Are you struggling with a difficult or scary superior? Our career coach gives some advice on how best to tackle a potentially sticky situation.
Question: When taking the first steps into a career after leaving university, how should I deal with an intimidating boss when I have little experience but am eager to learn?
I’m going to start this answer by distinguishing between intimidating and bullying.
Intimidating is definitely a suboptimal management style, but it is relatively common in the workplace and something we probably all have to deal with at some point.
Bullying goes beyond this: UNISON (the UK’s biggest union) has defined workplace bullying as persistent offensive, intimidating, humiliating behaviour, which attempts to undermine an individual employee. If you experience this, don’t put up with it, report it to HR, a union representative, or tell a trusted colleague.
So how to deal with an intimidating boss? Here’s a couple of suggestions:
Is it their behaviour? Their status? Their reputation? Their expectations? What specifically about their behaviour, status, reputation or expectations?
If you can identify and name the source of your feelings of intimidation, it will make it easier to address it. Reputation and status are sort-of superficial, intimidating behaviour or expectations are more serious.