Boss and Assistant Are Impossible!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about mean boss and assistant:

I have been working for my company for 5 years. It is a small office now of 8 employees. In the past two years, we have lost 4 employees, and there were 2 employees that we almost lost. I have two questions, one relates to our boss and the other to his assistant (which is also his drinking buddy). I am not even sure how to begin this but I’ll give it my best shot. I read an article that a co-worker gave me and it described our boss to a “T”. It was an article that described a narcissistic personality. I, of course, learned a lot that day. Our boss has two different personalities that we (past and present employs) have all witnessed. The one the Board and external people see and then the one we have to work with. The two are totally different. One is “whatever you want sir” and the other is the one we work with… “Hostile, mean, critical, controlling, sneaky, vindictive, a micro manager, he carries the spoiled little child attitude, do I need to go on…. He constantly sets everyone up to fail. He tells you what he wants done but, only partially, so that when you complete the tasks he tells you how it wasn’t the way he wanted it (which is usually in a hostile way). If you try to nip that one in the bud by asking questions, he usually gets very frustrated with you and has no bones about showing/telling you. If you do manage to succeed in asking him questions, he’ll let it go until you are done with your task and change everything around, even lie and say that’s not what he asked.

I tried to suggest developing policies and procedures for the general routine work. He has fought me tooth and nail on that one each time. Even when I create procedures so we have something to follow, he goes on a rampage “cuz it’s not how he wants it done. Then you ask him to define it and round and round we go. The chair of our board even tried to get him to do process flows, policies and procedures and he just waited long enough for the chairman to forget about it. So we as a staff are at a loss in who, what, where, when and how to perform our jobs. The morale is at an all time low. No one feels that they can ever please him or that they ever will. So everyone bulks when he asks for volunteers to complete projects, etc. We have a hard enough time with our own duties, yet alone adding projects that we know, in his eyes will never be successful. Staff meetings are a joke. He has even gone so far as to say “we need to think outside the box as long as it’s logical to him” We don’t know what that is, so we just scratch our heads.

My question is two-fold: Can you explain to us how someone can have two different personalities and get away with it? We want someone who has the authority to do something about the work environment (like a board member) to notice it but he is an expert at concealing it. The board hasn’t even questioned it even after losing a few of our best employees. The board members love him so we all feel that we would immediately lose our jobs if we brought it to anyone’s attention. Any suggestions on “indirectly” telling them?Now on to his assistant that he hired. So you understand their friendship, they are drinking buddies. They go out to dinner together, they hang out together, but there is not sexual relationship.

Our boss is 35 and she is 56. They actually act sometimes like an old married couple (pardon my cliché). She too is what I call the venom that poisons our office. She plays on the Internet and talks on the phone with her friends all day. Our boss enables her. He allows it and she continues. She has set up and “burned” everyone in our office, including those that have left. She gets you to believe how helpful she is by helping out once in a while. Then she tells our boss that she’s done all the work. She whines all the time about everything and he believes her. She plans so perfectly to be your friend. Then when she knows you trust her, she hangs you out there and the boss comes down on you. She too only communicates enough information to get you into trouble with the boss. We already know we are going to get into trouble because we can never meet his standards. Her reasons for doing it are different though and the only thing we can guess is because she needs to feel important to him. She does the “you should have asked me” and when you say you did ask her, she acts dumb and says no you didn’t. Then she tells the boss that she did tell you that pertinent information and now he’s left believing that the rest of the staff is at fault.

The reason I know all of this is because she has done it to me directly but more importantly, the few times he has confided in me I know she set up the other person. She has even done it to him but for some reason he has let it go (of course that’s after he blew up about it). How do we prevent her from setting us up? Our boss uses her a lot to relay information. And he depends on her as she also plays the role of the spy (even on personal issues). We have tried to complete our jobs/projects without her involvement, but he infuses her in the process, and because he is a control freak, we can’t do anything about it. We have all separated ourselves from her as much as possible which has actually made her venom spew even more. If there’s an opportunity for her to be involved, she’ll make sure it gets screwed up and that we take the heat. Should we all look for another job?

We all feel it’s an impossible situation to overcome. Any suggestions you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Not only for me but also for those I work with. They mean a lot to me and we all work well together (minus the two of course). I will be sure to pass along any advice you can give. I know my fellow workers are open to just about anything at this point. Thank you.

Signed, Impossible

Dear Impossible:

I think that you employees need to look into other work. You have complained and explained to a board member and have not received justice. The boss’s actions have been going on for quite some time and there’s been zero change. You work for some crazy people. If there is a Human Resource office available for investigation, I would suggest that. And, if looking for another job is more pleasing and less stressful, then do it. It also sounds as if you workers are taking the stresses of your jobs home. When we take the negative aspect of our work home, then we need to understand that negative results will follow. I would seriously consider getting a different job and concentrating on being happy and stress free. No one should feel as though they are less than other people. You shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells at work. In one of my poems, I wrote, “Use my eyes to see a better future.”

Signed, Terrance Caldwell Guest Respondent and author of What People Hear When I Think Out LOUD.

P.S. You asked if there is an indirect way to inform the board of your bad boss and assistant. Probably there is no way to do so indirectly. If you want to fight, send the board the letter you have sent us. Or you and/or your co-workers as a group need to prepare a list of examples of mistreatment and then request a meeting with the board. You could send them the log anonymously, but that would probably not remain anonymous. Gossiping about how bad things are among yourselves will only make you all feel more frustrated and sour than you are now. If this advice makes sense, do not quit impetuously, but quietly begin a job hunt. There are workplaces with healthy climates, where collaboration is the rule and not the exception; what we call WEGO.

Terrance Caldwell