Just because your boss is technically in charge doesn’t mean that anything goes. If you are unlucky enough to work under a boss whose behavior falls squarely into the inappropriate zone, your workday may seem even longer than the eight hours that are required. There are definitely some behaviors that are off-limits to bosses, some of which you may be able to change.
You aren’t in the school yard anymore, and your boss shouldn’t be that big kid who pushes you down and takes your lunch money. A bully boss is one who makes unreasonable demands or puts down workers. Instead of just existing under her tyrannical reign, develop a plan for dealing with bullying, advise Gary and Ruth Namie, authors of “The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job.” Anticipate times when your boss may exhibit bullying behavior and avoid these situations. If that fails, report the behavior to your human resources department. Bullying in the workplace is a legally actionable offense if you can prove it is occurring.
Your boss has every right to point out when you do something incorrectly. She does not, however, have the right to call you out in front of an office full of co-workers. Such behavior is neither appropriate nor professional, and has a negative effect on office morale. The proper thing for your boss to do is to privately give you constructive criticism that helps you improve your performance.
A good boss delegates. An inappropriate boss puts her feet up on the desk and reads a newspaper while her workers toil away like minions. If your boss is constantly shoving all of her work down the line until it lands on your desk, take action to make sure that everyone is aware of how much you are contributing. When discussing tasks you have completed in meetings, highlight the degree to which you led the charge. Don’t simply cower and allow your boss to stake claim to the work you complete. Instead, proudly present the work whenever possible, answering questions posed by senior management or other higher-ups.
Friendly conversation is natural for people who work together day after day. Your boss is not immune to this, but such familiarity does not give her license to start making references that are inappropriate. Sexually charged jokes, comments about religion or race, or references to personal appearance do not belong in the workplace -- and may be illegal -- especially when they are uttered by the boss. Report potentially discriminatory or harassing comments to your human resources department.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.