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Furious to Curious: 7 Signs You’re Intimidated by Your Employer (… and How to Overcome It)

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Workplace intimidation is often so subtle and insidious that it becomes difficult to identify. This is made worse by the fact that it generally takes on a pattern of bullying actions over a long period, rather than being an isolated incident. When left unchecked, it can become a culture that’s nearly impossible to get rid of. 

The main issue in the workplace is that the person guilty of intimidation wants to control the behavior of the person being bullied. Having your emotions, psychological health, and sometimes even physical well-being controlled by someone is never acceptable. Not even when that person is your employer. 

Being in a position of leadership doesn’t automatically give someone the right to control their employees. True leadership has nothing to do with control, and everything with leading by example, in fairness, and with integrity. 

Below are 7 signs you’re intimidated by your employer:  

1. They Always Have Their Way

If your employer is forever trying to force you to do everything their way, then chances are you’re a victim of intimidation. 

The reason(s) they’re forcing you to do things their way is irrelevant. And the reason for this is that whatever they’re telling you (and often themselves) in an attempt at self-justification is probably not the real reason at all. Instead, intimidation is nearly always driven by a need to feel that their opinion is the only opinion that really matters. 

2. They Play Dirty

Employers who intimidate their workers will often leave no stone unturned if it means achieving their goal. 

These individuals are often sneaky about the ways that they cause their victims harm and discomfort. Of the many tricks deployed by office bullies, the act of ignoring someone is probably the most effective. At the same time, it’s also the least likely to be detected. 

Those who feel the need to resort to intimidation in the workplace do so because of their own shortcomings and insecurities. For this reason, the employer will often follow the path of least resistance and ignore any arguments or input. This makes ignoring others as a bullying tactic especially attractive, as they’re unwilling to own up to their crimes. 

3. Forever Changing Expectations

One sure-fire way to guarantee an employee will never be able to live up to an employer’s strict standards is to constantly move the goalposts. 

Intimidation can often be seen to take on the form of unclear goals and vague directions. The intimidating employer knows how easy it is to create a hostile environment simply by avoiding clear communication. 

4. They Often Interrupt

If your employer is constantly interrupting you when you’re talking, or even chiming in when it’s not their turn to speak, you’re probably being purposefully intimidated. 

An example of this would be to be summoned to a meeting but not afforded the space or the opportunity to give input, ask questions, and make suggestions. Employers guilty of intimidation will often take this route on purpose as it gives them the opportunity to discredit their employees in public. 

5. They Don’t Respect Your Time

Most employees are more than willing to put in extra hours and effort when asked. This is often a reasonable expectation in the workplace.

The point when such a request becomes unreasonable, and a likely weapon of intimidation, is when schedules are constantly changed, often with little to no notice. 

It’s important to realize that your time is just as valuable as your employers. For this reason, it deserves to be honored in a manner that’s considerate and respectful. 

6. They Create A Culture Of Secrecy

A culture of secrecy and exclusion is nearly always a sign of intimidation in the workplace. This can take on several forms when it’s an agenda pushed by an employer. 

Examples include keeping you out of the know about a new project, planning a social event/get-together at the office without you, or even planning something special for occasions like birthdays for select employees only. 

Secrecy is never part of a happy and healthy office or working environment, and is a favorite intimidation tactic. 

7. Selective Micromanagement 

Micromanagement is another favored tactic used to intimidate employees. 

While many managers are repeat offenders in micromanaging because they cannot successfully delegate duties and responsibilities, others may deploy this as a brazen, outright method of intimidation. 

A red flag to look out for is selective micromanagement, where you’re micromanaged more than your fellow-employees for no good reason. This often involves an expectation of constantly upholding impossible levels of performance in the workplace. 

How To Overcome Intimidation

Overcoming intimidation by an employer is a process, and should not be expected to happen overnight. In some cases, it may be best to polish up your resume and move on, but this should only be as a last resort. For the best chance of overcoming the issue, try the following: 

  • Speak to HR about the issues you’re experiencing. Ask them to take steps towards correcting them.
  • Know your rights. A hostile work environment is a form of discrimination. If HR cannot assist, there are legal avenues you can pursue for assistance.
  • Keep clear records of dates and times of all incidents. Create a timeline that shows a pattern and identifies the issue clearly.
  • Confront your employer head on. Tell them that you recognize their actions and be clear about your expectations for the future. 
  • Resist the urge to react negatively. This plays into the bully and gives them the response they want.

Bullying in the workplace is on the rise, and intimidation is a form of bullying. If you know your rights, how to cope with intimidation, and can seek assistance from HR, you can put an end to this undesirable behavior. 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Lee Anna Carrillo is a community manager at Resumoo, a resume writing service, and career resource database. Resumoo is owned by Ranq Digital LLC, a marketing and media company located in Charlotte, NC.


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