For most people, it’s a rarity to go through their working lives and end up with a boss they admire, rather than one that screams at them, says derogatory things about them and regularly threatens their job security. This is likely due to the pressures that all of us have been living under since 2008, which has resulted in an uglier and more stressful working environment for many.
Managers, supervisors, directors, and other authorities are pushing their employees harder and harder and are not afraid to treat them poorly; in many workplaces the situation has created an abusive work environment. What can an employee do if they’re faced with this situation?
Here are a few active steps that should be taken if you have an abusive work environment or an abusive boss:
If you happen to work in a unionized environment, you can contact your union representative to see what can be done under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement signed between the union and the employer. The union representative should be able to tell you what your options are and will be able to advise you as to what you should do.
If you don’t work in a unionized environment, you will most likely have to fend for yourself. In such a situation, the first thing you need to do is decide whether or not you should approach your boss to discuss the abusive behavior. You may have to trust your gut instinct. It may also be wise to seek the advise of friends and family. Discussing the matter with other employees is not recommended.
There may be impending layoffs coming that they’re aware of, which you are not, and if so they’ll tell the management about what you told them knowing you’ll be seen as a discontent and you’ll be the one that receives the layoff notice. So proceed with caution because that is the risk you take if you go to talk to your boss and you’re wrong about them. You may be lucky and your boss turns out to be a reasonable person despite their behaviour. If so, you should be able to come to an agreement that will put a stop to the abusive behaviour and thereby improve your working environment.
However, in all probability you won’t feel you can talk to your boss and you’ll need to figure out what to do. If the abusive behaviour involves sexual harassment, you may wish to speak to a lawyer to see what your options are.
Keep in mind that if your boss senses that you may be taking action about the sexual harassment the employer may take pre-emptive action to terminate your employment. Still, the likelihood of your employment be terminated was high anyway under these circumstances, so it’s probably best that the sooner you confer with an attorney, the better. Just make sure to do so discretely. Take notes of what has occurred and when, and do not discuss it with anyone at your office.
If the abusive behaviour by your boss has involved any kind of violence go to the police and report it right away. Violence in the workplace is completely unacceptable and should your employer fire you it’s likely to be seen as a wrongful dismissal and the company may have to compensate you under those circumstances.
Still the best option available for you is to find a job elsewhere, even if it means a cut in pay. If several people including upper management are aware of your boss’ abusive behaviour than it is unlikely to ever change and may even get worse. For your own mental and physical well being, you are infinitely better off finding employment in a healthier environment, which while not perfect, will be better for you. Just remember to do your job search discretely. Schedule any interviews or exams outside of your normal working hours or when you have time off and make sure to do your best so that no one in the office finds out about it.
Do not use your boss as a reference, especially since it’s unlikely they will ever say anything positive about you to anyone. Discretion is the key here because if your boss or one of your fellow employees finds out that you’re looking elsewhere for work they will likely terminate you immediately.
Until you can find work elsewhere or your working environment improves, you have to do what you can to reduce your stress outside the workplace so that you’ll be able to cope and function. Simplify your life as much as possible and try to give yourself time outside of work to go have fun and remember why life is worth living.
You need to make the time because otherwise you run the real risk of depression setting in. It’s important to try and make other areas of your life as positive as you can so that you’ll be able to get up in the morning to go and work in such an environment.
Always remember that this will not last forever and that you will eventually find a better working environment with a boss who will act professionally towards you.