Psyching out a bullying boss

Nov 17 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Writing in today's Times, Rosalind Renshaw turns her attention to the vexed question of how to deal with a bullying boss.

According to David Cotton, a trainer and coach who specialises in behavioural change in individuals and companies, what’s needed is some clever psychology:

“Very often, bullying tactics are used not just to put the other person on the defensive but to make them come out fighting. Refuse to fight. Use a ‘fogging’ technique which means that you always agree with the boss first.

"For example, if the boss says to you that your paperwork is in a mess, reply: ‘Yes, I agree, it is a little messy. What specifically would you like me to do?’ In other words, pass the fight back to them. If you argue with someone, they will keep attacking. If you refuse to argue, they will go and play their game with someone else."

The Times | How to turn tables on bully bosses and workplace tyrants

Older Comments

My immediate supervisor is very happy with my work as well as all of the clients I work with but his boss has really taken a disliking to me. In meetings I have with her, she is abusive and bullying and pretty much attacks everything I say. If I try to address her points, I am automatically called defensive regardless of how calmly I try to respond. SHe treats everyone badly and everyone uniformly thinks she is a bad manager but people have learned never to disagree with her in any fashion. I am four months in the company. Starting to get really depressed about it.

really stressed at work

I believe that the best way to deal with a bully is to mirror their 'style'. This is similiar advice my father gave me when I was 10 years old and being bullied at school. When you are being shouted at, intimidated, or otherwise demeaned - scream at the bully (even if it is the boss) and get in as threatening a stance as you can without being totally physical. Just tell them really loud that you aren't taking it anymore and for them to 'BACK OFF' now. I'm certain that if you approach it this way - the bully will stop. Sure, you might be blacklisted but then again - if you are already being bullied, then most likely you have been blacklisted anyway. What do you have to lose? A job? Or is your health and self-respect more important. Your choice.


I am in a similar situation but only worse- I have only been at this company for 4 months and I am so nervous and worried because my boss is SOOO intimidating. I ended up in a very cliquey all female department. I am having a hard time fitting in and have done everything in my power to make it work. The boss wants to sit and watch me work for our upcoming review at the end of January (IN MY CUBICLE). I feel like she is just making up excuses to get rid of me...she always corrects me and cuts me off, argues everything I say and says I have low self esteem and I'm too slow. It is funny cuz I am not! I am actually a very confident person but if my superior thinks I suck at what I do, obviously I feel nervous and it affects my performance. I don't know how to handle this situation...I try so hard but I feel like she is after me and wants to get rid of me. I don't even know why I was hired to be honest…Someone else in the company recommended me for this position so my boss didn't want to disagree with her superior and so she hired me!! I feel like she bullies me …I know if I open my mouth and if there is any sort of confrontation she can easily find an excuse a week later and get rid of me. HELP!! :(


bullying boss? mmmm let me see an over powering him or her who feels because they have a title above the door they have the god given right to do what they do, that is to make peoples lifes hell from day to day. Given the opppurtinuty and 10 seconds in a dark alley way i,d give them what they deserve. Really i feel pitty for these people as they lack the the SKILL , yes the SKILL which what it is to be able to communicate with a civil tongue. To confront and deal with these individuals is very hard i know. I am going to confront my boss tomorrow as i have had enough of his ways. he is flesh and blood and an equal just like me and you. if he speeks to me nice i,ll do the same . if he talks to me in abrupt manner so will i. time to play his silly games. I only live once. all the best to you all.


I am so stressed. I have been at this doctors office for almost 3 years. My boss (the doctor) has been a family friend for 20 years. I am 21 years old. His office manager says that I'm too young and too slow. That I cant do this new receptionist position I am training for and that she refuses to help me learn. I have been nothing but polite to her. I don't know why she hates me so much, but almost every night I go home crying. Now she cut my hours AGAIN, and she has the boss convinced that I'm too slow also. I make sure I do my job correctly. I may have dragged out my duties so that I got in as many hours as I could because I need the money. What should I do? Should I give her the pleasure of me quitting? I don't want to leave. Help!!!