Abuse of power

Abuse includes humiliating you, threatening you, intimidating you or possibly coercing you. It doesn’t include normal management tasks such as reviewing your performance or assigning your workload, unless your boss does so unfairly. Unfairness ranges from racial or sexual discrimination to singling you out for the worst assignments as a way to bully and dominate you. Offensive, humiliating verbal or physical conduct may count as harassment as well as being abusive. Types

Abuse manifests in many different ways. Some abusive bosses are constant critics who put down, insult and belittle you.

Others intimidate you with angry, out-of-control rants and emotional explosions. Abuse may not be obvious: Some supervisors appear nice when they’re face to face with you, then back stab you later. Control freaks use their power to micromanage or unreasonably restrict your ability to do anything without their approval. In most cases, these behaviors have more to do with your boss’s personal issues than anything you’ve done.


If the abuse is a rare lapse in an otherwise-excellent boss, it may be best to let it go. Even if it’s consistent, enduring the abuse until one of you moves on is an option. If it’s more than you can put up with, confront your supervisor, but do it professionally. State the problem without losing control or flinging abuse or insults at her. Document the incidents in case you have to complain to higher-ups. If you do not see an improvement in your relationship with your boss, the next step in a visit to Human Resources for advice.

A detailed track record shows you’re not just a whiner. Legal Action

Sometimes abuse goes beyond what’s legal. When a supervisor targets you because of your race, religion or gender, you have grounds for legal action; some states add other standards, such as sexual orientation. If your boss defames you — telling lies about your performance or your personal life — that may be actionable too. If you make a legitimate complaint to the company and don’t get a response, or your company has no provisions for preventing harassment, you may be able to sue the firm.