How do you handle when a manager is bullying an employee?
I have a friend who is being bullied by their manager. The manager has stripped them of all responsibility and excludes them from meetings. The manager has also called them names during conference calls where everybody can hear and takes credit for their work. My friend is starting to wear down. I'm starting to think something is really wrong. My friend is scared to go to HR. I was wondering if you could please give us some direction.
That fear your friend feels is very understandable considering the bullying behavior is coming from a manager. Yet, HR is still likely the best response to this unprofessional, unethical, out-of-control behavior.
The manager is misusing their power, as in abusing it. They are acting in a way that invites correction, discipline and could be the grounds for firing.
The manager also appears to be very insecure and maybe threatened by your friend's competency and accomplishments.
They are clearly in need of anger management coaching. Frequent punishing behavior to gain control, mocking and name calling is an anger problems. Passive aggressiveness is an anger problem. The sad, commonplace reality is most companies enable such behavior and do nothing to very, very little about it.
If your friend just says "there is no way I can go to HR" for fear of being ignored or reported, the only other choices are 1) resign 2) talk to an attorney or best 2) go to the manager and ask if they can have a private conversation.
Having this conversation moves past conflict avoidance (which should only happen when one fears physical harm). Your friend can show respect and polite behavior towards the manager and express how they would like to have a healthy workplace relationship. Your friend can mention that they are concerned they have displeased the manager and how they really want to be seen as a good worker and team player. They can then ask the manager if they are falling short in some areas and if so, where and to what degree?
See how the conversation is focused on what your friend may have done? This deescalates conflict, especially with someone who moves through anger arousal rapidly and loves to hurt others.
This approach is not accusatory or combative, shows respect and allows the manager to talk about their observations and feelings.
Hearing criticism can be painful. Hearing from someone whom is unprofessional, weak in emotional intelligence and nasty can be overwhelming, unfair or not factual.
Yet if your friend can remain poised and professional, they will at least learn how and why the manager thinks. From there, if your friend is still poised they can ask follow-up questions and offer to collaboratively problem solve. Maybe the manager is receptive, maybe they remain arrogant and unprofessional.
Who knows, the two might very well gain mutual understanding, the manager may feel less threatened, the two may improve the relationship, gain greater respect and your friend might leave the meeting less stressed.
If not, then HR, asking to mediate the dispute, speaking to an attorney or quitting are other choices.
Hope this helps some.