Abusive Bosses and How to Save Yourself from Them

Abusive bosses are just insecure people who themselves were abused, likely as kids. But still, protect yourself.

Bad Bosses are Rampant

In the corporate world, you hear the most audacious stories of abuse from colleagues and bosses. A colleague reminded me of a former staff member who would violate federal law but escape due to the former CEO’s protection. He worked at an airport and would use his badge privilege to force airline staff to allow him on a flight after the gate closed. He and the boss were drinking buddies. Furthermore, the guy committed numerous acts of sexual harassment, and despite formal complaints, he escaped. Some bad bosses badger staff to assuage their insecurities. You must find ways to save yourself from these abusive coworkers.

Your workplace should be a safe and comfortable place to work. However, often we don’t feel safe. Some bosses don’t have your back and will throw you under the bus to cover themselves. (See my other post on what these southern phrases mean). Others will attack periodically, making you spend endless time defending your integrity. At the same time, they attempt to economically destroy you, often because they have the power to use you to intoxicate their self-esteem. I wrote another post about how to stay sane in a crazy work environment. It’s already a stressful system keeping up with the economic cycle. Workers should not have a mad cat for a boss in the rat race. 

Staff are Not Lazy, They Just want to be Treated With Respect

Yet, bosses wonder about the great resignation. They claim that people don’t want to work because they are lazy. “They are still living off the government stimulus check,” I heard one head of a company complain. He was referring to the “aid for the unemployed, the hungry, and those facing eviction” provided by the government. I get it in some ways. I know how hard it is to find good, reliable workers with the right skills. I also know that when you find the right workers, they will leave if you don’t treat them right. These bosses want to get the work done. Some business places cannot survive without workers, so we have to act accordingly as bosses.

Colleagues can also be abusive to peers. I wrote about this in another post. It’s good when you have a boss that protects you and one you can confide in on work-related grievances. It’s terrible when you have a vindictive boss. In his last week on the job, I recall one who decided he would attack my English language. Another colleague had shown me similarly obscene communication emanating from him. They verbally ridiculed his behavior. I wrote him about his behavior. Not surprisingly, he doubled down. I would have written him in Antigua, and we would have had a back-and-forth literary brawl. But here in the USA, there is another element to consider. There is a sense of entitlement here that when someone feels wronged, they may not hesitate to get violent and massacre their colleagues. I see the colleagues that have been rude to their peers always under tension like those old-time wound-up clocks, where you hope their spring will not break when you are around them. 

Protect your Peace of Mind

Protect your integrity, but also think about how much of that fight is worth it. Sometimes someone’s mental health, temporary or permanent, may not allow for a rational adversary. Workplace violence that harms you and diminishes your life is not worth the trouble. No job is worth you losing your family and future economic value over. Report the verbal or physical abuse and bullying, but where it’s a protected boss, you may want to plan your exit quickly and move on to someplace safer. It’s not worth your stress levels nor retaliation that perhaps triggers you snapping from the pressure of a dysfunctional workplace and equally dysfunctional bosses.

Nothing beats your peace of mind and good health. Without these, you may not be able to get another job, let alone enjoy your life with family and friends. I will tell you one final story. While working at the WTO Secretariat, I had lunch with two colleagues one day. Lunch with colleagues was not uncommon, but on that day, one complained about an abusive boss. Suddenly she triggered an epileptic episode. For several minutes she lost consciousness while her body convulsed uncontrollably. I stayed calm for the event aiding her until the paramedics arrived. I later had debilitating abdominal cramps that prevented me from functioning that afternoon. Our office nurse attributed my condition to me mentally recounting the occurrence. The experience left me with one crucial point. The stress of a job and the abuse can rapidly trigger physical health deterioration, as did my friend, or gradually via hypertension and other stress-related disorders. No job is worth that. Just quit and find something else

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