Ask Dr. Karen - February
Dear Dr. Otazo,
I work for a great company and really love my job: 9 years worth.
The company is restructuring and I now have a the new manager that
is not only surprisingly demanding but on a few occasions has
reprimanded and belittled me in front of my peers. It is becoming
increasingly difficult to work under these conditions. What recourse
do I have?
In a case like this the issue is not
that the boss is “demanding,” which may simply imply high
expectations. It’s that he is still new and is already bullying and
belittling in public. All unacceptable. What is the work
equivalent of punching this boss in the nose? Physical violence can
create a backlash and doesn’t work in the workplace. If you were on
a playground instead of in a workplace the best technique might be
to punch the bully in the nose. Research in school age populations
has shown that bullies are insecure and basically full of fear.
What do you do with someone who is basically fearful? How do you
push back with an aggressive manager? Most bullies test you to see
how far they can push. Just when you want to freeze you need to
practice assertive words to use to let the manager know he’s out of
line. Bullies like to push those who are easiest to push around. So
what should you do and not do? Some things work but not everything.
Try different approaches. Remember that bullying is about laziness
in the use of power. Over-the-top bullies are obvious. The less
obvious ones are insidious. Pushing back is key, especially at the
beginning of the relationship. You need to find your “line in the
1) Say something rather than
freeze like a rabbit in the headlights
2) Don’t react with
defensiveness or anger in what you say; don’t explain or complain.
3) Avoid negativity.
4) Don’t argue
5) Don’t criticize
1) Stay polite and courteous in all
that you say or do.
2) Look the bully in the eye with
square shoulders, a neutral expression and no tears. If tears start
look up and walk around.
3) Keep your comments positive or
4) Instead of “No” you can say “That
could be a problem” or “There is a case to be made for….”
5) Get others (like your boss’ or
your peers) to support a different set of behaviors for the boss
I hope that this helps you to find
your “line in the sand” Cynthia.
- Dr. Karen