I read an interesting quote on Linkedin recently that stated "It's better to have a bad boss in a good company than a good boss in a bad company." A few people commented that they didn't agree with the statement because most people leave people. They do not want to leave the company. The problem arises when the boss is a bully who also owns the company. This person micro-manages because he or she doesn't trust their employees. They don't want to give up control. Their face is always in yours and they watch each employee's every move from their personal computers at home so often it borders on voyeurism. I have experienced these spying tactics firsthand and it's quite unsettling. It makes for a very uncomfortable environment for employees.
This type of boss can also expect staff to be at their beck and call, even while sick in bed, driving, or on days off. I was off sick for two weeks with a severe infectious condition and one particular boss harassed me relentlessly until I returned to work. I kept this person up to date on my condition with regular texts but that wasn't enough. He expected me to phone as well, although I explained in one text that I wasn't able to call because I lost my voice. When I returned to work he accused me of not wanting to come to work, although I indicated to him on several occasions I loved my job. Because this particular job was a part-time wage position I lost a lot of money while I was off, which ultimately saved him a lot of money. Of course he didn't consider this at all. As an employee, it is not your responsibility to ensure there are fully trained staff available to cover for you when you're not there. That is up to your superiors. You shouldn't have to endure any form of harassment while you are trying to get well.
Another trick a toxic boss uses to control his employees is gaslighting. Gaslighting is a psychological term used to describe a form of manipulative behavior that causes people to question their own behaviors and perceptions of reality. Gaslighting is a form of harassment. In my experience mentioned above, the boss used my inability to call while I was sick to infer I never answered my phone and was never available when he needed to contact me. In his view the fault was all mine. It didn't matter that I might be too sick to answer the phone, or driving when he was trying to call, or that I might actually have a life outside work. The gaslighting became apparent another day when I tried to explain what happened while I was in transit on my way to work and he refused to listen. He cut me off mid-sentence, accusing me of lying, ranting that I should have left earlier, going on and on that he has to be able to communicate with me anytime he needs to. I actually had left earlier but my car became stuck in a snowstorm and he refused to give me the opportunity to explain this to him. I should have called an Uber, which made no sense whatsoever because the roads were impassable all over the city that day.
Workplace bullying can come in many forms. It can entail intimidation, yelling, constant criticizing, intruding on a person's privacy by pestering and spying, and assigning unreasonable workloads on one person without compensation. Fortunately for me, I have studied enough psychology to recognize bullying and gaslighting. The thing you have to remember is it's not about you. These people have trust issues and deep-seated insecurities they try to unload on others. They intimidate by causing others to question their own integrity and actions. If you are dealing with a toxic boss or coworker, there are several things you can do to prevent them from undermining you psychologically and ruining your career.
Stand Your Ground. Don't let them get you down. Know that they are the problem. Not your circus, not your monkeys. Maintain your composure. Simply tell them they are wrong and don't question your own integrity. If you lose your cool you will be viewed as the one with the problem. Let them rant and rave and others will see them for who they are.
Use Humour. Humour is a great deflector of unwanted behavior. It shows others you take things in stride and don't allow others to intimidate you. Sometimes it shows the perpetrator how ridiculous he looks. Trust me, no one wants to look ridiculous in front of their subordinates.
Take a Breath. Before you say something you might regret, take a deep breath. A lot of unpleasant words have been spoken in the heat of an upsetting event. Words that can't be taken back and only make you look bad. Bite your tongue and walk away. You will look better and your toxic boss will look worse.
Review Your Situation. Is your toxic boss the owner of the company? If not, ride it out. In my experience, every toxic boss was either fired or moved on. If you love the company you are working for it will be more beneficial for you to wait until he is replaced. If, on the other hand, you are working for a small private company and he is the owner, you will have to leave. For the sake of your sanity and self-esteem, find another company and leave the bad experience behind.
Seek Help. If you are in a toxic work environment you can't immediately get out of, there are resources you can turn to for help in the interim. The Canada Safety Council, a non-profit charitable organization that works to promote education and awareness of health and safety in the workplace, has a website that provides anonymous assistance. At AnonymousEmployee.com you can set up a personal account you can access when you need it. Here you will find a network of professionals in Canada and the US who can give you advice and assistance and put you in touch with people who can help you deal with the situation.
Workplace bullying and harassment are human rights infractions that are protected federally and provincially. The general duty clause establishes the duty of employers to protect employees from risks at work, including risks from mental health aspects. Everyone deserves to be treated respectfully in the workplace, as well as have boundaries outside of it. If your employer is not respecting those boundaries, you must take action to establish them. Work on yourself if you need to. Remove yourself if you have to. Ensure the situation is under your control, instead of the other way around.