The boss has different rules, right? Well, really, she shouldn’t. In an appropriately equitably office environment, members of management don’t take extended coffee breaks, make promotion decisions based upon personal preference or get away with inappropriate comments simply because they reside in corner offices. If an individual in a position of power does do these things, she is misusing the power she wields. When power misuse is apparent, it can damage employee morale and leave workers who are below this power hog feeling less like valued employees and more like serfs thrust into servitude. If you can see that the power is out of whack in your office, work to bring an end to the power misuse.
Help to write an equitable company policy. Are you currently using your overly long employee handbook as a doorstop? If so, dust it off. This document, if written and implemented properly, provides valuable behavior guidelines and rules that apply to all members of a work environment. If you feel that power is being misused in your workplace, dig into this trove, looking specifically for any rules that your supervisor may be violating. If there are no specific examples, champion the update of this document and volunteer to revisit this could-be-useful handbook. If you do write revisions, make them clear, concise and actionable. With new rules in place, your workplace power abuser’s ability to take advantage of her position of power could be squelched.
Document any misuses of power. Before you can do anything about the misuse of power, you have to prove that it is occurring. Keep a running, written log of instances of power misuse. Each time you witness an example of misuse of power, add an entry. Head the entry with the time and date, then write down a small description. If the occurrence specifically violates any written company policies, note this, as well.
Mention your concerns, diplomatically, to a higher-up. Don’t get in a huff and run to the big boss’s office like a kindergartner tattling at recess. Instead, e-mail the head honcho and request a meeting. At the meeting, detail your concerns, focusing on the impact that this power misuse is having on morale and productivity. When presenting your concerns, remain the consummate professional; be a concerned-about-the-business worker, and not an insulted employee trying to get a supervisor into trouble.
Report the abuse of power to human resources if your initial report doesn't get action. If this department does nothing to help, or your office doesn’t have a human resources department, report the abuse to the U.S. Department of Labor or, if the abuse of power related to inequitable treatment of a protected class of people such as women or minorities, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Both of these governmental agencies help to ensure that employees receive fair and equitable treatment, which is something to which you are legally entitled, says Gilbert Holmes of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union.
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.