Well-Being//

Why We Need to Start Talking Openly About Abusive Bosses

It’s the first step in combatting panic triggered by mistreatment in the workplace.


I have been exploring and developing mental wellness strategies with patients through different venues, identifying underlying emotional issues preventing optimal productivity in the work place. I am writing because there is one particular situation that manifests itself across the spectrum of fields and is a prominent cause of mental wellness deteriorating. A majority of my patients attend therapy to address panic triggered by verbally and emotionally abusive bosses. Some supervisors are more than just demanding: they are demeaning, negate sense of self, deny creative expression, are controlling, threatening and more. At times, much of the workplace is aware of the bullying tactics of this potent individual and collectively cowers to him/her. This manifests itself across the professional settings, as varied as law firms, hospital management, medical research, contractors, education,financing and publishing. It is advantageous for the professional community to begin acknowledging these situations in the office and consider decreasing tolerance for these abusive actions. While open discussion is daunting, as each of us is intimidated and afraid of taking personal risk, it is imperative that some sort of dialogue is initiated to encourage a positive and aspiring culture in the workplace. Discussion needs to be started to evoke collaboration with the higher up and a team oriented environment.

The specifics of how to address each company can be determined over time, but only if people are willing to let the wheels start turning in their minds. Some methods that have been found useful are demonstrating positive regard for the “prominent figure” in some area, while maintaining confident demeanor. One’s needs and views are often better received when demonstrating how they are in line with the boss’s needs and views. Frequently the overpowering boss needs to be reassured that his/her workers are not threatening in any intellectual or professional capacity. Cordial and personable, though guarded, dialogue is imperative despite underlying resentment. When there is something that relates the worker and boss to each other, no matter how vague or superficial, the energy between them decreases in intensity. Building relationships with colleagues who have influence is another important way of establishing your image in the workplace. Similarly to addressing bullies in the playground, when one is considered popular or significant, s/he is less of a target. Humbling oneself in brief moments allows for greater empowerment. Every worker in every field wants to be accomplished both professionally and financially at the end of the day. Personal validation can be obtained from numerous venues. When a boss is unable to support a worker’s self esteem, the worker should foster it through other outlets, whether in professional or personal arenas.

As individuals begin to apply tactics such as these, it will be recognized by the overall community in the office. People will begin to feel courage to shift the general reaction to the individual that is notably abusive. The ripple effect will begin to take effect and a nourishing atmosphere will emerge.

Originally published at medium.com

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