How to Manage and Deal with an Aggressive Boss

Abuse is painful enough. When the abuser is a boss or someone else with authoritative power, it is even more confusing how you should manage and deal with the aggression. Your boss can trick you into doing nothing in fear of repercussions.

The law does little to protect victims of workplace conflict. Nearly all laws do not take into account verbal conflict, but if the verbal and other emotional abuse approaches physical abuse, the issue can become a legal concern. The typical employee who faces a difficult manager, however, needs to handle the workplace bully through a series of skills in this article.

People who lack the communication skills to deal with a bad boss either:

  1. Endure the bully. These people put up with intimidation from the bullying boss. They may lack self-respect or assertive communication. They may feel at risk of losing their job if they tackle the problem.
  2. Bully the bully. The people taking this action face their boss by reciprocating aggression. The problem often intensifies as a fight break outs or each person does things to sabotage the other.

First Common Reaction: Endure the Bully

The first reaction to a bullying boss is a passive response. In this response you forgo your needs while your boss tramples you. The last thing you should do during abuse is accept the abuse.

Address the issue in the correct manner otherwise your confidence, happiness, amd your work will suffer. Recipients of aggressive behavior who incorrectly handle aggression are known to develop health problems such as strokes, heart attacks, suicide, migraines, escalated stress levels, insomnia, and terrifying nightmares. One anonymous person often dreamed her boss pointing a gun at employees so they would complete their work.

Passive people suppress their own needs and get dominated by others. They live in frustration. Their anger bottles up inside. They lack the communication skills to address the problem, hoping the abusive person stops bullying out of goodwill.

People in this first category of responding to an aggressive boss sometimes avoid the issue due to fear. You may avoid defending yourself and accept the aggression in a work situation – especially with someone that has authoritative power – from fear of losing your job, being demoted, or undergoing further abuse.

I’m not hear to say your fears are irrational. Losing your job is a real threat because most who stick up for themselves do so aggressively, which creates further problems. The end result for people that choose this first response is a win for the bully and a loss for the passive person.

Second Common Reaction: Bully the Bully

The second common reaction to facing a bully is aggression. People who aggressively self-defend often have more confidence than passive individuals. They think the only way to get what they want is through retaliation. It becomes fire against fire. When an aggressive employee faces an aggressive boss, a fight starts as two individuals take to a verbal boxing ring, mentally beating each other’s minds.

People can be aggressive for several reasons:

  • They were abused by their parents at an early age or placed under other emotional trauma.
  • They are mentally ill. I’m not jokingly referring to a mental illness, but a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or a personality disorder.
  • They think the only way to stop someone else’s abusive behavior is to reciprocate the abuse.
  • The aggression is a release of anger often caused by avoiding an issue that is irritating them. This behavior is otherwise known as “passive-aggressive behavior” where the person is frequently passive, but randomly explodes to release their frustration. After the occasional and often unexpected outburst, the person returns to passiveness.
  • The person is in a high pressure environment. High stress work environments make its employees prone to unhealthy behaviors.
  • The aggressive individual may try to prove his superiority, control, discipline, or focus on results to others through aggressive behavior.

While aggression in the workplace may create sufficient productivity, it is strongly correlated to a high turnover rate (said to be an average of 1.5 years) and other commitment problems. Employees fake sick days, become miserable, sabotage work, and lose passion for work. Aggressive managers end up creating an unproductive workforce. “Bully the bully” is a loss for the manager and the person originally bullied.

A Third Rare Action: Assertive Communication with the Boss

The first common reaction is a passive response. The second common reaction is an aggressive response. A median response known as “assertiveness” exists between these two common reactions and produces a win-win response. Where passive communication fails to respect yourself and aggressive communication fails to respect the other person, assertive communication respects everyone.

Assertive communication techniques can stop bullying, stop your fear of facing difficult issues, and build your self-confidence to create a nice working relationship with your boss. Assertive skills can transform your inner and outer conflict.

A Step-by-Step Approach with Techniques to Cure a Bad Boss

In this section you will get a series of techniques shared through a scenario to help you face an aggressive boss. Use as many techniques as you can in everyday life because assertive communication does more than help you handle an aggressive boss. Assertiveness helps you face aggressive people and other difficult personality types like controlling people.

The first step to handle an aggressive person begins before you open your mouth. Prior to approaching your boss about the problem, ask yourself: “What can I change in my behavior to solve the aggression?” Asking this question helps you own your behavior. It builds self-responsibility and stops you blaming others over what you control. This first step may solve the problem and eliminate aggression because you were the problem.

…this first step may solve the problem and eliminate aggression because you were the problem.

Additionally, before you approach your boss, develop a plan of what to say and how you can solve the problem. Prepare to make the conversation productive. Even if you think of good solutions when preparing for the conversation, remain flexible and willing to adjust your behavior to satisfy your boss. A willingness to compromise is assertive.

Once you approach your boss, be calm and responsive. Calmness is not enough because it can show ignorance and increase aggression from a lack of responsiveness. Behaving unresponsive hurts empathy and makes it difficult to diffuse an aggressive person’s emotions. You don’t want to ignore an angry boss!

