A Condescending Boss

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a family business: Should I express my opinion to the wife who is my boss?

My place of employment is a restaurant that is owned by a husband and wife. It is not a chain restaurant so all the policies and procedures come directly from what they find to be most productive and set us up for success. Although the wife is technically our “boss” the husband is the one who is always there and is dealing with day-to-day operations. It is safe to say that I am there more often and more involved with operations than the wife, my “boss.”

However, when she does come to work she is very condescending to employees and gives contradicting feedback than that given by her husband. There have been occasions where the wife and I clash and having altercations resulting in her getting upset with me and I with her. My boss always takes her side because he said “family has to come first.”

I get where he is coming from; it would be very hard to go against the opinions of any family member, especially your wife/husband. He taught me that “less is more” with her, meaning basically to shut up and deal with it. I feel silenced and that my opinion is not valued. My question would be how do I express my feelings of inferiority when I know that I put in much more time and effort into the success of our restaurant?

Signed,

Silenced, But Don’t Like It

Dear┬áSilenced, But Don’t Like It:

The answer to your question is to practice saying, “Yes, mam” with a genuinely cooperative manner. That’s how to get along with your boss. Or you frankly ask for a “time out” meeting in which you tell her how you feel about ways she bosses. Such a confrontation might risk you being fired; however, likely not because apparently you’ve earned you value to this place.

Since probably you need this job and have invested enough of your working life in it, the safe move would be to contritely accept her bossing and to see her intentions as positive. Don’t pit her husband’s instructions against hers. Rather see your role as helping this restaurant to be so successful that they will open a second one and ask you to manage it. A cooperative attitude does not completely rule out a time-out session. Such a session could begin with questions, “What are you pleased with about my performance? Are there things that I do that bug you and you’d like me to do differently?”

These questions likely would result in a straightforward response, “You do ok when you listen to what I say.” Or possibly, she might say, “Why do you ask? Don’t you like it here?” Whatever her reply to your questions, they should open you to say how much you have learned and try to make the restaurant a success. You can list some of the things you learned and do. She most likely will say something like, “Is there something else that you have on your mind?”

If so, this in another opening, this time to say, “I don’t feel respected when bossed as though I intentionally don’t do what you want and do it fast enough. And I would appreciate it when you occasionally say I have done a good job.” In light of her response, you can add, “Is it ok with you to talk about how we might communicate better or when I see something that bothers me?”

A time-out session is no quick fix, but it has the possibility of talking about talk, and that is a step toward developing do and don’t rules about how you communicate in you work setting. This then can evolve to conversations about small things that could be done to cut wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy, and wasted money; topics about which your boss and her husband care. You probably can’t shape your current job to be one you love, but as long as you are there it will be so much more satisfying if you can think of it as one in which you take pride.

Read Fish Tales, the story of Pike Place World Famous Fish Market in Seattle and apply its playfulness to good service in the way you work. Also why not, give that book to your boss and husband and ask them if its story might apply to their restaurant? My signature sentence, “Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS” is my way of suggesting an answer to your question in twelve words?

William Gorden