This article explains how to restore your self-esteem and pull yourself out of a funk when your boss is picking on you at work.
by Lisa Lane Brown
“I’m going to quit my job but in the meantime do you have any tips to help me get through?“
I’m sure glad you’re handling this, because life sucks when you’re not getting along with the boss.
There’s actual research to prove it.
The Gallup organization’s research on career well-being found that if you have a supervisor who ignores you, your rate of disengagement at work goes up by 45%.
Within 3-4 months, you start to get sick.
If your supervisor doesn’t ignore you – and criticizes you instead – your rate of disengagement goes down by 20%.
You actually improve and become more engaged, because now you exist!
If your supervisor acknowledges a single strength, your rate of disengagement goes down by less than 1% and your physical health improves.*
In the past 19 years working with high achievers to help them reach their potential, I’ve discovered that there are three main reasons a boss will pick on an employee:
1. Your Boss Is Moody
The first reason your boss might be picking on you is because he’s moody.
What is a moody person?
A moody person takes his frustrations out on “safe” targets rather than the true source of his anger. The psychological term for this phenomenon is displaced anger.
A classic example of displaced anger is road rage. Imagine you’ve had a bad day with a high maintenance, demanding client, and you’re ready to snap. Since he’s not a safe target, you yell at the bad driver in front of you instead.
If your boss is a moody person, it’s likely he doesn’t manage stress well. He just doesn’t have the self-awareness to get to the root of what’s bothering him and fix it. So, he’s moody. One day he’s sniping at you and the next day he’s complimenting you.
“Is My Boss Moody?”
There are two simple clues that will tell you if your boss is a moody person.
Clue #1: If you’re boss is moody, he’ll get cranky even when nothing is going wrong at work. Your clients and projects are sailing along, but he’s still in a bitter mood.
Clue #2: Other “safe targets”, aka your colleagues, have experienced his moodiness…a lot. He might have even earned a nickname: “Moody Mike.”
How To Deal With A Moody Person
Most people handle a moody person all wrong – so wrong that they bring out the worst their moody boss all the time.
If you are like most people, you’ve accidentally trained your boss to vent his displaced anger and frustration onto you – simply because you’ve never been taught what to do.
For a specific, step-by-step recipe on what to do in this situation, check out how to deal with a moody person.
2. Your Boss Is A Bully
The second reason your boss might be picking on you is because he is a bully.
What is a workplace bully?
The textbook definition of bullying is psychological violence and aggressive
But, let’s not over-think it. A bully is just a person who tries to repeatedly humiliate and intimidate you.
Your bully might be obvious with his intimidation: he will ridicule you, shout at you, or nitpick your work to death.
He might be cold and calculating – the sort who will do anything to get his way and dominate every decision.
Or, he might be a covert bully who assassinates your character behind your back, spreading lies and gossip.
Even more subtle is the narcissistic bully who is unable to empathize, listen, or take accountability for his mistakes.
Work bullying is on the rise, almost to the point of being an epidemic. The Workplace Bullying Institute’s 2014 U.S. Survey documents that 65.7 million working Americans either experience or see abusive conduct during their workday.*
“Is My Boss A Bully?”
If you’re being bullied, chances are you know it. But if you’re still not sure, you can take the following quiz and get to the bottom of it once and for all.
How To Beat A Boss Who Bullies
Beating a bully starts with cultivating a mindset that is radically different. In most cases, if you push any person around long enough, he’ll think he did something to deserve it. Beating a bully requires that you abandon this line of thinking completely.
For a step-by-step, foolproof formula on how to defeat a boss who is a bully, check out How To Beat A Bully Boss.
3. Your Boss Is Wants You To Change
The third reason your boss might be picking on you is because she is unhappy with you and wants you to change. The harsh truth is that most people (even leaders) are passive-aggressive communicators.
Afraid to ask for what she wants, she stays quiet, hoping you magically figure it out.
Before long, she is seething with resentment. Eventually, one of two things happens. Either the boss shuts down emotionally and avoids you OR she starts criticizing and complaining in random (and lame) ways.
Meanwhile, you are utterly baffled, because you had no idea something was wrong in the first place.
Here’s exactly what to do if you suspect your boss wants you to change.
Here’s my tip for dealing with this all-important stressor (and get ready, because it’s not what you think it’s going to be…)
There are two things I suggest you do.
