Boss Called Me a Bitch

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about her boss’ swearing at her: Now my boss won’t talk to me and mumbles under his breath whenever he walks by me. I do have a co worker who heard everything and is willing to go to bat for me. It’s very uncomfortable for me, but I’ve been there over 13 years and like my job, but this is getting hard to take. What should I do about this?

Several weeks ago, I had asked my boss about some vacation time of mine that had been messed up. He ignored me, walked right past me, so I asked him again. He called me a f***ing bitch. I got mad, said I didn’t have to put up with that and left. (Earlier that same week, he was inches from my face, screaming and swearing at me). I called HR, who in turn called him and spoke to him about it. I did receive a phone call from my boss apologizing and also a follow up phone call from HR.I returned to work the following workday. Now my boss won’t talk to me and mumbles under his breath whenever he walks by me. I do have a co worker who heard everything and is willing to go to bat for me. It’s very uncomfortable for me, but I’ve been there over 13 years and like my job, but this is getting hard to take. What should I do about this?

Signed, Hard to Take

DearĀ Hard to Take:

Yes, it’s almost as unpleasant to be ignored and despised as it is to be screamed at with obscene epithets. What should you do? You have several overlapping options that probably have come to mind:

–Be the most responsible, pleasant employee in your work group.

–Confront your boss and request reconciliation.

–Again solicit help from Human Resources.

–Ignore him and give back mumbling that you are getting.

–Enlist coworkers to report his mean demeanor.

There may be other options, but here are some general factors to consider that are made without knowing the context of your situation as you do. In the 13 years on the job in addition to the vacation time mess up and the screaming incident, were there no other times when you and your boss didn’t see eye to eye? As you review the past years would you describe your boss/bossed relationship as coolly do as I say and pretty much working solo on assignments?

From what you have not said, I assume that is the way this boss functions and that never has your work group worked as a team. Also if this assumption is correct, most likely you and your coworkers got your assignments and saw the boss as a policeman who looked for your mistakes and you gossiped about what he did and didn’t do that you disliked.

In short, you and your coworkers weren’t treated as thinking individuals whose ideas might were sought to make your service and products something of which you could be proud. So you simply did your jobs as well as required as good enough to get paid and not get bad performance evaluations that would prevent a raise in pay. Is this is close to describing the history of your work environment? Your boss did his job and you did yours. If this somewhat describes the work history before the recent flare up, most likely now that HR has forced an apology, you can understand why your boss has decided it is safer for him not to speak with you. And you have found sympathy of at least one coworker with whom you have shared your frustration of being treated as an outcaste.

Can you live with this–not as a happy camper but as one who earns a paycheck, finds some support from coworkers and gets your need for enjoyment outside the workplace? Yes, you can. Many individuals with a boss they hate do good work and mask that dislike of her/him as much as possible. It is hard to take, but is possible. Sometimes a boss is transferred or changes the way he/she bosses. But if that doesn’t happen, you can live with and work with what you’ve got. Electing one of the options in hope of something better is no guarantee things will get better and risks that they might escalate to even more of a cold war.

Acknowledging that risk, I propose that talk about talk can make things better. My associate workplace doctor, Tina Lewis Rowe, is especially insightful in proposing the kind of language that can raises the odds for good results. So in addition to the suggestions I will make I urge you to read carefully some of her extended replies to difficult questions other persons have sent that are similar to yours.

With that in mind, my thoughts for you are embedded in my signature sentence: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. I usually close with that summation, but I set this forth because I propose whatever choice you make to do will be more effective if you set as your goal to have both your own ego and your boss’ to be preserved and enriched by how you react to and engage each other. Earning a wego-payoff doesn’t just happen. It can’t happen by an order of HR. I can’t be begged, bought or demanded. Possibly he can be told to be civil; to speak politely and not to scream hateful names, but that won’t create a friendly and enjoyable working relationship. A guided meeting between your boss and you by HR, a psychologist or team-minded superior might not make you like each other but could resolve incivility and motivate cooperation. Or you might be able to initiate that between him and yourself.

The topics of such a conversation would be talk about talk and what has not gone well between you two and why. And such a conversation and follow up conversations would entail setting forth rules about how to communicate; the dos and don’ts of your talk to and about each other. For example, one such do rule could be to check with each other about assignments and to make what, when, where and why questions for clarification a rule rather than an exception. A don’t rule could be not to say something about the other person that you don’t first say to her/his face. A time out session to spell out how to communicate can evolve into conversations about the bigger picture; of how you might make each other’s work more effective and easier.

Even though you have been employed at this place 13 years, I predict you have ideas about how it might be more productive; how waste might be cut: wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy. This is to suggest that if you and your boss, and hopefully your work group, could become energized about how to improve the quality of your work, how to lean manage and to make more money for in your operations. This is to suggest there is hope for whatever you elect to do if you will meet with your boss and can convince him you want not just to do what you have to but to really add value.

Does this make sense or provoke you to find something to do that is better than biting you tongue? A solution to your “hard to take” will not come from praying about it without you talking it through. Right? Enough said. Feel free to let us know what you do or don’t do and how it works after a few weeks if you will.

William Gorden