Boss Called Me Negative In Open Meeting

Question:

Today in a impromptu meeting with my boss and coworkers, my boss verbally abused me in front of everyone by saying “Leave it to you to be negative.” He said, “I can always count on you to be the most negative person in the room.” He said I had a negative attitude.

I only had a suggestion as to why production was down. I did not raise my voice or show any disrespect to him. I told him that he should not talk to me like that in front of ten other people, but he just talked over me. I was humiliated. I want to go to the mill manager and complain, but don’t want my boss to try to get even with me and make my life miserable. What should I do?

Signed,

Humiliated


Answer:

Dear Humiliated:

If this is the first time this has happened, and what you describe is the extent of it, it would seem you would be better off to talk privately to your boss about this, with an attitude of trying to reduce the conflict between the two of you. This will give you a chance to express how humiliated and hurt you were by his remarks–and may result in your boss acknowledging that he was wrong to handle it as he did.

Consider to, as a self-evaluation that what your boss said may have been expressed poorly, but he might have some valid issues if you have a habit or reputation for finding fault, criticizing management or supervisors, or being negative with co-workers. I’m not implying that you do those things, but it would be unusual for someone to say you “always” are negative, if you haven’t said some things before that may have seemed to be that way.

A good portion of our letters are about the harm that negative remarks, gestures and overall attitudes can do in the workplace. Almost all the people making the remarks say, “I was only trying to point out a problem….” But others see it as just another negative comment in a long line of negative remarks.

If you absolutely have never been known for that kind of habitual behavior, then it is doubly important that you talk to your boss to find out why he thinks it and what you can do to show him that it is not true.

Perhaps you can talk to a friend who was present, to find out his or her perspective about what happened. If the friend was shocked and feels you are generally a positive person, that will give you more support for talking to your boss. If your friend says you do tend to be negative and did, in fact, come across that way in the meeting, then you may want to still talk to the boss, but with a different emphasis.

Whatever you do, you know you’ll still be working with this boss–and it would be to your benefit if your relationship is positive. The only way to achieve that is to be able to talk to him comfortably about issues such as this. Consider telling him that you do not feel negative and don’t want that reputation, so you would like to talk to him about what has happened that would make him think you are negative.

Or, you might admit that you tend to be the kind of person who points out flaws when you think they exist, but you want to be viewed as someone who also is supportive of the team. You could say that however you feel about the way things are done at work, you do care about the people and you want to be seen as someone who works to solve problems. When you say that, you can reinforce that your remarks were not meant to be critical, but rather were to help explain what was causing production problems so that a solution can be found.

If you go to the mill manager at this point, you are right that it will increase the conflict between you and your boss. It also might result in co-workers and other supervisors feeling badly about your actions, or at least being caught in the middle.

By talking to your boss you give him a chance to apologize for over-reacting verbally, or he might explain why he was so frustrated. But at least it would show you to be a strong person who doesn’t take offense easily and wants to be part of the solution rather than contributing to the problem.

Maybe while all of this is going on, you can contribute ideas for solving the production problem that led to the meeting in the first place. That would certainly help demonstrate that you are a valuable, positive employee.

Best wishes as you deal with this issue, and work to build a better relationship with your boss and a more positive reputation with him and maybe with others.

Tina Lewis Rowe