How to handle a bully boss

The key is to keep calm, follow the guidelines and approach the matter with maturity.

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Bullying and mental torture at the workplace are not unheard of. Sometimes people restrict the definition of bullying to verbal and physical abuse. However, many a time, employees are bullied and mentally harassed to such an extent that they are even compelled to commit suicide.

Things get more difficult when the person who is bullying is your own boss. If the very individual who is supposed to lead you and look after the team, turns out to be a bully, the situation can get rather challenging for the employee(s).

Before the HR steps in, it is important for the employee to first take an ideal approach to the matter.

Start by taking the following steps:

(i) Keep calm: It is very important to keep calm and analyse the situation. You will need to check whether the incident which has taken place is as serious as it looks. It can also be a one-off incident. But yes, if it is a case of sexual harassment, do not even think twice before taking action.

(ii) Raise your voice: In many cases employees do not raise their voices. It is important for them to raise the issue and take it to the HR or the skip managers.

“I would always advice the employees to first report the incident to the senior manager of your boss. After that, if things do not get settled, it’s the duty of the HR to step in,” says Chandrasekhar Mukherjee, chief people officer, South Indian Bank.

Ravi Mishra

“In case of harassment or torture, I make sure that the identity of the complainant stays hidden. Otherwise she/he may have to face further harassment from the seniors to settle scores”

(iii) Refrain from immediately reacting to the bullying: The employee should not react to the bullying without first bringing it to the notice of the higher authority first. After that, the employee should note down the incident so that a case can be presented in-front of the investigative committee or the seniors. If the employee loses cool and reacts in an inappropriate manner, things will not only get worse but also work against him.

(iv) Quit in case of inaction: If no action is taken to resolve the issue, the employee should just leave the job and look for better opportunities in other companies. “If the situations does not change, it is better to just leave the job. Because it is not your job to correct your managers,” advises Ravi Mishra, regional HR head, South Asia and Middle East, Birla Carbon.

Mishra revealed that he had also faced a problem with a senior in one of the companies he used to work for. At that time, he was very clear about the guidelines he needed to follow. He just told the bully that he will escalate the matter to the skip manager. Taking that as a warning, the bully quickly backed off.

It is very easy to say that we should raise our voices, but there should also be ears to hear those voices. Generally, the employees do not take such cases to the HR, because the HR does not share a very close and open relation with them.

It is up to the HR to build that kind of proximity with the workforce, and earn the trust and confidence of the employees. The HR needs to become more open and approachable, and create a relationship wherein the employees feel free to express themselves without hesitation.

Chandrasekhar Mukharjee

“Organisations take cases of bullying and harassments very seriously, especially in the FMCG sector, because they value the feedbacks of their employees”

“Everybody in my office knows that if an employee or a worker comes to me with any problem, I will help him/her whatever happens. They know that I will take care of things,” states Mishra confidently.

“Organisations take cases of bullying and harassments very seriously, especially in the FMCG sector, because they value the feedbacks of their employees,” shares Mukherjee.

Mukherjee shared one of his experiences, while working with an FMCG company. Since he did not hold a very high position at the time, when such a case emerged, he referred it to the main headquarters. Fortunately, the seniors took him very seriously and the person involved in the matter was made to undergo various training and counselling sessions to rectify his behaviour.

At his current organisation, Mukherjee explains that, the first-line managers have to go through a five-year training period to avoid such cases. They also hold such sessions on Fridays for these managers.

When the senior-level managers are the culprits, the identity of the person at the receiving end needs to be kept safe. “In these cases of harassment or torture, I make sure that the identity of the complainant stays hidden. Otherwise she/he may have to face further harassment from the seniors to settle scores,” shares Mishra.

It is also observed that the HR often adopts an escapist route by passing the buck to the skip managers, so as to stay away from such matters. “The employee needs to follow the protocol and the HR also should stay in the loop so that nothing goes off track,” Mishra says.

Bullying at the workplace can really bring down the morale of the person. The engagement level takes a big hit, and productivity is also affected. Therefore, it impacts the culture and finally, the business.

“It is the responsibility of the HR to create a culture that is free of bullying, in any form,” suggests Mishra.

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