it when I am back at work'.

If she says 'It's urgent and you need to do it' you need to say 'Well, if you need me to be on call Wednesdays then we need to discuss an on-call arrangement and a work mobile phone as I will have to pay for childcare as Wednesdays is my day off and I am usually with my child on my day off'.

You have to cover your back and set those boundaries now without pissing her off. Once she knows you note down everything word for word, and email her your instructions she might well stop leading you up the garden path.

And if she doesn't - you might just have to find another job.

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