Are you a “bully boss”?

While researching my documentary on Workplace Bullying, I have often heard people say that it’s impossible to know whether or not a boss is actually a bully or just a tough manager.   The definition and list of examples is often so vague and all encompassing that it’s really not unusual for this to be followed by something like, I mean I have to manage people and I suppose I could be considered a bully boss.  Which, I suspect, gets to the root of the problem.  Finding the right words to convey that seemingly common actions in an office can be devastating when used to demean and humiliate.  I recently came across a great series of FREE Powerpoints created by Acas [ ] which has a section on bullying & harassment.  Here are some things we all need to keep in mind when working with others:

Know your employees?

Do you know everything about the opinions, beliefs and lifestyles of your employees? As the answer to this question will inevitably be ‘no’, is it possible that you might be using language or expressing opinions that effectively amount to harassment?

Too much of a perfectionist?

Do you sometimes feel frustrated by your employees? Do you find yourself getting irritable at what you consider to be their lack of competence or initiative?

If so, are you, perhaps, a true perfectionist unable or unwilling to accept that not everybody will work to your exceptionally demanding standards?

Passion and commitment

If you are the owner/manager of a small business, are you perhaps failing to recognise that your employees can never share the passion or commitment that you will have?

Speed of learning

Are you an exceptionally fast learner who can pick up new skills and carry out new tasks with a minimum of effort?

Remember, this may not be true for all your employees. Perhaps you are forgetting to see a situation through the eyes of someone who needs a little more time to assimilate new information.

Fast-paced market?

Is your organisation selling into a fast-paced, ever changing market? If so, are the requirements you have of your employees constantly shifting?

Is it possible that this could be creating an environment of fear and uncertainty?

Too much change?

Are you simply asking your employees to deal with too much change? Is it possible that they feel they spend their working lives in a permanent state of flux? Have you considered how unsettling this could be for some people?

Keeping the business afloat

If you are the owner/manager of a business, are you constantly struggling to bring in enough revenue to cover all your overheads?

If yes, is it possible that you are constantly communicating your concerns about this in a way that makes your employees just worry about job security?

Could you communicate this information in a way that emphasises a team-spirit and encourages a desire to work together to improve profits and job security?

Feeling irritable?

Are you often tetchy and irritable during the working day?

Do you fly off the handle when faced with the smallest problem or challenge?

Getting access

Are you inaccessible to your employees when they need a decision from you?


Are you constantly changing your mind?

Do you explain why decisions might need to change or do you simply communicate the change?

Just as your language and opinions could unwittingly be causing offence, so could your body language.

Too close?

What distance do you stand or sit from employees? Might some of them consider that you stand or sit too close when giving instructions or explanations? Might some of your employees interpret this as being intimidating?

A touch on the arm

Do you sometimes touch people lightly on the arm or shoulder during conversation. You may feel this is a warm and friendly gesture. Is it possible that some employees may see this behaviour in a different light?

Eye contact

Do you avoid making eye contact with people during conversation or perhaps you make an effort to maintain eye contact. Your reasons for doing this are perfectly innocent. Could they be misinterpreted by someone else?

5 thoughts on “Are you a “bully boss”?

