Troublemaking New Supervisor

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a new supervisor: Within the first two months, this individual has harassed and called me in conferences twice before the big boss, making complaints stating that I undermine her authority.

I am an employee that has worked for a company for 20 years, and a new supervisor that has just came on board. Within the first two months, this individual has harassed and called me in conferences twice before the big boss, making complaints stating that I undermine her authority. She stated I have asked a supervisor, who knows the work versus one who is in learning and training mode. She claims that I am insubordinate just for asking a question. This is making it very difficult for me to even be in the same room with her; she exaggerates and misinterprets everything I say and or do. No one stops her even though she is the only one complaining. What can I do?

Signed, Twenty Years and Now This

Dear Twenty Years and Now This:

I’m sure this is frustrating for you. With 20 years, you feel you have earned your right to be heard, at least listened to when you ask a question. I’m not sure what you mean by “She stated I have asked a supervisor, who knows the work versus one who is in learning and training mode.” Do you mean she sees herself as a supervisor learning and in training and you asked questions that only an experienced one would know?

Whatever you meant to say, it is clear you see her as out to make you look bad. What can you do? You say she harasses you and exaggerates but you provide no specific examples.

Not knowing what questions you asked or the tone of them, my advice must be general with a couple of overlapping suggestions:

1. Change your attitude toward her. You will never win her over or make a case to get rid of her while you see her as an enemy. You might have to pretend she wants the best for you and your work area, but it is worth a try. Keep a log of the good things she does, rather than seeing everything she does as against you and your coworkers. Think of ways to make her job easier rather than challenging her decisions with questions that can make her look like she is stupid. So double reverse what you think she is doing to you; trying to make you look bad. Rather than trying to make her look bad, try to make her look good.

2. Look in the mirror. Ask how you are perceived by your supervisor and why? Surely she didn’t just dream up that you were insubordinate. Did you come across and looking down your nose at her comparing her to past supervisors? Did you initiate and/or join in gossip about her? If so, vow now not to say anything about her that you don’t first discuss with her wanting the best for her. That’s a good rule for all your relationships.

3. Think and speak of your coworkers as a team, not just as a work group, and of your supervisor as a coach, not just as a boss. Such an attitude can affect them and you; possibly transforming you to be seen as an old Dolly who throws her weight around to a cheerleader who applauds your teammates and listens uncritically of your coach.

4. Add extra value to your workplace. Sure you do your job and you know it well, but how often have you made suggestions of how to cut wasted supplies, time, energy, and money? What have you done lately to make your work area more pleasant; green plants, artwork, music, etc.?

Should you think I don’t know how bad your new supervisor is, (and I don’t) ignore them, and instead bite your tongue and mumble at every wrong order she gives. You likely have many more good years you can add to your 20 with this company, if you can work through this current frustration. So I wish you well and if you can make the time to do so, please update me on what you do and what works or fails. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and achieving that will require special effort over these next few weeks.

Follow up: Just wanted to update on the things going on. It’s about a month I have been trying not to bypass him in anyway but things are still the same. He is continuing to ignore me as much as possible. Below are some instances: Our team received very good feedback from the client after I again took up that project. The client was not happy earlier as he was not getting any innovation in that, earlier this ‘boss’ moved me completely out of the project which I had initially designed. But when again this request came he had to ask me to do that as my teammate was on leave. After receiving the good feedback I asked for his comments on this to which he sternly replied me in front of team members that he was the only one who shared the news why am I asking him on it again. I controlled myself and stopped saying anything, then he realized that the way he behaved will make him look bad in front of others and trying to placate he commented – good! so u received such a good feedback on women’s day.

1. My teammate told me that when I was on leave one day he was passing some comments — ” High tea seemed to be very high for her so she has not come today”. — To this I just thought fine when someone has not said anything in front of me, I will not take that as a communication with me. I will admit that somewhere I felt bad when others are not present he will not make such comments for them– then why me??

2. Again he came up with some cooked up story and he was saying aloud in front of others that I hate one of my client member the more than the other people in my team hate. I asked him why would he say that — he said I just heard someone speaking on that — I just clarified I have never talked like that anytime, then he said, “Oh I was just kidding. ” Ya we have discussion on clients but I never make personal remarks on anyone I am not a person like that. I just don’t understand Dr.G is this the way a manager should behave — he has been doing so many things like this in past 1-2 months I have tried a lot to be polite in all this situation.

Though I have started looking for some options outside I just wanted to understand the situation to respond in proper manner going forward anywhere else. 🙂 Many thanks for your support. Cheers

Response: It’s good to get your update. You are coping and doing what you can to cope. You probably can teach this boss to convey the respect you want and deserve. Soooo what do you do now? You learn to speak up when you feel you must and you learn to shake off this boss’ minimizing what you’ve done–so long as you have not found work elsewhere. From what you say, it appears you have gotten him to shift away from a misstatement or two. But have you dared to have a time-out session disclosing how you feel about his behavior and one in which you two come to an understanding about how you want and don’t want to be bossed?

Have you considered asking him if a third party might mediate between you two? Behavioral patterns are not extinguished easily, any more than can one persuade a friend with an “you know” habit of punctuating almost every sentence he/she utters.–Can you keep you head up at least for now? You might find some advice in some of the Q&As that my associate workplace doctor has posted. Also click on her name to access her personal site.

Follow Up 2: I will have the time out session sooner & would keep head up. Yes will go through the posted advice as well.

William Gorden