How to stop a bullying boss?

There isn’t much you can do if your boss is a bully. The reason for this is because – they do it because it works for them. In order to get them to stop – it requires a process over time. This process over time is called an extinction process – and it includes something called – an extinction burst. It happens anytime you try to stop a behavior that is a habit.


When the behavior is bullying, the escalation of the behavior that is the extinction burst manifests as more bullying and retaliation. It’s predicted that this will happen. It’s going to happen. The only question is – how bad is it going to get before something gives. That something, according to statistics is usually the employee being fired. However, on occasion, the bullying boss is fired, but that’s kind of rare.

What all this means is – that even if you are taught HOW to get a bully to stop, in order to get them to stop, you have to consistently call them out on their behavior for a period of time. During this period of time, the bullying is going to gets worse. And because the bully is your boss and because they do have power over you, they can and will retaliate against you.

Before you do anything, have a plan. Decide how you are going to respond. Who can you go to for help? Who are your allies in this process? How will you document all this behavior and the escalation of behavior that is going to occur? When and how will you share that documentation with upper management?

Unless you have the support of your boss’ boss – you aren’t going to succeed in getting the bullying boss to stop. So don’t try to get them to stop. If you try, all you will do is trigger an extinction burst and make things worse for yourself with no hope of success.

To get the needed support, you have to provide ample documentation of what exactly is going on. Everything. Bullying and harassment are defined as a pattern of behavior. You have to document the entire pattern of behavior. Otherwise, the upper management will not understand the extent of the problem and will brush it off. If you can show them the overwhelming pattern of behavior, it’s much harder to ignore. Plus – if they fail to take action, that documentation will help serve as the basis of a potential lawsuit.

Finally, be realistic. You can’t report it once to HR and have it stop. Getting a behavior to stop is a process that takes place over time. You have to be consistent and document everything and work with upper management and employee relations over a period of time in order to be successful. And again, in that time, things will get worse before they get better. So once you start this process – don’t give up. Keep going until it plays itself out.

stobullyworkplacegraphicI have a course – Stopping Harassment & Retaliation in the Workplace for people who want to learn how this process works – including the science behind how and why this process works to give people the best chance at success –

And for HR professionals – I have a variety of courses, to teach them how to properly support people who file harassment complaints in the workplace.

I also have staff trainings.