First, channel your anger into doing a better job at work.
Right now you are probably turning your anger inwards, towards yourself.
You’re going “on strike” psychologically. Quitting without actually quitting.
You’re doing this to hurt your boss because she’s hurting you.
Bosses hate it when people go “on strike” because it’s their job to get the most out of you.
The problem with being lackluster at work is that it hurts you more than it hurts her.
Going on strike feels good temporarily because you get to feel sorry for yourself and make her miserable at the same time.
But it’s not an effective long term solution, because your mental strike is crushing your self esteem and confidence.
When you’re “on strike”, you’re not at your best.
You’re going through the motions, whether you want to admit it or not.
Instead of sabotaging yourself, I suggest you exhibit a CHALLENGE response.
The CHALLENGE response is how top achievers deal with setbacks and stress.
The CHALLENGE response is the ability to rise to the challenge you are facing and meet it head on – instead of feeling sorry for yourself.
Most people do not have much self-control, especially when they get ANGRY.
If you annoy them, upset them or out-smart them, their lip starts to quiver and they give into the Dark Side.
They start feeling sorry for themselves and lose their determination and their concentration.
(Note: has your situation with your boss crippled your confidence? If so, I recommend you make it a top priority to get it back immediately. Get my confidence building training video and PDF cheat sheet below, absolutely free).
Not Sydney Crosby, considered by many the greatest hockey player in the world.
Case in point: in Philadelphia in 2005, big Flyers defenceman Derian Hatcher attacked Crosby in the face with his stick, gashing his upper lip and breaking Crosby’s two front teeth off.
The officials did not see the play or call a penalty.
Crosby left the ice, got four stitches, and was back in less than five minutes.
Hatcher was waiting for him, this time using his stick on Crosby’s throat.
Sidney shoved him back and complained to the ref, who promptly gave Crosby a two minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
With 17:57 left to play, Crosby kicked his revenge into high gear, slapping the puck past goalie Antero Nittymaki.
The Flyers quickly tied it up.
Then things really got interesting.
Crosby scored the winner with less than a minute left in the game.
Afterwards, he said: “When that kind of stuff goes on, it’s nice to answer back. But I’m not going to answer back with my stick or drop my gloves.”**
No, Crosby answered back with a WIN.
High achievers like Crosby perform BETTER when they are angry.
The first step is to stop being depressed and get angry instead.
I’m talking about the “good” anger that makes you a highly productive, top performer.
Take your anger out on corporate competitors or deliverables you despise.
Stop procrastinating and kick butt on everything in sight.
Then, once your performance is back on track, make a request of your boss that she actually HEARS.
Say something like, “I’m not sure why you are down on me these days, but I can tell you’re not pumped. Boss, what do you want from me?”
Then get out your notepad and take good notes; listen to what she says.
Then, assuming it’s ethical, give her what she’s looking for.
Chance are, your boss thinks you’re ignoring her.
She thinks you’re refusing to do something she wants you to do.
Maybe you have no idea what that is.
Or maybe you do know, but you’re being stubborn.
Either way, it’s time to get off the fence.
Of course, to take my advice, first you need to forgive your boss.
Right now you won’t want to stop your “strike” because all you want to do is hurt her.
How do you forgive?
You give up your intense need to hurt her.
That’s what vengeance is…the desire to hurt someone back.
You don’t need to absolve her of responsibility or try to convince yourself she was supportive when she wasn’t.
But you do need to give up your need for vengeance.
This will feel good…believe me.
If you perform better, forgive, and communicate like I’ve suggested, you can resolve your stalemate with the boss.
There’s no need to quit yet – just take control of the situation.
Now, if you’re boss is just a bully, and simply won’t have a constructive, rational conversation about what she wants, that’s a whole other issue. I’ll deal with that in a different article.
Chance are, though, you’ll make some serious headway using this approach. And in the meantime, if your situation with your boss has undermined your confidence, I suggest you download my confidence training video and PDF cheat sheet. It’s absolutely free and will help you restore your confidence immediately.
Go get it here:
Let me know what you think.
*Dr. Deepak Chopra’s, “Physical Healing, Emotional Well-Being” video, YouTube.
***The Rookie by Shawna Richer, McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
**Currie, Lynn. Beating the Workplace Bully. A Tactical Guide to Taking Charge.
American Management Association, 2016.