How to deal with a bully boss

I started a new job three months ago and my boss has been bullying me the entire time. She makes me feel inadequate, blames me for her mistakes, and calls me after work, on my lunch break, and on days off - and it's always about trivial things. This has got to the point where I've become depressed and can't bear to go into work. Is there anything I can do?

Work is generally a pretty stressful place as is, but having a bully boss can make it 10x worse. So, if you’re on the receiving end of workplace bullying, don’t be afraid to speak up. Help is out there and there are systems in place to support you.

If your boss is a bully, or you are experiencing bullying in any form in your work environment, you might also like to check out The Mix’s bullying support resources here.

How to deal with a bully boss

There’s a huge difference between someone just being a tough boss and someone abusing their power. From the sounds of it, your situation is the latter and the workplace bullying is affecting your health, mentally and physically. Luckily, there are things you can do to make you feel better. 

Rather than just thinking “my boss is bullying me” over and over in your head, you can keep a record of the things your boss has been doing. Note the date and time of incidents and, if possible, keep a record of anybody else who was around. For example if your boss was yelling at you in front of colleagues, they might be willing to testify at an employment tribunal. And even if they don’t, having a written log of incidents will help if you decide to take any legal action.

My boss is bullying me. How do I file a complaint? 

If you’re in a small company and your boss has no superior it might be tricky to raise a complaint. In which case, you might be better off looking for a different job altogether. If, on the other hand, you’re in a larger company and your boss has a superior (or multiple superiors) then there’s sure to be a grievance policy. 

Instead of blasting the company on social media, start by approaching anyone who’s above your boss and have a face to face conversation with them. If that doesn’t work, then try to visit human resources and let them know about the bullying and harassment problems.

Most large companies, and those in the public and not-for-profit sectors, will have an anti-bullying, harassment or dignity at work policy. You can use that to help make a complaint against your boss. But before you do, make sure to check your written terms and conditions in case there’s a procedure for dealing with bullies in the workplace. 

Remember, your employer has a duty of care towards your mental health. This means that some larger employers have specially trained staff to help with bullying (usually called harassment advisers). Hopefully yours does, and if not maybe that’s something you can bring up when you file a complaint.

Getting support from a trade union

If you belong to a Trade Union, on top of reporting the my-boss-is-a-bully situation to higher ups at work, we’d recommend contacting them for support and advice. They deal with all types of workplace issues, and that includes dealing with bullying at any level. 

Otherwise, if you don’t belong to a TU you may want to seek advice from the HR department. Either way, The Mix’s article on bullying at work provides information and resources about how to cope with workplace bullying that might be useful for you.

Employment tribunals for workplace bullying

If you decide to leave your job, you might not be able to take action for unfair constructive dismissal since you’ve only been with them for a few months. Plus, saying “my boss is a bully” can imply health and safety issues, you might also be able to go to an Employment Tribunal if you leave. If you’re unsure of what to do, you can get further advice and information about employment tribunals from Acas – they have a helpline you can call on 08457 474747.

In the meantime, when you’re feeling low or depressed about this situation, you can call SupportLine on 020 8554 9004 for confidential support and advice, or get in touch with our team.

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