When A Manager Intimidates Their Employees | Employer Misconduct

Have you ever worked for a manager or supervisor that has made you feel as if you were going to the principal’s office whenever you went to see him or her?

Was he/she very intimidating? 

Whether intentional or not, intimidation can cause employees to experience anxiety that can adversely affect their work performance as they become afraid to go to their manager with work related issues. 

Sometimes, even when employees love their job and have great relationships with their co-workers, it isn't enough.

They still experience higher than necessary levels work-place stress which erodes employee engagement and performance. So, what can you do?

In a situation with a supervisor or manager, there is often an imbalance of power that may be taken advantage of but shouldn't be.

Many people get hired or promoted into management positions and rarely receive managerial training.

When training is provided, there is often little follow-up or monitoring that what is learned in the training is actually being used. 

It is important for companies to make certain that their managers and supervisors have and use the leadership skills to do the job they are hired to do above and beyond their technical expertise. 

This requires follow-up by HR and a manager/senior manager to ensure new supervisors and managers are successfully managing their people.  They may have the technical skills but lack the interpersonal skills needed in today’s changing world.

Often people don’t realize how their actions really do affect others. 

I know it may sound odd to suggest a manager doesn’t realize how he or she is affecting their employees, but if - because of the power imbalance - no one comes forward in a respectful and honest way to make the manager aware, a manager may never know how their employees are being affected by their actions.


...Keep this in mind when you are experiencing conflict with anyone in your life whether it is at home or on the job or with friends. Unless you tell the other person what you need or how you are feeling, how will they know? How can they take steps to change their actions? And how can they take responsibility for their part in the interaction?

Tell them what you need, not what they are doing wrong. If someone feels attacked then they get defensive. To create Cooperative Action...to get the most out of your people, this should never be your goal. Instead, your goal is to have a conflict free environment.

Telling someone how you feel and what they can do to help often gets you better results.

Suggest that intimidated workers try these words:

“Sometimes I feel a little intimidated when I have to come to you with issues. Sometimes I feel like a child coming to the principal’s office. I know that you don’t intend to come across that way. I think that as co-workers, we should all respect each others opinions and ideas. I enjoy working here and I enjoy working with you. I just wanted to let you know how I was feeling.”

Of course you should put this in your own words taking into account your specific workplace culture. 

Keep in mind that the point of this is for the employee to let the manager know how they feel. If the manager tries to defend his or her actions, employees must also take care not to get into a discussion as to who is right and who is wrong. That is not what this is about. 

It is just about ensuring that the manager knows how he or she is affecting the employee.  

Except where the manager is a true "2%er", employees will find that the conversation should go well and the awareness is welcomed by the manager. Keep in mind too that some people may not be 2%ers, they may just need time to digest the conversation.

As such, employees may not see any immediate changes...however, as the days go on, workers should notice an improvement in their manager's communication with them.

If it does not go well, encourage employees to speak to HR or to another member of the management or senior management team. It is incumbent upon all supervisors and managers to make sure that no employee is bullied or harassed.


If someone comes to you with a concern about how your actions are affecting them, listen. Hear how they are feeling. Acknowledge their feelings and your part in the interaction. Don't become defensive. 

Take some time to reflect on how your actions affect others. Have a respectful and honest conversation about how you can improve the communication between the two of you. Then do your best to change the perception they have. The word will go around the office that you did listen and you are making steps to improve how you affect others.

Everyone wants a safe and happy working environment...including supervisors and managers. Everyone has a job to do and wants to do it to the best of their ability. With open and honest communication, workplace conflict can be reduced.

Managers often don't intentionally intimidate their employees. When it does occur, however, it is important to understand why you engage in this unhealthy management behaviour.

Download our free guide, "6 Steps To Blast Past Unhealthy Management Practices" to gain necessary insight into what is behind your management practices. Click the image to download: