Boss Put-Downs Make Me Drop It!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about superior twists criticism of her/his treatment to demean the worker who brought it:

What to do when this situation occurs: A worker brings up an issue to Supervisors about the way she/he is treated, spoken to, etc, and the Supervisors handles this by bringing up negative things about the worker, twisting things around to make the worker look bad and brings down her/his self esteem to the point where the worker would rather drop the issue than pursue it. What is this called and how does one deal with it?

Signed, Nagged To Death

Dear Naged To Death:

I know of no neat phrase that characterizes a supervisor putting down a subordinate. Obviously your supervisor was not open to discussion of the complaint you brought and instead focused on flaws he/she saw in you. The important thing is how do you cope with such a confrontation. Here are several suggestions:

1. Reflect on the negatives that your supervisor mentioned. Rather than allowing them to bring you down, see them are fix-it challenges. If the fix it is a matter of grooming, attendance, tardiness, or attitude, these are fixable. If the negatives are mistakes in how you do your job, learn exactly what was not good and how to fix it. If you don’t know how to dance, take lessons!

2. Build credibility. Keep the lines of communication open–small talk, cheering on what you see is good, suggesting ways to cut wasted supplies, time, money.

3. Log what is mistreatment–when, who, where, witnesses, and jot down what might have prevented and can correct the problem.

4. Suggest to your supervisor that he/she schedule weekly skull sessions that engage everyone in the work group in reviewing what went well in the past week and what needs improvement.

5. When you want to be heard with a complaint, come with a brief statement of the problem and a suggestion for how it might be prevented or corrected. Then use the broken record technique–rather than allowing the supervisor to shift the topic, repeat what you have come about and repeat it until some solution is on the table and a follow up time to see how that solution is working is scheduled.Think WEGO is not just an idle word, but suggests an attitude and problem-solving action. If these thoughts make sense, feel free to keep us posted on what you do–what works and what does not.

William Gorden