3 Warning Signs That Your Boss Is Abusive
One thing is guaranteed in life, you will never have the perfect boss.
Even if your boss has many admirable qualities, and you think the world of them; they're never going to be 100% flawless.
Just as when you pick a mate, you have to decide what you will not put up with at work. Indeed, you spend almost as much time with your boss as with your mate and family.
If your boss has any of the characteristics listed below, there's a good chance your boss is abusive. If this is the case you need to get away as soon as you can. You'll probably end up leaving anyway, but the longer you stay, the more damage it will do to your health and soul.
Three Warning Signs of an Abusive Boss
I'm not talking about annoying personality traits, such as being indecisive, unfocused or arrogant.Although these traits are unpleasant, you can deal with them.
It's abusive characteristics that make you feel stressed and worthless. Abusive bosses are the bosses to watch out for.
Abusive Boss, Bullying Co-Worker, Cliques and Hostile Work Environment
The 3 signs of an abusive boss discussed in this article also apply to co-workers and supervisors.
3 Key Behaviors of an Abusive Boss
This isn't an exhaustive list, but the following types of behavior are three main indicators that your boss is abusive.
If your boss practices these behaviors, it has nothing to do with you. There is nothing you can do to appease them because you can't change them. Make sure you don't internalize how they make you feel - it literally has nothing to do with you.
If a co-worker displays these behaviors they're intimidated by you; probably because they don't feel valued or have low self-esteem. If a co-worker causes you issues in your workplace you might be dealing with an office snake.
Signs Your Boss is Abusive
What you need to watch for are certain behavioral traits that are signs of an abusive boss.
While abuse is generally considered a behavior that only takes place within domestic relationships, or with children and adolescents; it also rears it's ugly head in the workplace.
1. Demeaning Behavior
It's uncalled-for in any way, shape, or form to excuse the belittling or humiliating of another human being.
Your boss has no right to yell at you in front of others, or behind closed doors. Yelling should never be tolerated.
Talking to you disrespectfully or in condescending ways and verbally trying to undermine your confidence should also be strictly prohibited. Whether your boss is in a bad mood or not doesn't matter, and it doesn't matter what they think you might have done: there is no excuse.
Those who take pleasure out of making others feel degraded, do so to achieve a sense of empowerment or superiority. This often stems from deep-rooted insecurities.
Once this behavior starts, it only gets worse.
Demeaning Others Around you
Be aware when your boss demeans other people who aren't present. It's a bad sign if they're constantly bad mouthing your co-workers or previous employees when they talk to you.
It's a sign your boss is abusive if they tell you old employees were constantly making stupid mistakes, spent too much personal time at work, or were dishonest.
One specific behavior to warn you that your boss is abusive is if they look for minor issues to complain about.
Of course the boss's complaints could have some element of truth; not all employees are focused and honest. However, if your boss claims they had all these bad work habits and no good qualities, it's likely you have a boss who brings out the worst in their employees, or only looks for the negative. Either way it's not a good workplace situation.
High Turnover of Staff: If there's a high turnover of staff, this is a sign that there's an abusive boss and/or toxicity in the workplace.
Toxic Workplace Environment: If your boss is abusive, or there's any abuse in the workplace or management it creates a toxic work environment. It's not to.
These lion dens are full of infighting and drama to the point where productivity suffers. Toxic workplaces are motivated by mean-spirited behaviors.
2. Isolating Behavior
Setting policies and procedures in place, and making sure they're followed through is one thing. Trying to control you personally in the workplace and cut you off from your support is quite another.
Abusive Boss and Office Bullying
Isolation is the most dangerous controlling tactic an abusive boss can use because it cuts you off from any support. A feeling of isolation is the most painful experience a person can go through.
Controlling and Isolating Behaviors
Some controlling-and-isolating behaviors to watch out for are:
- Wanting to know what you do every second of the day
- Monitoring who you speak to
- Showing displeasure when you speak to others or certain people at work.
It's especially alarming when they don't want you to talk to family or friends when you're at work, even at lunch time or when you're on a break.
Isolation is the sum total of wretchedness to a man.— Thomas Carlyle
3. Untrusting Behavior
If your boss always acts as though you can't be trusted, this is often a sign they're the untrustworthy one. This goes with others in the office and is a sign of bullying co-worker.
Unnecessary Drama: Untrusting people and thieves spend a lot of time and energy pointing fingers at others saying they're dishonest. As a result, they tend to create a lot of drama by telling stories and spending too much time watching what others are doing.
Your boss may have some reason to withhold their trust. Maybe they were burned by a previous employee who was untrustworthy (not able to be relied on as honest or truthful), or they have a manager or supervisor above them who doesn't trust them, and they pass this attitude on to you.
