It's not just what you say; it's how you say it.

Imagine going to work everyday and feeling like your boss is out to get you and actively working to push you out or get you fired. Everyday we work with professionals going through some form of this. Sometimes there is discrimination at issue, some form of retaliation, or another illegal reason, and sometimes it’s just personal. Regardless, how you react to the situation can determine whether you whether you continue to have a job, whether you have a viable claim, and/or whether you can get out with some financial protection (i.e. severance) to get you through to your next opportunity.

If you take a lot of pride in your work and your skills, it’s tempting to immediately go on the offensive in response to an attack on your reputation. While a professional and calculated offense might be the right approach, reactive communication is rarely a good idea. Even when your employer is in the wrong, it is important for you to maintain control of your emotions and your communications.

Here are three tips to help you get through the situation:

1. Identify your goals.

If the environment has gotten so bad that you can’t imagine staying with your current job long-term, the substance and style of your communications need to be different than if you want to stick around. Keep in mind that it is easier to find a job from a job though and you may want to consider working towards a prolonged exit.

2. Create a plan.

Having a plan gives us a sense of greater control over our lives. Even though you can’t control a bad boss or completely insulate your employment status, you can prepare for different outcomes. This means identifying steps that will move you towards your goals. If you want out, make sure you are planning time for your job search. If you want out and you want to pursue possible claims against your employer, make sure you are documenting events correctly.

3. Think before you speak (or write).

Relationships are based upon communication. And, when a relationship is already fractured (which it must be if you are in a situation where your boss is actively out to get you), communication is critical to repairing the damage. When we’re tired, worn down or feel defeated, we often forget the purpose of our communication and focus on our emotions. Big mistake. Work-place communications should be purposeful. Think of your goals and your plans before opening your mouth or (especially) hitting the send button.