When you Work for a Bully

I can see why some people love this book. It talks about how awful bullies are how much they can destroy your life, and it goes into great detail about how to quit, how to manage your finances after you quit, how to pursue legal action to get revenge on the bully, and how to get a new job.

However, this book is supposed to be about "assessing your option" - indicating it might actually help you WORK with the bully. In reality, the author, Susan Futterman, pretty much tells you up front that it is completely hopeless to work with a bully and exhorts you to sue them instead. Entire chapters are dedicated to your legal options. In fact in one section she talks about how most wise career coaches would tell you to leave the company with grace, since it is your own career and life that you are maintaining. She says this is balderdash, that it's much more rewarding to get emotional satisfaction for yourself and burn those bridges.

Reading the bio material, it appears that Susan was herself bullied by a boss, she parted ways with that boss, and the experience caused her to write the book. So one gets the sense that in her case it was futile to find a solution with the bully and now she wants to coach everyone else in the situation to go through that transition using what she learned about getting COBRA insurance, getting on food stamps, and so on. Yes, I appreciate that for people who take her specific path, this book is very helpful. But - again - what about the many people who are looking for tips to COPE and SURVIVE with a bully? She gives up on them very quickly.

So, let's start at the beginning. Susan does briefly cover how to differentiate between a regular manager and a bully. A regular manager will try to phrase criticism so it is at least reasonably constructive. You did well on the report, but need to focus more on catching typos. A bully will constantly criticize, and even the very rare compliments will have a criticism in them. Bullying isn't about one act. It's about a continual, constant stream of criticisms. You could look at one specific instance and think it wasn't that bad if it was a one time thing, but because it happens constantly with no let-up it becomes bullying.

If your boss has a legitimate concern - for example you agreed that your sales quota for March was $X and you made nowhere near $X - then your boss has a correct reason to bring this up and press you to do better. Bullying would be if you never set a quota, you followed his instructions and did everything he asked and he started yelling at you for not doing well enough.

Some managers are simply clumsy. They have legitimate complaints with your work and simply do not express their frustration well. With those managers you can learn how to "manage your manager", gently guide them towards a more productive feedback cycle so you can indeed meet the goals. However, with a bully, you never have goals. You don't get useful feedback, you don't get any constructive direction on how to achieve what they want. You just get abuse, yelling, criticisms and demeaning comments.

Bullies usually don't see themselves as bullies! They think they are great, powerful managers. They think they are brutally honest and feel that's a good trait. They feel that they're incredibly thorough, and do not see it as micro-managing or nit-picking. They do not realize their reactions are completely lacking in productive value. They think their yelling should be enough to get the job done.

This information was all *wonderful* and I was incredibly psyched after reading all of this to get into the meat of the matter. After all this was only the first part of the book! We were exploring the nature of bullies, a bit about what made them tick, and how to make sure we weren't calling a "people-challenged" manager a bully just because they were on the gruff side. There was hope to turn the situation around.

Unfortunately, right there is where the helpful information for me ended. The book goes right into "prepare to leave immediately - and here is how". It was a real surprise to me. It is like getting a book on "how to work out things with your grumpy husband" and having the book say "OK this is why husbands can be grumpy. X, Y, Z. Here is what you do - get divorced! Get a great lawyer, sue the guy for all he's worth, and rant to your friends for years afterwards about the waste of time he was."

I'm not too far off here. Susan pushes hard for everyone to leave their boss. Journal in detail every thing you do while you're leaving, because you might be able to sue him for millions. Only do what is required of you at the job. Be calm and professional, to bolster your legal case, and document every request and copy every request back to him. Put it all in your legal files. Have witnesses around for any interactions, and get them to sign legal documents.

Then she goes into all the "aftermath". She talks in great detail about finance issues, how to clean up your budget, how to use Canadian pharmacies to save cash? She goes in detail about how someone goes about quitting, and how to negotiate for a nice package on the way out. She talks about the ins and outs of job searching. And, of course, she has a very dense area on legal options and how to get back at your bully boss.

I can see if the book was titled "Bully Boss - How to Quit, Sue, and Seek Revenge". That would be the perfect title for this book. Again, she explicitly tells people that instead of leaving quietly, that it is far more satisfying to leave in a way that lets you exorcise your demons against your bully boss and get you the satisfaction you've craved. She says this even while acknowledging that career coaches would warn you this is the worst thing for your future career. She exorts you to rant and rave to friends for months afterwards, to cleanse your system. Every book I've read on healing focuses on filling yourself with calm, rewarding, encouraging thoughts - not with evil, revenge-fantasy harm-someone diatribes.

If you are working with a bully and are ALREADY thinking about quitting - and really need help landing on your feet - then I'd recommend this book. It does have a lot of detail about the steps you take in order to quit and make that transition. But if your issue is that you think your boss is a bully and want to get ideas for how to cope, this is NOT the book for you. Since that was - to me - what it was presenting itself to be, I would give this 3/5 stars.

Buy When you Work for a Bully from Amazon.com

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