Some bosses are tough, aggressive, direct, and task oriented. That’s acceptable, even if it doesn’t suit you. Harassment and abuse are not acceptable. A former Director at McKinsey, Joanna Barsh, shares her advice for when you’re in harm’s way at work:
Get help right away
Let’s say the other person has just stood on the table in the meeting, pointed at you, and cursed you at the top of his voice. What if he just criticized you publicly in a condescending way? Both times, this person’s behavior was irrational. Get help!
Enlist your boss and mentor
This assumes, of course, that the boss is not the bully but, rather, someone who can help. If your boss is a conflict avoider who tells you to just get on with it, find someone else. This is what mentors are for. You’re the better person for recognizing that you should not be handling this situation on your own.
Call in the big guns
If all else fails and your pain is high on the scale, reach out to someone—the boss’s boss or human resources. It could even be a colleague with more seniority than you and who has survived or witnessed incidents like yours. At this point, you’re willing to risk exposure.
Set up barriers to protect yourself
Short of a restraining order, make sure you’re never alone with the bully.
Get buffered by someone with more power. Frame this as a company issue—because it is. Find someone who is able to put the company’s interest before friendships.
Use your voice
Imagining life without this day-to-day energy drain may be enough to give you the courage and energy to walk away. Before you do, make sure that someone in management has heard you out. You have an opportunity to improve work life for your colleagues even if you choose to leave.
Prepare to walk away
Sometimes, the situation is too far-gone to save. In that case, start lining up your next job.
The working world is not as civil as we’d like it to be. Villains roam office hallways relatively consequence free. You may face a monster like that—someone who makes work intolerable and unsafe. Luckily, more and more people are standing up to rid the workplace of them.
Joanna Barsh’s latest book is called Grow Wherever You Work: Straight Talk to Help With Your Toughest Challenges. More info at www.joannabarsh.net.