But if they constantly act like you're deceitful, it may be that they are deceitful themselves.
It's impossible to go to work every day and feel safe when you always have to watch your back.
Lack of Confidence in Your Abilities
Micromanagement Shows Lack of Trust
An untrusting boss seems to lack confidence in everything you do. They demand to know every move you make while you're at work.
- What decisions you make
- Every email you send
- Every memo you send out
- When and why you left your desk
- How many tasks you've finished
Micromanagement is not the same as your boss objecting to you spending company time on personal matters such as playing Facebook scrabble or texting your friends. Your boss has the right to request you refrain from these activities while you're working.
On the other hand an untrusting boss acts as if you don't have what it takes to do your job. If you believe what he or she is telling you - you'll never thrive in that environment. This is probably part of your abusive bosses plan.
Harvard Study Why Some Bosses Bully
"Poor performers are challenging to deal with and often cause frustration and angst for their supervisors."
You would think bosses and supervisors would want their top performers to excel and give them every chance to shine. However this isn't always the case.
"This is because high performers represent a threat to supervisors who place a high value on their dominant position in the hierarchy."
This type of bully boss would see a top performer as someone who might replace them, surpass them, get status or attention from higher-ups.
Neither reason excuses bullying but it does demonstrate a bad leader.
A good boss makes his men realize they have more ability than they think they have so that they consistently do better work than they thought they could.— Charles Erwin Wilson
Abuse crosses genders and can be exhibited by, and directed to both males and females. Male bosses may abuse male and female employees; and female bosses can be just as abusive as men.
But a specific situation, involving an abusive female boss and a female subordinate, called the Queen Bee Syndrome can be especially painful and confusing for employees.
What Is the Queen Bee Syndrome?
The "Queen Bee Syndrome" describes a woman in a position of authority who views or treats subordinates more critically if they are female.
According to psychologist Professor Cary Cooper, of the Lancaster University Management School, a Queen Bee is a woman who has worked her way to to the top in a male-dominated environment and probably got there by acting like a man, by appearing tough rather than soft and caring.
She is characterized as being successful in her career, but she refuses to help other women succeed. She is overly critical to her female subordinates and tries to sabotage them professionally.
Where did the Term "Queen Bee Syndrome" Originate?
The term “queen bee syndrome” came from studies done by University of Michigan researchers in the 1970s.
In their study they looked at female bosses working in male hierarchies who tried to keep their new standing by stopping attempts by other women seeking the same position.
Their work was published in 1974 in Psychology Today magazine.
It's important to note that female bosses are also abusive the males at work, but the 'Queen Bee Syndrome" was defined based on how these women treat other women in the workplace.
A perfect example of this type of abuser is Meryl Streep's character, Miranda Priestly, in The Devil Wears Prada.
Look for these Abusive Boss Signs
Look for Signs
As with abusive spouses, your abusive boss' negative behavior probably won't rear its ugly head in the beginning. The traits of your abusive boss will gradually sneak up on you. You may not even recognize it's happening until it's a full-blown problem.
Does This Sound Familiar?
Hopefully, now you're aware of what signs to watch for so when you see these types of abusive behaviors, you don't internalize them. It's not you, it's them. As I said earlier it's hard to change someone else; especially when they probably don't see anything wrong with their behavior.
If you're not in a financial position where you can quit right away, start looking for other employment as soon as you can. Life's too short, and you're too valuable as a person to have to put up with this.
Abusive Boss Summary
Abusive bosses and bully coworkers display certain behaviors with the intention to make you feel bad, unskilled or worthless. They do this by:
- Demeaning you
- Untrusting of your intentions and actions
- Isolating and controlling
Demeaning: When they demean you they disrespect you, yell and degrade you.
Untrusting: They act like they don't trust you.. They lack confidence in your abilities and try to make you second guess yourself. They want you to always second guess your abilities or they don't want you to succeed.
Isolating: They keep you away from support, or single you out and exclude you; often they get others to do the same.
Controlling: They try to control how you spend your time in the office including breaks.
Do you feel confident now that you know what signs to look for?
You're Not Alone - Woman Suicidal Over Workplace Abuse
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
When I am abused emotionally at workplace, what must I do?
There are different types of emotional abuse that require different actions. I have another article on here titled "What is Bullying at Work? How to Survive a Hostile Work Environment." I have some suggestions for how to deal with emotional abuse in the workplace.Helpful 48
What if you have to ask an abusive boss for an intercompany transfer? How do you address it?
I'm sorry I don't know the details of how your company works, or where you live. You should be respectful when making the request and go through the usual channels. It's a good idea to have a well thought out reason for transferring within the company, and try to somehow make it sound like a good move for the company or your boss.Helpful 8
© 2011 Koralee Phillips