Exec’s Advice for Dealing with Bully Boss

This is part of a larger interview dated  July 17, 2010 on the New York Times web site with Dawn Lepore, chairwoman and chief executive of Drugstore.com and director of eBay and The New York Times Company. In this excerpt she discusses her experience working for a bully boss.

Q. Any bosses you had who were big influences?

A. I had a very bad boss early in my career. She was older than I was. She’d started in the financial services industry and she’d had a very hard time, so I think that probably shaped her as a leader. She was very smart but had terrible communication skills. She did not make people feel valued or comfortable or like they were supported at all. And I remember what that felt like. And I thought, I’m never going to do that to people.

Q. How long did you work for her?

A. Many years. I almost left twice.

Q. What’s your advice to people stuck working for a bad boss?

A. Life is about trade-offs. And you have to be conscious of the trade-off you’re making. I felt there were enough other positives in the environment and enough opportunity that I stuck it out. But, you know, I was unhappy. I had to kind of just take a deep breath and say, O.K., I know this is going to end and I’m willing to put up with this.

But you can’t be a victim. If you let yourself become a victim, that’s the kiss of death. So you’ve got to feel, O.K., I am choosing to do this, and when I decide I can no longer do it, then I will take action. So I will not let myself be so belittled that I think I can’t do anything. If it starts undermining your confidence, then you have to leave, because then that seeps into everything you do.