If the post-pandemic workforce coined a slogan equivalent to the 1970s song and catchphrase “Take this job and shove it,” it just might be “No more working for jerks.” In other words, so long to the insufferable bully boss.
Emboldened by the autonomy of working from home for almost two years, employees have become more outspoken about what they want from jobs and supervisors. And with huge numbers of employees heading out the door — a record-high 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November alone — employers need to take notice. The fact that so many workers are quitting suggests that they are confident they can quickly find other jobs or strike out on their own; or, they feel that the daily dose of toxicity at the workplace is no longer worth the paycheck.
“The tolerance for dealing with jerky bosses has decreased,” Angelina Darrisaw, chief executive of the firm C-Suite Coach, said in a recent New York Times article. People are realizing that the stress, indignities, and unpleasant personalities they had accepted as standard parts of office life are mostly non-existent in their home offices.
Bullying also is a larger part of work culture than many people realize. A 2019 poll by Monster revealed that 90 percent of employees said they had been bullied at work, and in 51 percent of the incidents, it was the bully boss at the root of their stress.
Bosses who are bullies are different from ones who are exacting and demanding. While demanding bosses treat all employees the same way, a boss who is a jerk is generally defined as one who torments a few employees or only one.
Hiring leaders with this personality type may seem counterproductive for companies, but often, the typical bully boss initially comes across as friendly; moreover, they are good at hiding the unpleasant aspects of their nature, looking successful and when mistakes occur, dodging the blame.
Employees who are subjected to regular bullying can suffer physically and mentally. Studies have shown that standing up to a bully boss not only improves work life, but an employee’s mental health as well. Confronting a toxic manager helps employees feel better about themselves, because they no longer feel like victims, and they earn the respect of coworkers, according to a 2015 study. For the most part, confronting the boss also did not negatively impact careers.
As the economy picks up and many businesses struggle to find enough employees, companies are being forced to look at their cultures and give more weight to workers’ demands. One positive note: In a January 12 survey of 133 executives by PwC, fewer than one in five of them said they wanted work life to resume functioning the way it did before the pandemic.
“If you’re a business leader and you want to recruit the best talent you can, you need to start prioritizing and doing the work of creating conscious culture,” according to Janine Yancey of the human resources training firm Emtrain in the aforementioned Times article from earlier this month.
Key to that new culture for many workers is flexibility. In May, 39 percent of 1,000 U.S. adults who were surveyed in a poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News indicated they would consider leaving their jobs if their employers weren’t open to remote work. The number was even higher when it came to Millennials and Gen Z; almost half said the inability to work from home could prompt them to leave.
A sense of empower that has not been seen in decades is building in the workforce, as publications, including Time, have noted. Last summer, Adrienne Barnard, a longtime human resource professional, told the magazine that “[employees] are recognizing, ‘You need me, and if I leave, it’s going to be hard to replace me.’”
In other words, if the bully boss can’t or won’t play nice in the sandbox, his or her direct reports are confident they can find a far more tolerable sandbox.
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