How To Confront The Toxic Cycle Of A Bully Boss

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How to Confront the Cycle of a Bully Boss

Who had power over you when you were a kid?

The answer to this question may just free you from excessive stress at work that has kept you dissatisfied and even exhausted.

I'll get right to the point. You, me, all of us can get caught in old behaviors from the long-ago past that remain to haunt us today. And these behaviors show up right here, right now at work, and your boss doesn't even need to be a bully for this cycle to be triggered. 

It's so easy to get ensnared in situations with bosses, co-workers, direct reports, and even clients because an old memory has been triggered about what your dad, mom, or siblings demanded of you.

Not many realize it, but more and more workplace stress is generated by the power that parents and other caretakers had over us when we were too little to speak up for ourselves.

RELATED: 5 Steps For Dealing With Bullies At Work

Yes, you have more control over your life now. However, there is a natural tendency to transfer old issues with parents to bosses and with siblings to co-workers.

How you handled being bossed around, being told you were not living up to your potential, hearing that a B on a report card was not good enough, how you were not handsome, strong, pretty, or as capable as your brother or sister, your friend, or neighbor remains as part of your personality today — whether you want it or not.

Until you stop focusing on every word that comes from the mouth of your bully boss or every snide gesture you pick up from a colleague.

RELATED: 5 Shady Signs You're Being Bullied At Work Because You're A Woman

Here's what you can do to stop this vicious cycle:

  1. Pay attention to what triggers you when you get hopping mad or seriously depressed.
  2. Observe when you are feeling victimized or discounted. Many of these attitudes are irrational and come from deep down in the well of unconscious thoughts.
  3. Ask yourself this question: Are you looking to your boss for the approval you felt you never got when you were growing up?
  4. Now, look again. Are you misinterpreting what your boss requests from you or feeling rejected when a redo is required for a project?

I'm not suggesting you suppress these memories and old feelings. I'm suggesting that you need to learn to separate childhood feelings from your present adult work life. You may need a coach to guide you or do some reading on your own.

Just know, there is a way OUT: Observe the pattern of upset and it will begin to lose its hold on you. Understand that it's a vestige of childhood situations and then learn how to transform the old behavior to what will benefit you today.

Take time right now to explore this often missing link. Is your boss really, as Bob Sutton the Stanford professor would say, a true a-hole or are you blowing the bossy boss behavior out of proportion?

RELATED: The 5 Most Common Types Of Adult Bullying

Sylvia Lafair is a noted authority on leadership and a consultant to family firms, Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs, her message is unique and timely; her insights universal and relevant.

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This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.