Boss Shoved and Shushed Me!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about pushy boss:

My department manager uses every opportunity to embarrass or/and humiliates me in front of the other employees. Recently, she was giving me instructions about where to put merchandise once it was unloaded from a truck. When she was finished with her instruction, I asked her a question pertaining to the merchandise, and she looked at me as if I were the stupidest creature on the planet. Just as she was giving me this look, a fellow employee came onto the scene. She looked at him, and while holding her hand up to my face, she told him, “I’m not talking to her”, and she began to give him the same instructions she had just given me. While she was talking to him, I interrupted, letting her know why I had asked my question, but she just kept her hand up to my face, and telling me to shush, while she kept talking to him. When she finished talking to the other employee, she shoved my face, using the hand that she was holding up during this time. I reported this to the store manager, telling him exactly what happened, and asking him if I could show him how she pushed me, and he said “yes”. He was shocked, and said he would followed company procedure by starting an investigation, which he would turn over to the cooperate office. After two weeks, my store manager told me the investigation was closed because there were no witnesses to substantiate my story. (The witness who was there would not make a statement)

When I asked my store manager what was going to be done about the person who shoved me, he said, “Nothing will be done, the case is closed”. I spoke my mind, saying how I thought it was terrible how a department manager could shove me could get away with it, and he said, “Well, you shoved me!” Needless to say, I was dumbfounded! I said, “How can you say that? You gave me your consent to demonstrate what happened, and it was not done in an aggressive manner as it was done to me!”

Again he replied, “So what, you still shoved me and I never gave you my permission.” He even went so far as to report my shoving him to the regional manager after I stormed out of his office. The next day, the regional manger made a special trip to our store to tell me that I must not touch people, and never addressed the situation of me being shoved.For reasons I will probably never know, this situation has taken a nasty turn, and instead of being the victim, I have become the criminal! Rumor has it that the manager who shoved me was fired, but got her job back after she spoke with the regional manager.There was a similar incident 4 years ago between this same person, and me but no investigation was ever conducted and I quit my job shortly after that. After 4 years, I have been re-hired. My question is this: Why was the store manager so eager to investigate my claim, and then when the investigation was over, try to turn the tables on me. Something is very fishy here. I have demanded that they investigate the incident that took place 4 years ago, and they have agreed, but I doubt that anything will become of it. I still have to work with this manager every day. We do not speak. I know my job and I do it, but there is tension, and uneasiness among the other employees. This time I refuse to quit. It’s a matter of principle. I think the EEOC could help me with this. This is physical abuse, isn’t it? I’m getting an ulcer the size of Texas. But Right is Right, and Wrong is Wrong, and I refuse to let her get away with this again. She has never done this to anyone but me. Tell me what you think. You seem to give very good advice. Thanks so very much for reading this.

Signed, Shoved and Shushed

Dear Shoved and Shushed:

Good managers invite all questions, even stupid ones. Moreover they encourage vigorous argument about how things should be done. Apparently, your department manager rather has learned to push people around and does so both in speech and action. After she shoved and shushed, you naturally reacted by reporting her. The manager above invited a demonstration of the incident and then turned it on you. Can any of this be corrected? Not by you persisting that a similar incident for four years ago be investigated.Chances are slim to slimmer with such a tact! So is it possible for you to work in such disrespectful conditions? You say they will not force you to quit. Rather that you can survive with a Texas size ulcer. Sure you can. We can put up with incivility. We can fight. But from what you describe, you are in a losing fight–one that can be tit for tat, spite for spite, and suppressed anger that festers inside. Is it possible that the antagonism you feel can be transformed to a positive mental attitude? Is it possible that the resentment you feel can be changed to cheer leading? Is it possible that you can look in the mirror and honestly reflect on your own behavior rather than only see the bullying of your manager and the manager’s manager who lied about you shoving? Well anything is possible but not likely.

So if you are determined to fight. Fight professionally. Log what has gone on and current incidents of incivility. Think through the kind of communication rules that could make your boss-bossed relationship effective and satisfying. Create a list of dos and don’ts for how you want to be managed, such as: Don’t yell at me. Do listen and encourage questions. Do invite opinions about how to improve the quality of my job and of how we might delight internal and external customers. Do express approval of good work. Don’t criticize in the presence of others. Also study your job description and note what are your tasks, who makes assignments, whom you should consult, who must approve, etc. With this preparation in hand, schedule a one-on-one with your immediate boss. At such a meeting candidly tell her that you are unhappy about the past and want to establish a good working relationship with her. Ask if she is willing to collaborate in doing so. Don’t hand her your list of communication rules just yet. Instead ask how she thinks such a relationship might be built. If she is willing, you can talk over what are your assignments and how you might make her job easier by how you perform. This should bring you to clarifying when and what assignments she gives and it is then time for sharing with her your effort to think through communications rules that can make for an effective boss-bossed relationship. Are you interested in changing warring to cooperating? If so, it will take courage and persistence. Working on making your job more effective is where to begin, rather than on battling about how you were treated. Does this make sense? Think all this through. Let our advice spur you to find a creative way to resolve your unhappy situation or move on.Obsessing about wounded ego is natural. Thinking WEGO is transformational. To do so will take powerful conversation.

William Gorden