What to Do When Your Boss Holds Your Job Over Your Head to Get You to Do What They Want

Communicating clearly and documenting discussions puts power in your hands when your boss uses your job against you.
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Employees are usually required to do what bosses want, as long as it is within reason and the stated scope of the position. However, a boss might attempt to hold your job over your head to manipulate you into doing things that are not part of your official duties, or that you feel cross an ethical or moral line. In this case, you need to deal with the issue proactively so it doesn't become a bigger problem.

Keep a Record

    Document the threats being made toward you, but avoid being threatening in return. Keep a private record of dates, times and exact words used each time your boss threatens your job. Keep any email from your boss that includes threats. If you ever have to go over your boss’s head or take legal action to fight for your job, this information can be valuable.

Take Charge

    Say no. Bosses who threaten your job, salary, training opportunities or career advancement might be in the habit of getting their way through such tactics. Saying no can be scary, but calmly standing up for yourself rather than giving in to doing something that crosses uncomfortable boundaries lets your boss know that you aren’t an easy target. Being firm and clear when saying no, and explaining your reasons in a non-confrontational way, are effective ways of dealing with the problem. It may even stop the intimidation and earn your boss’s respect, suggests Dr. Ben Benjamin in a 2012 CNBC article titled “How To Say ‘No’ To Your Boss.” For example, you could say, “No, that isn’t one of my responsibilities.” If your boss’s request is inappropriate or illegal, you could say, “No, I believe doing that could hurt our relationship with the client,” or “No, I believe doing that could put us in legal trouble.”

Do Your Best

    Meet or exceed all of the goals and expectations outlined in your employee review. If you’ve been slacking, there’s more room for your boss to justify firing you or preventing your advancement. Keep track of your individual achievements and specific contributions to team projects, in case your boss isn’t keeping track. Build good relationships throughout your workplace, not only with colleagues but also with customers and other stakeholders. This will not only help you stay upbeat about your work. It can also show that you are a valuable member of the team and work to your benefit should you decide to transfer to another department where you can work for a different boss.

Protect Your Career

    Talk privately with your boss about your concerns. Assume your boss isn’t aware that you feel threatened. For example, you might say, “Whenever you say that my job is at stake, I feel threatened and forced. I want to help you achieve your goals in a way that’s positive for both of us.” If this doesn't work, schedule a meeting with your human resources representative to discuss the matter. Bring along your notes and evidence of bullying or intimidation. If in-house efforts fail, consider contacting an attorney or your state’s labor board. Alternatively, you can seek work elsewhere if you fear that taking your concerns to a third party will harm your reputation in your industry.

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