What should you do or say if your boss treats you differently?

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Responding to an Unfair Boss

Unfair bosses are often psychologically abusive. When Greg dismissed Charlotte's suggestion, he winked and used a joking tone to remind Charlotte that he held the power. By using sarcasm, Greg made it abundantly clear that he viewed Charlotte's initiative as laughable. Other types of things an unfair boss might do include:

  • Sending e-mails containing personal attacks
  • Publicly humiliating employees in subtle ways
  • Communicating with sarcasm or teasing
  • Acting as if an employee doesn't exist

Even great bosses occasionally act like jerks. However, if you repeatedly find yourself feeling demoralized after interacting with your superior, chances are you're dealing with an unfair boss.

When workers feel demeaned, attacked or ignored, they often attempt to regain control by complaining to other coworkers, launching minor attacks or giving the boss the cold shoulder. While an "I'm not speaking to you" strategy may feel good in the short term, these types of responses are ultimately self-defeating.

A better strategy would be to:

  • Develop a certain degree of emotional detachment. By allowing her whole self-esteem to be wrapped up in her job, Charlotte made herself needlessly vulnerable.
  • Look for little victories. Charlotte did nothing wrong in showing initiative. However, since her boss Greg dismissed her ideas, maybe Charlotte could regain a sense of control by being successful at a series of smaller tasks.
  • Seek out support. Without venting or gossiping, Charlotte may still regain some equilibrium in the workplace by developing positive relationships with fellow coworkers.

By definition, bosses have power over their employees. Employees depend upon bosses for information and access, as well as good reviews and promotions. If your job security and/or civil liberties are threatened by unfair treatment from your supervisor, it may be time to take the next step. We discuss how to report an unfair boss in the next section.