When you are calm yet responsive, you will not become aggressive. When you remove your aggression, you will reduce your boss’ aggressive communication because the two of you are no longer in a destructive cycle of anger. Fire needs some sort of fuel to stay alight. By keeping calm yet remaining responsive, you remove the psychological fuel needed to keep your boss’ aggressive fire burning.

Have the right mindset of resolving the problem at hand. When faced with difficult people, it is easy think you are right. Guess what? Your boss also thinks he is right! This is why conflict feels like swimming with a shark – you sometimes have to compromise yourself to move the problem forward. Be the first one to step towards problem resolution.

Why You Need to Be Assertive

Assertive skills are category of communication skills that can change your life. Assertive people fight less, stress less, and worry less. They get their needs met and can better meet other people’s needs. They boost their self-esteem, verbalize emotions, have stronger relationships, and achieve more goals by effectively working with people.

Now that you understand these concepts and techniques, it’s time to approach your boss. Find the best time to talk with your boss. Do not try and solve this problem in an intense emotional situation. You may need to wait until the end of the day, or even the end of the week, until you believe the boss is approachable.

As you address your boss, the best thing you can do is ask for his opinion and point of view on the matter. If the person is unaware of his aggression, bring up a specific situation where the person became aggressive. This is an excellent technique that builds an awareness of someone who refuses to acknowledge their aggression.

When you begin a tough conversation by asking for the person’s point of view, instead of blurting what you think and feel about the situation, your persuasive ability builds from a newfound perception. You may see a new side to the story when you practice good listening skills. Asking for your boss’ point of view will help you understand, and even help, your boss understand why he is aggressive. Your boss will feel understood when you actively listen, which can lead to many great outcomes.

After your boss has made suggestions, begin to give your ideas about the problem. Keep calm and stay focused on resolving the problem while avoiding personal attacks. Ask for your boss’ feedback on ideas. Make it a joint solution so each of you follow through with the final plan. A mutual solution is always followed through by both parties more consistently than a solution forced on one person.

A mutual solution is always followed through by both parties more consistently than a solution forced upon one person.

Take note of the positive points your boss shows in his behavior during the discussion then compliment him on these. Tell him how happy you are for him to listen and be in the conversation with you. Keep the conversation positive as problem solving can seem negative – even though it is good for people.

If none of these techniques work – provided you have talked with others about the problem and tried your best to stop your boss from behaving aggressively – ask yourself: “What’s more valuable to me: my happiness or my work?” Without knowing your exact situation, your happiness is more valuable. Should your boss continue treating you poorly, have the courage to respect yourself. If the only way to stop an awful boss is to quit your job, so be it.

Work is a task people hate for 40 years of their life. It does not have to be that way. You no longer have to be in an unproductive and miserable working relationship. Value yourself and do something about your aggressive boss the next time you go to work. You may start to love work. Your livelihood depends on it.

(The techniques presented in this article have been adapted from my Communication Secrets of Powerful People program. This program is a revolutionary way to charismatically change minds – even in difficult situations like how to handle a cruel boss.)

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Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"

Joshua Uebergang, aka "Tower of Power", teaches social skills to help shy guys build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! Go now to http://www.towerofpower.com.au/free/

Comments

K. Frances Davis
Reply

Hey Josh,
I am an adult educator and currently developing a job readiness course for an employment service agency for Natives of North America. Your site has provided many useful resources, that I will share with the class that will begin in January that I will be instructing as well. I love my job! My boss lacks the management skills that would be ideal, so much so one of my co-worker quit last week because she decided that she could not take it anymore, it is unfortunate that she was even too scared to try to resolve the issues at hand and just wrote (literally hand wrote) a letter of resignation to our boss’ supervisor and left during lunch hour, while our boss was out with the other co-worker, whom the boss has attached herself to. It is a very dysfunctional team, I just recently started (October 6th) and got first hand experience with the whole thing. First I was in an open office with the boss and three other co-workers and got moved to another open office with two other co-worker and then was offered to work at home due to the privacy I need in order to be more productive. Anyhow, thank you for the excellent work you are doing for humanity.
Take care
-K.Fran Davis-

Kubi
Reply

well.. I had a job were me and 3 other colleagues were responsible for a chain of 5 restaurants, we were all young around 20+. Well my boss used verbal insult, mind-games, humiliation, screaming, even got to hit one of my colleagues in the face =) and you know what? This all happens because he is a small, bald, ugly and uneducated man, all 3 of us working there had degrees so he just felt frustrated, and had a serious self-esteem problem also, and because he’s a coward he used his superior position to humiliate us, thus making him feel better about himself. lol: That’s such basic behavior, and so predictable, even boring.

I left after a few months, as did everyone. If someone actually reads this… believe me “LIFE IS TO SHORT TO TAKE S**T FROM ANYONE”… it’s not worth it to feel like a moron, useless, humiliated, stressed, no self-esteem, no matter how good the paycheck is.

If your boss is an impotent wuss, that wants to spill his frustration on you, no matter what you say or do… JUST LEAVE.

I’m 28 years old, have a degree in hotel management, still working below that, but I’ll get there soon, but with one thing in mind: I don’t let NO ONE step on my face.

There are situations were you can surely use what we just read above, and I agree with it, but also there’s also many situations were the employee, is a punch bag, for the the boss’ emotional meltdown… Guess what, GET A SHRINK! We’re paid to work for you, not to take your nasty s!!t and make you fell better :!:

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