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9 Tips On Working For a Hostile Boss

What is one tip you would offer an employee working for a hostile boss?

To help you deal with working for a hostile boss, we asked HR leaders and CEOs this question for their best advice. From using the listen and repeat method to reporting the behavior to human resources, there are several insights that may help you deal with working for a hostile boss. Here are nine tips on how to work for a hostile boss:

  • Use the Listen and Repeat Method to Cool Hostility

  • Push Back

  • Have Human Resources Set Clear Expectations

  • Get Your Co-Workers to Help Stand Up to Your Boss

  • Become a Leader

  • Stay Professional

  • Have a Co-Worker Sign Records as a Witness

  • Look into New Jobs

  • Report the Behavior to Human Resources

Use the Listen and Repeat Method to Cool Hostility

Hostility from a boss often comes from a belief they are not being understood, and though this technique is used to deal with hostile customers, the “listen and repeat strategy” works in this situation as well. When encountering this type of improper behavior in your day-to-day activities, it’s easy for emotion to cause one to misconstrue intent, so it is critical to focus on what your boss is saying rather than how they are saying it. Once you obtain the key points from their feedback, repeat back what they stated to you. This basic action provides them with a sense that you are understanding what they want, which is the best first step in diffusing a situation. In addition, by emphasizing their concern in your repetition, you will be more likely to calm the tone and turn a contentious situation into a productive one.

Yuvi Alpert, Noémie

Push Back

Years ago at one of my first security jobs, I learned that more often than not, a hostile boss is just looking to see how far they can push you. After a few months of dealing with constant anger and hostility, I pushed back in an aggressive way and the negativity ended after that. Whether asking for a raise, or enduring a hyper critical performance review, employees have to draw the line somewhere. Your boss will more than likely gain some respect for you as a result. Worst case scenario, the situation deteriorates to a separation from the job, and getting away from a situation that isn’t promoting career growth anyway. It is a win/win situation. For employees who do not handle conflict well, just get out of there. It's not worth walking on eggshells. Eric Florence, Security Tech

Have Human Resources Set Clear Expectations

Rude or disrespectful bosses in the office can be verbal or physical, such as shouting at coworkers or damaging company property, for example. Human resources need to set clear expectations for what is appropriate work behavior and what is hostile behavior. Kindness is encouraged in the office, however, when kindness turns into hostility, it’s important to find a resolution as soon as possible. Leaders should provide feedback to employees who act aggressive and encourage alternative, more supportive methods when reacting to a bad situation. If the conflict doesn’t improve, enforcing the rules is the next step. Establishing boundaries in the office is critical to ensure situations don’t escalate and should be handled directly and calmly.

Lillie Sun, Three Ships Beauty

Get Your Co-Workers to Help Stand Up to Your Boss

A great tip I would offer to an employee who is working for a hostile boss is to get your co-workers to help you address the hostility with your boss! If you have a boss that is constantly showing or emitting hostility in the workplace, there's a VERY good chance that one of your fellow co-workers is feeling the heat as well on a daily basis and wants it to stop. Meeting with your peers separately or in a group out of work and talking about ways to address your boss's hostility is a perfect idea. In regards to day-to-day activities, an example of you and your co-workers working together could be to join in and stop a hostile conversation going on between your boss and one of your peers and tell your boss what they are doing and why it can be harmful in the workplace.

James Burati, 1-800-PackRat

Become a Leader

If you’re well versed enough in your area, you should take leadership initiative and make some decisions on your own that will benefit the company. Turning this tough situation with your hostile boss into an opportunity to practice your leadership capabilities will not go unnoticed, even if it’s not your boss who’s not initially seeing the results. Your coworkers may catch on and start following in your footsteps to achieve results like you are, and eventually, management as a whole will see how your leadership skills have turned the office negativity into a positive environment.

Jason Brandt, Podopolo

Stay Professional

If you are working for a hostile boss, it is important to stay professional at all times. Try to avoid any type of conflict, and always do your best work. If you have a performance review, be sure to highlight your accomplishments and stay positive. If you are looking for a promotion, be sure to highlight your skills and accomplishments. And, finally, if you have any questions or concerns, be sure to address them in a professional manner.

Matthew Ramirez, Rephrasely

Have a Co-Worker Sign Records as a Witness

If you are dealing with a hostile boss, seek out someone to help document their hostile behavior. It can be beneficial to have someone else witness their behavior so you have another person to back you up if you need to make a complaint. Keep records that detail what time meetings happen, who was present, what was discussed, and what hostile behavior was witnessed. Have your co-worker sign these records to show that they agree with what was documented.

Rachel Roff, Urban Skin Rx

Look into New Jobs

You can start looking for new positions and pay close attention to the personalities you encounter during your new job hunt. It is not always worth it to stay in a role where you constantly feel criticized, no matter what you do or even if you ask how you can improve. Some bosses are inherently hostile and it is not worth your time to stay in a position that could end up compromising your mental health.

Jared Hines, Acre Gold

Report the Behavior to Human Resources

The person targeted in that inappropriate behavior doesn’t have to be the only one speaking out. Co-workers who witness such abuse also don’t have to tolerate it. Toxicity in the workplace affects the team’s morale and performance. It’s under those circumstances that a human resources specialist needs to be notified. People rely on HR to report forms of harassment. Our founder, Allan Jones, has always said that HR is a critical part of every business because “people drive results.” It’s important to address bad-boss hostility issues promptly with an HR pro, get everything you can in writing to start a documentation train, so you can better ensure a safe and productive workplace for you, and the rest of the company’s most valued asset - its employees.

Scott MacDonell, Bambee

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