I got an email yesterday from a reader who wanted to know how she should explain why she's quit three jobs in the past year. Her reason for quitting each job was the same ... her boss was a bully.
Now, it's possible that she had really, really, really bad luck and encountered three bully bosses three times in a row, but more than likely there's something going on. If you're encountering lots of problems regularly, the common theme is you.
Here are some signs that you're at fault.
- Everyone Bullies You
It would be totally awesome if everyone were super nice all the time, but that isn't reality. If you're always the target of the bully, there are two possibilities.
One is that you have some trait that bullies find super attractive. While this doesn't make the bullying your fault, there is something you can do about it. Ask your friends for their suggestions and consider therapy to learn skills that will keep you from being so vulnerable.
The other possibility is that you're way too sensitive. Bosses are supposed to tell you what to do and correct your errors. That's not bullying, that's managing.
- You Get Fired Repeatedly
Most of us lose a job now and then, but if you are repeatedly getting fired, chances are you're doing something.
Do you talk back to your boss?
Get upset when someone tells you to do something?
Come into work late?
Swear at customers?
Sit down and think about any behaviors that you have that might be annoying to a manager. Fix those things and your excessive terminations might stop.
- You Always Get Stuck With the Bad Assignments
Somebody has to have them, and it's always you.
How can that be your fault?
Well, what are your co-workers doing differently than you are?
Something, obviously, since they are getting the better tasks. You may need to change how you interact with people. You may need to learn to push back.
You can even go to your boss and say, "I've noticed that I'm always assigned to do A, B, and C while the others do X, Y, and Z. Can you explain what I need to do to have a chance to do X, Y, and Z?"
- Everyone You Work With as Dumb as a Rock
It's possible that you're a genius, but that doesn't mean other people are dumb. If no one seems to be able to understand what you are saying, it's time to evaluate how you communicate.
There's a good chance that you're not clear in your explanations and that you leave out critical pieces of information. Work to improve your communication skills and watch everyone else's IQ rise.
- You're Always the Victim
Much like with bullying, being the victim of illegal discrimination is possible. It does happen. But, it doesn't happen all the time.
If you're constantly overlooked for promotion because of your race or gender or something else like that, chances are you're using that as an excuse for something you're lacking.
Take a deep look at your skills, your attitude, and your behaviors at work. There is something you're lacking, and you need to improve it. Do that, and you'll find that suddenly people aren't discriminating against you.
- You Get in Trouble for Thing Everyone Else Gets Away With
You come in 5 minutes late and the boss unleashes her wrath upon your head. Jane comes in 20 minutes late, and the boss says, "Good morning!" What's up with that?
Well, two things. The first is that your boss isn't very good at managing and two, you're doing something wrong.
When you're getting picked on for little things that your coworkers get away with, it means that your boss is generally unhappy with your work and instead of managing your work, she's trying to manage the "easy things" like attendance or dress code.
Have a sit-down meeting with your boss and say, "I get the sense that I'm not performing at as high a level as some other people in the department. What can I do to improve?" As your performance improves, chances are, the nit-picky behavior will go away as well.
- It Is Never Your Fault
If you find yourself thinking this way, chances are it is actually your fault.
Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone.
Pretending that you don't is just another big mistake. The thing is; you cannot correct faults if you do not admit to having them in the first place. When things go south, take a look at how you goofed up.
Don't be defensive. Instead, worry about solving the problem. You'll find that suddenly there aren't as many problems—because you're fixing them instead of denying your part in them.
- Nobody at Work Likes You
If you're new to a job, and there's already an exclusionary culture (read: mean girls, although it's not necessarily female), then it's probably not your fault. However, if other people aren't excluded, you could be the person with a problem.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Do I pry into people's personal lives?
Do I spread gossip?
Do I say mean things?
Do I eat with my mouth open?
Do I judge people unfairly?
Do I whine a lot?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, that's the reason. Stop it.
- You Find Yourself Yelling
Screaming is appropriate when you're trying to warn someone about a brick that is hurtling towards his head. Screaming is also appropriate when there's a snake going across the floor. Screaming is not appropriate when someone makes a mistake, you're angry about a deadline being missed, or someone comes in late.
Even if you're the boss. Strike that--especially if you're the boss.
Screaming doesn't signal that you're serious. It signals that you're a jerk. If you are easily provoked, your employees or co-workers have no reason to make an effort--they'll get yelled at for everything. Instead, learn how to control your temper and watch how everyone else improve their performance.
- Your Boss Tells You That You're the Problem
Sometimes bosses stink. Absolutely, positively, but they are still the boss. So, when your boss says, "Don't do that," or, "You're too picky," or "You're too whiny" or "You're too late" believe her.
Don't ever discount your boss's feedback. Even if she's off her rocker, she's still the one that can fire you, and determines your raise and your assignments. Either fix what your boss tells you to fix, or find a new job.
But, don't, under any circumstances, ignore the flashing neon sign she's holding saying, "YOU HAVE A PROBLEM."