Boss Hung Up On Me And I Talked Back

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about worrying over cussing boss:

I was scheduled to work but woke up very sick. I tried to call my boss but didn’t get an answer so I went on to work. An hour after being there and feeling like I was going to pass out, I finally got in touch with her telling her I was sick and needed to go home could she come in to work?

She had recently moved and became very annoyed and said no she couldn’t because she was unpacking. I called two other coworkers with no luck, I called my manager back and she again became very annoyed and said she’d find someone, then she hung up on me. The previous day she had been bragging about hanging up on a coworker and it angered me and I did not want the same humiliation. I was very angry at this point, and upset because she would not help me out. I have been an employee for 7 yrs. and rarely call in sick.

After she hung up on me I immediately called her back and said, “Forget it. I’ll stay, but don’t f*@$ing hang up on me.” She said go ahead and clock out now but you don’t have to cuss at me. I apologized and told her with the stress of being sick and not getting hours and her humiliating me by hanging up on me I should not have stooped to her level. She has contacted our regional office and I gave her a statement of what happened. So my question is what do you think will happen now?

Signed, Waiting and Worrying

Dear Waiting and Worrying:

What happens next will depend upon how the whole situation is viewed by those in the regional office as well as by your manager. Obviously your relationship with her was not good to begin with and won’t be improved now!On the other hand, your situation of being ill and feeling that she hung up on you, probably provides some mitigation for why you used the language you did. You didn’t call her a bad name, you only used the “f” word as an expletive in anger.That word isn’t nearly as forbidden as it used to be, so you may be warned and that will be the end of it. Or, there may be more to the situation that comes out in the investigation. Your manager may also be chastised for her handling of the matter.

There is simply no way to know how it might turn out at this point.However, if you want to continue to work there, you will benefit from trying to establish a better relationship between you and your boss. It all will start with an effort to communicate clearly and carefully.For example, your boss was wrong to have told employees about hanging up on someone, as though it was something to be proud about! But, that sensitized you to such an extent that you may have over-reacted to her on the phone. What you considered to be her hanging up on you, she may have considered being frustrated and wanting to get busy calling someone to come in to take your place.Your tone of voice when you called her back might have seemed to her to be much more aggressively angry than you intended it, so she reacted more harshly than was justified. Also, for you to tell her that you were sorry you “stooped to her level” was certainly not much of an apology–just the opposite, in fact!

The bottom line is that if the two of you had a good relationship you would have called her and told her you were sick and she would have believed you, rather than doubting it (which she apparently did.)¬† She would have been frustrated over having her weekend interrupted to take your place or to find a replacement, but she would have understood the need. However, even if she had reacted with frustration, you would have realized the source of it and wouldn’t have felt so angry.

Overall the situation is an unhappy one that I hope can improve for you over time. Consider going to your manager and just talking person to person about how much you regret not only the situation on Sunday, but the fact that you and she didn’t know each other well enough to work through it at the time.You probably won’t have to say much, so you don’t need to memorize a speech–just say a few sentences and wait for her to respond. If she does, you may find it helpful down the line. If she doesn’t, you won’t be any worse off. The best thing to come out of this will be that your manager will learn a better way to deal with employees and with situations such as this. That’s what managers are paid to do.Best wishes as you work through this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.