Do you have a bad boss? No, not one of those bad ordinary bosses who fails to give direction and recognition. Those are low stress bad bosses. You’ve got the type of bad boss who bullies, insults, lies, changes direction, blames others, and verbally assaults your self-esteem – every day.
You’ve confronted the boss with his behavior – nicely - but it didn’t put a dent in his game. You’ve talked to Human Resources but they threw their hands up in frustration. Apparently, the guy gets the job done and the higher ups like him. But, they’ve never seen him in action, you argued. Talk to more employees. I’m not the only one complaining.
He’s on his best behavior when senior managers or HR staff are around. So, it’s almost impossible to communicate what you and your coworkers experience every day. No pattern of employees leaving exists, you’re told, which would set off red flags, but the boss has only been in this position for a year. Half of the office is looking for a new job.
You like your job, your company, and coworkers. The only problem is the current boss. You’re beyond self-pity and annoyance. You’re scared but you can’t take the bullying any more. You’ve decided that you either need to take action or get a new job. Those are your remaining choices.
Maybe it’s time for you to take action to get him gone. The best way, if you can figure out how to set it up, is for senior management to see him in action. They’ve always treated you with respect and you don’t believe that they’d put up with his daily behavior, if they could just see it.
So, the very best way is to set up a situation in which the boss will exhibit the worst of his behaviors publicly and in front of his boss. It’s not as if his boss has not heard rumors before about his behavior, but he may have been unaware of how bad the behavior really is. In an organization, it is powerful to have the boss act out his worst behaviors in front of his boss.
Nothing else works as well, if it’s time to fire your boss, and other options are fraught with danger for the employee. Here are a couple of ways to minimize the danger if you decide to look at other options first.
Take Action to Remove a Bad Boss
Understand that danger exists when you decide it is time to fire your boss. If he is well thought of, you may bring trouble and insecurity to your own employment. You may bear the brunt of your organization's displeasure if your efforts to fire your boss don't succeed. In any case, your efforts draw a magnifying glass to your own performance. So consider other solutions before you decide that your only recourse is to fire your boss.
If you’re not quite brave enough or you haven’t yet thought of the perfect scenario for setting your boss up to exhibit his worst behavior, here are additional actions that you need to take.
- Check to see if you can talk to HR in confidence. Seek their assistance to advise you about how to address the situation. Your company may have a formal complaint process. HR staff may know this bad boss and recommend ways to respond to him effectively. The heads up may elicit some manager coaching by the HR staff. But, if your name is connected to the situation, a bad boss will retaliate. You can count on it.
- If you belong to a union or work for the government, go to your representative first. Contractual rules and obligations may exist that you need to follow for best results.
- Document everything. Document each incident of the boss’s bad behavior with the dates and the names of witnesses. Bully bosses don’t always have multiple targets; you may be in the situation alone if the boss has taken a dislike to just you, for whatever reason. (If this is the case, you need to determine why you are the target of his worst behavior.)
- In addition to documentation, make a list of the issues employees have with the boss to go along with it - a condensed version that succinctly identifies each behavior. And, if you can, ask other employees to sign it; they may not. People are afraid of losing their jobs; they may not experience the situation as intensely as you do, and they may want to avoid conflict.
- Develop a safe path to your boss’s manager. If you have developed a working relationship with your boss’s boss, he is more likely to take your complaints seriously. With a bully boss, you must develop this relationship with care or it will become another point in your boss’s bullying. If the first time you speak to your boss’s manager is to file a complaint, you have less credibility.
- Actively, seek witnesses. Following each outburst, note who saw the scene. Turn to these coworkers to build alliances. Ask your coworkers to document their experience with the bad boss, too. You will find safety in numbers and the more employees adding their voice to the complaints, the harder it is for senior managers to ignore or deny the problem.
- An employee who attempts to remove a bad boss, no matter how bad the boss, may lose his or her job. So, be prepared to lose your job, if your boss turns it around and you lose the battle. Even if you are 100% right, you still may end up losing. Your company may back your boss. Your organization had reasons to assign your boss to his management role. Perhaps he has skills and produces the results that the company needs. If you are his sole target, it is easier to remove you. By the time the organization realizes that he always has a target, you will be long gone.
- Preparation is key if you attempt to have a bad boss fired. You really need your ducks in a row to get a bad boss fired. Documentation of incidences, statements from witnesses, and the names of coworkers who have also been bullied and are willing to speak up, are critical. So, think over your chances of succeeding. Your best route may be to secretly job search, so you can quit on your schedule and on your terms, rather than battling a hopeless situation.
Whether you can successfully fire your boss depends on who and what your organization values and why. It depends on the culture your organization has developed and values for employees. Additional variables include what you and the boss bring to the table. Right or wrong, he or she is, after all, the boss for reasons, and is probably in a stronger position than you are.
I’ve seen employers fire the boss when employees made known to senior managers the extent of the problem, the treatment, and the damage. But, realistically, your company has to care about employees, and desire to create a particular environment for employees, to take action quickly to resolve the problem.
In most cases, even if the company believes you and takes action, the company will have a disciplinary policy and process that they must follow. So, the process will take time and you will experience harassment and retaliation unless your senior managers and HR have put the manager on notice that they will tolerate neither.