Skip to main content

Resources - Rauemi

Grab a coffee, take a seat, maybe listen to some music and relax by reading through our articles.

We want to share our minds and know how with you...

When your boss is a bully


You work for the boss from hell.  She says you’re useless and picks at everything you do.  She throws the F word at you on a regular basis and sometimes even the C bomb.  She blames you when customers complain about the quality of her products and takes the cost of breakages out of your pay.  But you need the job and you know she will bad-mouth you if you apply for other jobs.     

People who behave in this way shouldn’t be employers. They destroy good workers and often destroy good businesses too.     

There is a difference between bullying and a ‘robust management style’.  In the latter case a boss might be very direct, even to the point of rudeness, but the comments he or she makes are warranted and are intended to improve your performance, not humiliate you.

If there is little chance of changing the boss’s attitude or moving to another department then look after yourself and jump ship at the first opportunity. The longer you stay in this type of environment, the more harm you’ll suffer.  But before you leave....

We accept such a lot of bad behaviour because we don’t like confrontation but in doing this we are giving bullies permission to keep acting the way they do.

There are things we can do:

Quiet Resistance

Quietly but firmly ask your employer to stop using insulting language or heaping blame on your head. This may bring on another tirade but if you can weather this out, you will have made a valuable point.

Make notes

Record dates and times and what was said or done.  Be specific.  If there are others who are receiving the same treatment, talk with them and develop strategies to ‘debrief’ after an incident.  Ask if they will keep notes as well.

Talk to your boss’s boss

If your line manager is the problem, make a complaint to his manager or to the HR department.  You will need to give specific examples so your note-taking will come into play here.  Give the company time to deal with the issue but if after four to six weeks they can’t tell you that they are making progress then you might want to look around for another job.

Ask for mediation

This can be especially useful if workmates join together.  There really is strength in numbers.  Tell your boss that you want to use the dispute resolution provisions in your employment contracts.  Even if the boss hasn’t bothered with a contract you are still covered by all aspects of employment law including having access to a process to resolve disputes

Ask to use the Employee Assistance Programme

Most bigger organisations have a programme – making independent counselling available to workers.

Plan your escape

Leave when you are ready.  When you apply for other jobs you don’t have to give your current boss as a referee and a prospective employer should only contact the people you have named as referees.  In the meantime, make like a turtle.  Smile to yourself as you take the bosses money to pay your bills while work your way towards the job you want.

Take Action

Advise your employer that you wish to raise a personal grievance.  You can do this whether you want to leave or stay. Your notes will become vital because you need to give specific examples and show how often the behaviour was repeated.  You can ask for mediation through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.  If this is not successful you may need to take a case to the Employment Relations Authority.  Few bullies can survive the spotlight of a thoroughly documented case and if it hurts their pockets often enough they eventually have to think about changing their behaviour.