Social & Interpersonal Skills

What To Do When Your Boss Says Hurtful Things?  

Most people start their new jobs hoping the employer will treat them with respect and decency. Unfortunately, some workers get hit with demoralizing and disrespectful treatment instead. This piece will discuss superiors with caustic tongues and cruel mannerisms and what to do when your boss says hurtful things.

Why Some Bosses Are Toxic

Everyone has a story, which is why some people grow up to be toxic managers and some don’t. Bosses who use aggressive and abusive behavior more than likely learned it from someone. Perhaps they were exposed to it during another time in their lives, such as during childhood.

Sometimes, these individuals do not know how to interact with other people healthily, so they resort to insults, intimidation, and belittlement to get things done. Such bosses can typically take training courses to manage their employees more effectively. However, these poor management tactics sometimes go far beyond inadequate leadership training.

Some supervisors actually have sadistic and hateful personalities, and they enjoy putting others down. In these situations, the bosses don’t abuse their workers to get results; they do it to obtain satisfaction. No comprehensive management training course can rectify behavior of that nature.

Remember that the world is full of people who have had good and bad experiences. Those experiences helped to shape who they are today. A child who always takes a role as a bully during his or her early years will most likely take on the same role as an adult. That’s why we have bullying bosses in today’s corporate world.

Things Toxic Bosses Say

what to do when your boss says hurtful things

Toxic bosses are likely to say all manner of hurtful things because they usually operate with the intention of:

Crushing Your Self Esteem

Some supervisor people want to rob workers of their self-esteem because they believe they’ll feel better if they knock everyone else down to how they feel about themselves.

Thus, they will attempt to destroy your self-esteem by convincing you to believe your work isn’t good enough, other workers are much more valuable than you, or something’s wrong with you physically or mentally.

Examples of some things these types of bosses include are:

“I don’t even know what I hired you for. What good are you?”

“So-and-so did it faster/better than you did. He/she is my favorite.”

“I’m starting to think you’re slow.”

Usually, managers don’t behave this way. They carry a high level of professionalism. However, these incidents are increasing as more caustic personalities are hired to manage others, and the higher-ups turn a blind eye to it.

Causing You to Fear Losing Your Job

Harsh managers might constantly try to scare you about your job security to intimidate you. Such a manager would probably say things like:

“I can replace you in 60 seconds.”

“If you don’t want the job, we’ll find someone who does.”

“You’re lucky to have a job here at all.”

Making Your Time Miserable

Making the time you spend at your job miserable is another way some bad bosses torture their workers. It’s not always the words they say that make them miserable; it’s sometimes their actions. In some extreme cases, it’s both. These are examples of a boss making an employee’s time at the workplace miserable:

Embarrassing the Employee in Front of Customers

Some bosses are notorious for belittling workers in front of customers and other employees to make them feel super small. They may over-exaggerate some former mistakes or say something insulting, like calling the employees stupid while other people watch. That behavior is sometimes the most damaging that comes from management.

Assigning the Worker Horrible Tasks

Spiteful managers might send targeted workers to do menial tasks they despise or don’t wish to do. To add insult to injury, they may say insulting things while the employee does a disgraceful job.

Overtalking the Workers

Overtalking someone who has something to say is one of the crudest things another human can do. Sometimes, bad bosses do it to maintain control over the workers. They never let their employees get a word in edgewise.

Things Your Boss Should Never Say to You

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There are some things your boss should never say to you because they can create hostile situations and leave the company vulnerable to lawsuits. These are some examples of general topics to avoid rather than precise words. Any verbal exchanges within these realms can be problematic.

Stereotypical Insults Regarding Race

Speaking of one’s race or ethnic group negatively is not suitable for any person, especially someone in a leadership role. It can open up a huge can of worms for the employer.

Gender-Offensive Words

A person in a supervisory role should never say derogatory things about someone’s gender. Here’s an example of something a manager should say to a woman:

“Be quiet. Men are talking here!”

Words that Have to Do With Sexual Orientation

Anything having to do with sexual orientation is a huge no. No such words should come from a supervisor’s mouth. For example, the manager should not imply the worker lives a particular sexual lifestyle, nor should that person ask the employee for that information.

Words That Have to Do with Sex at All

Sex is a bad topic to bring into discussion at all in the workplace. Therefore, a manager should never speak any innuendos, jokes, or any other suggestive material regarding sexual acts.

Harsh Words About One’s Religion

Managers should never make fun of another person’s religion, either. Workplaces are typically places of inclusion and diversity. Therefore, they often have strict policies against alienating any group of people.

“Jokes” About Disabilities

Any words about disabilities that don’t discuss creative ways to accommodate workers are most likely prohibited. A manager shouldn’t even flirt with the idea of making fun of someone with a disability.

Are Bosses Allowed to Say Hurtful Things?

Unfortunately, many bosses get away with the harmful words they spew at their employees. This terrible situation occurs because people don’t take verbal and emotional abuse as seriously as straight-up physical altercations.

Thus, a manager can get away with mean words as long as they don’t violate anyone’s protected status. In other words, they can’t get away with hurling racial slurs or calling a disabled worker an R word, but they can slip through the cracks with other insults that leave workers wounded for days.

What to Do When Your Boss Says Hurtful Things

You may not know what to do if your boss says hurtful things, and it might be hard to know how to deal with a toxic boss without quitting your job. These are some helpful tips if you find yourself in this horrible situation at work.

Address Your Boss Respectfully

what to do when your boss says hurtful things

It’s possible that your boss doesn’t know he or she is being disrespectful. Not everyone has home training and manners. Unfortunately, corporations place some uncouth people in management positions sometimes.

You can give your manager the benefit of the doubt and have a one-on-one discussion about the mean things he or she said to you. A respectable person will apologize and improve the behavior. An uncivilized person will increase the negativity.

Try the Avoidance Method

You might be able to slip away with the avoidance method if you work in a large building. Stay busy and stay out of your boss’s way for the entirety of your shift unless they reach out to you and request that you perform a specific task. You might experience fewer cruelty occurrences when you put distance between yourself and your boss.

Switch Departments or Sites

You can consider changing departments or locations if your supervisor’s antics are taking a heavy toll on your mental health.

It might do you some good to get into another facility or department and take a chance on a manager with a different personality. Keep in mind, however, that the culture might be the same in other areas of the establishment.

Take the Matter to Upper Management

You can try reporting the problem to upper management if you have a well-documented list of offenses. You must have concrete evidence of your boss’s harassment or abuse and be willing to deal with backlash or retaliation if it happens to you. It isn’t supposed to happen, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. Therefore, you have to prepare yourself for it.

Reclaim Your Power

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You could also make a sound choice not to let another human being control whether you like your job, stay at your job, or perform your job well. You can decide today that you are tired of allowing other people to disturb your peace and cause you to change various aspects of your life.

Take back the power you have given to your boss and his or her behaviors, and see that person for what he or she is: a human being in pain. People who have to terrorize and intimidate others usually have a wealth of issues and are in far more pain than you know.

That doesn’t mean it’s okay for them to treat you that way. However, you can use that information to deal with the mean things toxic bosses say in the most productive way for yourself.

Those are some options to consider if your boss is being mean to you and saying things that aren’t very nice. You do have options, and you have the right to take any of them starting today.

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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