Incivility: The Problem Boss

So what if it’s the boss who is the uncivil one?

Well, here are the top eight, time-honoured mistakes you may want to make if you wish to embark on a journey into self-induced misery:

  1. Get even, give them some of their own medicine. They shot your idea down?  Shoot theirs right down too when they’re not around to notice. No hellos? Ignore them right back whenever possible. If you follow this eye-for-an-eye method, you’re certainly well within what researchers have found: incivility tends to be followed by retaliatory mini-aggression, which then spirals into increasingly intense aggressive behaviours.
  2. Nurture your Velcro-like self. Take everything the boss does to heart, run every interaction over and over in your mind, never letting go, forgetting or forgiving. Keep yourself mentally in his business (what he does or says) instead of sticking to your own business (i.e. the things you actually happen to have control over).
  3. Chain yourself to your seat. Persuade yourself that you have no options, or that you are not marketable, or that you’ll never find such a good benefit package elsewhere. This will make you stay in the job long after you should have left.
  4. Get an ulcer. Allow the stress to get to you. Ignore those tight neck and shoulder muscles, the sleepless nights, the weight gain, irritability and pounding headaches.  You may also need to go on stress leave if things are bad enough.
  5. Keep mum. Don’t speak up, don’t ask for change, be fearful of the consequences. Let the situation – and your resentments – continue to fester.
  6. Have an all-out outburst. When you’ve had finally enough of the situation, give the boss (or someone else in power) a piece of your mind. A highly irritated voice, an angry tone or a victim stance can be particularly useful in leading you nowhere in a hurry. But hey, at least you’ll have that smug sense that you finally stood up for yourself.
  7. Avoid organizational channels that could actually help. Persuade yourself that organizational channels that may have the potential to change the situation are going to be totally ineffective in your case. After all, your boss has so much clout! Continue to stew in your misery and lovingly nurture your victim position.
  8. Inform all your friends and family how terrible your boss and the company are. Rather than speak up directly or use appropriate organizational channels, launch your personal ad campaign. Tell everyone about your suffering and make sure to give both the boss and your company a bad name wherever possible. Good places to do so are movie line-ups, social gatherings and of course your doctor’s waiting room, where you’ll be spending lots of time anyway due to your recurring stress symptoms.  Research suggests most people who experience incivility at work employ this very strategy.

The above tactics are very popular indeed. But as you may have noticed, they all lead to dead ends.

What should you do instead? Stay tuned….


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If you are managing someone who is an abrasive leader, or if you are a manager who was told that you are abrasive – we are always here to help with a (free) perspective or input. 

This entry was posted in Blog, Harassment, Leadership, Respectful Workplace, Workplace Incivility. Bookmark the permalink.


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