I work for a small tech company (~10 people) as a software developer. I have been here for 2 years now and I am slowly realizing how manipulative my boss is (unfortunately he is also the owner).
One of his acts is to message me as soon as I leave my desk. I am at my desk 90-95% of the time, but somehow ~25% of his messages come when I am away from my desk, and amazingly enough they often come within minutes (or sometimes seconds!) of me leaving for lunch. My boss can't see me at my desk from his private office in the back, but his mom is our secretary who sits in the front and can see everyone enter/leave. I am pretty sure she must be messaging him as soon as I leave and then he messages me. When my boss messages me for real it is usually with an assignment that he would like me to focus on today/tomorrow/this week. The messages he sends as soon as I take a lunch break contain some bs question I know he doesn't care about (he would never ask for my opinion otherwise/doesn't care what I think) and he is just fishing for an answer. I'd say he is trying to keep track of my lunch break (i.e. the time I respond when I get back from lunch - the time he initially messaged me which is right after I left for lunch), or intimidate me into not taking my lunch break, or both.
In the past when he has attempted this, I have simply ignored his messages (the greatest feeling I have ever had at work sadly) until he has seen me in the office. At which point I will respond, so he can't get mad at me for ignoring him, but his plan doesn't work since I didn't message him back right away he has no idea how long I took for lunch. This caused him to back off for a while, but he started doing it again a couple of weeks ago. When he did it today I confronted him about it, asking him to stop and to treat me with more respect. He claimed it was a coincidence that he messaged me the exact same minute I left for lunch (LOL!). He only referred to today, tho we both know it has been happening since I started working 2 years ago. I didn't press him about it and accepted his answer that it was a coincidence (tho he must know from my tone/body language that I don't actually believe him) because I just wanted to get the point across that I was aware of what he was doing, hoping that will stop him.
I am an incredibly shy/quiet person in general which makes me a target for this kind of bullying. My boss also invades my personal space, uses intimidating body language, will respond to me/ignore me as a reward/punishment and does countless other manipulative things I don't have time to list/don't even know about yet.
This is a horrible job that I want out of desperately. The pay is low, can't stand my coworkers, boss obviously sucks, toxic environment in general and I'm not gaining very good technical skills. I know people will ask why I am still in this job after 2 years and believe me, getting out is all I think about (that is a separate story). The sick part is my boss knows that I am miserable/want to get the f out, but since I haven't yet it's because I can't. So he can continue to low ball me/treat me like crap and I will continue to work out of fear of getting fired and worsening my already sh*tty situation.
I feel like I am in a very desperate situation. I am fighting like hell to get out, but in the meantime what can I do about my boss? I hate the way he treats me and I want to stand up for myself, but at the same time can't risk getting fired. Please help!
Edit: This should not be on hold. There is a very clear question here: How should I handle a manipulative boss? Do I have to play his games? Should I be passive aggressive (i.e. ignore him when he's being manipulative)? Confront him (if I do this again I will basically be calling my boss, who is also the owner, a liar)? This is my first real world job and I have no experience dealing with a boss like this. Everything else provided is just background. It is not a question of whether or not he is doing what I described above. He is. I am not paranoid, I have worked with him for 2 years now, I know what he is like. The messages he sends when I leave for lunch is one very specific example (and it happened the day I wrote this so it was fresh in my mind), but there are many others (this is his MO)
Edit 2: I have realized unfortunately that no one in this thread is intelligent enough to understand what I am talking about. Most of the replies below are stupid, a few were helpful. Thanks anyways