Probably the second most efficient way to stop your boss from harassing you is to have your boss’ boss as your ally. If your boss has a boss then by all means, find a way to get that person to understand and like you.
For the record, I still think that the first step you need to take is on yourself. Becoming more self assured and addressing the issue directly with your harasser is the best way out of a harassment situation. It not only solves your problem, it also makes you grow because anything you do to boost your confidence and increase your assertiveness will help with much more than just with stopping your harasser.
This being said, how do you get the bigger boss to like you and support you?
Well, there is a entire range of books that can help. You can find some of them under good reads.
To summarise some of the principles you will find in those books or from other resources, you will need priming, sufficient information, presence and some simple body language.
Priming boils down to making a good impression to someone before even meeting them. If someone with a good reputation speaks well of you in front of the bigger boss, her opinion will be primed to like you. If you have a hobby or practice a sport that she likes or if she sees a piece of your work that she likes a lot, she will be more inclined to like you too. The opposite is also true, if she hears only negative comments about you from someone she appreciates, she might tend to think the same. See if you know anyone who might spread a positive word about you in the right circles and ask them to help.
Enquire – without getting trapped into gossip, look around to see how the bigger boss is, what she likes and what are her habits. Use that information to try to get closer to your boss’ boss and to find common interests. You might also want to find how she feels about your boss, so that you know better how to approach the relationship. If they are good friends she could maybe help by talking to your boss and have her soften up on you. If they are the same type of person, then this is not the best option for you, you’ll have to look elsewhere for support. But if they’re not alike or best friends, chances are a difficult character like your harasser has been already spotted by the bigger boss a she already has an idea of what the other one is capable of. Sadly though, way too often harassers actually make a good impression to their own supervisors. It will take a skilled bigger boss to spot and manage a bad smaller boss.
Presence – make yourself visible around your boss’ boss. You don’t need to work on the hottest thing there is, nor go out of your skin and become a totally different person. Physical proximity like seeing her every day in the elevator and saying hello, having an office on the same floor or going to the same gym is simple and very effective.
Body language – start with the most available and easiest one of all – smile! It’s hard to find the power to genuinely smile when you are being harassed but do your best to find it. One trick is to look at the person in front of you and find one thing that you really like about them. It might be the color of the eyes, the warm laugh wrinkles around them that remind you of your someone you love, a nice tie or a piece of jewelry. If you can’t find anything, just imagine him or her with angel wings or surrounded by an aura, like Olivia Fox Cabane recommends in her book, The Charisma myth, that might do the trick. Brush up your skills by reading Allan and Barbara Pease’s The definitive book of body language. Better yet, watch some of Allan’s videos on YouTube, both insightful and entertaining. There are many books out there on the subject, choose well and start reading. This quick list here can to get yo started on body language at work in no time.
A word of caution, if you have a squeaky relationship with you boss she will not like the closeness with your big boss. This will be even more difficult at the beginning if she has a bad relationship with that boss herself. Be prepared to face additional pressure and tensions at least until your bigger boss decides to put things right but sometimes even after.
And if the bigger boss is also a bully, approaching her is no longer an option at all. Good luck and let us know how you’re doing!
This post is part of bigger picture, of a series of posts on harassment at work and how to stop it, with or without appealing to formal measures. I recommend that you read all the posts of harassment on the website as some linksare necessary to understand why I suggest some actions instead of others, in a certain post.
Photo credit: SarahRichterArt, Pixabay