  1. Pingback: Are you a "bully boss"? | Γονείς σε Δράση

  2. My X boss is the owner of the company. What few employees that still work there were all long time and retained employees (from a previous owner) including myself of four long battle
    -worn years. He fit all of the above traits as stated above, also, he was a charmer and control freak. Liked to throw temper tantrums. And most of all he would pick up any thing around him, or in his hand and throw it across the shop in a blinded fit of furious rage if something made him mad or didn’t go his way. Wood, heavy industial floor fan, hand tools, dirt to name a few I witnessed. I was also the receipient of some of the above. Fortunatly, I was faster at getting out of the way and holding my TEMPER now. Wasn’t but a few years ago I would probably have been in jail for the retalliation I could have unleased on this tyrant. The few employees that remain are enslaved by this tyranical and bulling-tactics he rules his little “empire” with. I will say this for the the guy in dispite of the pressure of our economy. He will provide minimal kind gestures of inexpensive charity on rare occassions that he (being the grand see-me and see how good and great I am showman he is)somehow always is able to show up with some new see-me toy for himself. Bought 3 new ford pickups and a mustang Shelby GT 500 in approximatley 4 month period. Well thats what BULLIES need I quess to keep their power image fresh for the outside world to see how such a nice and decent human being still exists today. One final comment, I am so glad my mother and father raised me in a christian environment. Like the U.S. Marines say we are going to train you and teach you everything you will need in battle to survive, kill or defend and give you the tools to do so. Then we will teach and train you how to control the power. I will say that some years ago I was part of his outside world and likewise he gave me the impression that he was a jewel of a guy. I was once told that in Hollywood there is a saying, that beneath the tinsel in “Tinseltowne” lies the REAL tinsel. Thank you.


    • Have you sought outside guidance? I don’t know what state or country you are in but several states in the US have workplace violence laws and you may want to seek advice on your individual situation.


  3. Savannah, Georgia. Thanks but none that I have found in this state from my investigation. “Fearless Leader” let me go when I tried to explain a situation that occurred in October 2010. My supervisor was aware of the situation that led up to that event. Nothing wrong, just working extra on my time to complete a task to help my/his company meet a deadline. No praise expected on my part as this did not occur anyway. Just meet the deadline, actually ahead of time which I made it. He proceeds ranting and raving throwing pieces of wood yelling get out of here, get the _ _ _ _ out of my shop now!!!!!! Upon my immediate exit from this mad man’s shop not aware to me in those fleeting seconds is a piece of wood thrown at me and crashes into the wall next to me. I got out of building as quickly as I could. Not my supervisor or any co-worker verbally responded in my defense. In fact I later found out that each was advised to forget the incident, if something should come of it. He and his supervisor denied that any of this occured. I know for a fact as his statement was read to me by a State offical with G.D.L. board. Thanks any way.


  4. I have been reading several post about “bullying” and some of the comments lead me to believe that I am viewed as the bully. So I ask…
    If before I became QAS(Quality Assurance Supervisor)of a clinical research firm (between The pharmaceutical companies and the FDA)I recognized that some of my fellow coworkers were doing VERY sub par screenings of potential “guinea pig”(for the layman) and realized that our boss was allowing this for them but NOT for me.(I know I was bullied) Now That I have my ass on the line for them, I have made every possible accommodation for them and expect them to do better(with new rules and training as well)BUUUUTTTT all I get in return is insubordination…. and down right disrespect for my knowledge base and authority. The BIG boss says one thing(that I agree with) but my same boss… She still not backing me up….Thus…..An employee told me to shut up as I was fixing her mistake with another person.(teaching the newbe) 2 of my employees have been there awhile and in my opinion are a waist of space(to back that statement…. would you allow an employee to be on facebook 70%day 10%day talking about her teenage boys love life…with tears mind you!(other departments constantly complain about her..some very sever) 2nd employee. Day 1 of employment… bare fingered scratching what turns out to be MRSA infection, as she passes her hand made food around. Directly refusing to do something that she should have done for others… work related 100% and has SEVER know how issues and asks the most trivial questions IE.did I do a good job, did I do a good job, did I do a good job… and so on……)I wish I had time to hold their hands and stroke their egos, but frankly They have literally and numerously eaten up my entire day with childishness. Our immediate manager(mentioned earlier) has dumped about90% of her workload in my lap and gave it the “QAS” tittle. This job is more than one persons work(maybe 4 persons)True she was VERY overwhelmed, but she had me(I am a pitbull.. no stop till finished kinda guy)and one other guy(who was very good too until he went loco from job and lifestyle)I have tried to raise some of the group up to doing what I did but had to stop cause incredible clerical errors such as literally unable to count up to 4 on a report…over..and ..over…and over again. I am burned out, frustrated, and now I am intolerant. This is affecting my home life now, and I have since been placed on medication.
    So I ask again……..
    My intolerance toward my team….
    Am I really a bully? The boss tells me I am.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s