Cheap and Nasty Boss

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about socially insensitive boss: I’m given a pitiful amount of money to cover food and transportation. (they cover my accommodation and plane fare separately) I just got back from a 4 day trip to NY. And they gave me a total of $160 US to buy food and take a taxi to and from restaurants etc.

I work in sales for a successful designer. I make a pretty decent salary for my position and travel for work to the US on behalf of the company. My issue is as follows: my boss is a socially inept person who is rude, patronizing and continually suspicious of the inner workings of our department. That is his nature – and I can live with that. BUT I travel for work on a semi regular basis- about once a month for 3-4 days at a time. I’m given a pitiful amount of money to cover food and transportation. (they cover my accommodation and plane fare separately) I just got back from a 4 day trip to NY. And they gave me a total of $160 US to buy food and take a taxi to and from restaurants etc.

It obviously did not cover my expenses and I had to expense an additional $80.00 on my credit card.When I submitted my expense report today, I claimed the money owing and asked to be reimbursed. Within minutes, my boss was attacking me… Claiming that I have no business expense, personal cab fare OR tipping a cab driver or server at a restaurant after my dinner. He said that tipping is my choice and I should take on the expense myself. And that he doesn’t ever tip in restaurants or when taking a taxi. (he us a notoriously cheap) he they continued to question how long my cab rides where, where u went, what restaurants etc. And even went as far as to tell me that I not ask for the $80 owing because the company does not “pay for my play time”.

There are NO set guidelines as my work on how to expense items. So I spend carefully, pay for my own alcohol etc. I don’t take advantage of the system. Which is why his attitude towards this situation is so insulting.After the conversation about the money, he told me that I am not allowed to take the morning off after I return from a business trip. for instance, I will be flying the red-eye through a different time zone next Wednesday and arriving at 6:30 am. He said he expects me to be in the office NO later than 9:30 am.I explained that it is unreasonable for him to expect his employees to work a regular 50hour work week, then work through the entire weekend with no days off, and be expected to return to the office the morning after i have spent the entire night flying across the country.

He said that if I don’t comply, that he will question my commitment to the company. So, here is the synopsis of my issues:

-My boss gives an unreasonably low amount of spending money for a business trip. It is impossible to pay for my basic needs; food, transportation etc. and I have to pay for it out of my pocket. It’s a fight to get this money back. I’m afraid to travel for work!

-My boss won’t let me tip!! I’m a great tipper, but SERIOUSLY limit how much gratuity I give out when spending business dollars. He expects that if I have dinner, on the expense account, that I have to leave the tip personally and the same goes for taxi fare. -He has unreasonable expectations of travel for work. He thinks that I should be in the office the second I get off the plane. which usually means at that point, I will have worked 12-15 days in a row without a day off. Please help! He is a nasty man and it’s hard enough to deal with his issues as a boss. This is now the icing on the cake.

Signed, Bullied Beyond Endurance

Dear Bullied Beyond Endurance:

My goodness, you’re working for a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge! Sadly, unless three ghosts from Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come appear,I don’t think he will have a sudden change of heart. So, although I wish there was some magical answer, I’m afraid your responses are limited.

1. You imply that your boss, the designer, owns the company. If that’s the case there is no one higher to appeal to. If there is someone higher, you run a risk if you go around your boss, but it might also be a way to get some relief, especially about the number of hours you work.

2. You also imply that your business isn’t a large one, since it revolves around one person. If it is large, there may be a personnel director or HR office where you could find if there are business-wide guidlines about the issues you mention.

3. According to where you work and the size of the business there may be some state labor laws that regulate hours worked and benefits. Check with a state Department of Labor about the matter.

4. If you have any of the paperwork from when you were hired you might check and see what you were told then about wages, travel and working hours. Your boss might not care, but it would at least give you something to point to as a reason for your expectations. If you were interviewed by your boss, think back to what you were promised and what you were told would be required of you.

5. Do you have allies who have the ear of the boss and who could support you in your efforts to have a reasonable work schedule and an appropriate travel budget? This situation has probably come up before and it’s been dealt with by someone before. (Maybe the person who quit right before you got the job?)

Also, are there others who do the same, or about the same, degree of travel that you do? How are they dealing with it? What are their thoughts about the hours and pay? You don’t want to gossip about the boss too much, but you certainly could ask them for advice about how they manage to get by on such a small amount of money. 6. Could you do as many business travelers do and simply view travel as nothing but business, conserving every dime by eating lightly or at fast food places where tips aren’t an issue? It seems as though you combine some pleasure with your business, which is understandable. But probably when your boss travels he thinks of it as a time for saving money, not spending it.I have a friend who always spent every dime of travel money he got, until he started working for a company who pays him a per diem, no matter what the actually spends. Now, he saves every dime of that per diem money and eats by grabbing snack mixes at bars, stuffing extra fruit into his briefcase at the hotel continental breakfast every morning, and maybe going to a street vendor for lunch. He has saved several thousand dollars that way!That doesn’t help the sleep and work schedule of flying into town at 6:30 and being at work at 9:30, but it might ease that part of your frustration.Perhaps you could work from home in some way on the mornings when you fly back early, allowing you to submit reports where you would at least be in the comfort of your own home.7. This last one is the tough one: Could you push back on this and threaten to leave if things don’t change? You would want to have reasonable expectations, but it sounds as though you’re so used to working like Bob Cratchit and being treated like him too, so likely you wouldn’t demand a lot–just sleep after a long trip and enough money to eat on a trip.Let’s say your boss calls your bluff and says he questions your commitment and won’t change a thing. Is this the way you want to live and work? If, when you interviewed, you would have been told all of this, would you have taken the job?If you would have then, maybe you can find a reason to tolerate it now. If you would have said “No way”, that may be what you should say now.I certainly know that finding another job that is not something to consider lightly. But, if you have built your resume, you may have a lot to offer.If you are so vital that you have to work, travel, then work some more, you obviously have value to your boss. Is it possible that your boss will realize that his bully talk is about to lose him a great employee and he might make some concessions? Or, is your boss so miserly that even the risk of losing a good employee isn’t enough to sway him and he’d rather train someone new?It may be that business is not as good as you think it is, and your boss is dealing with such a small profit margin that every penny is viewed is crucial to survival. If so, that’s a shame. But, maybe he should get out of the business then. He shouldn’t be making a profit at your expense.The bottom line is that none of that is a solid answer to your concerns about what to do. But, the truth is there are only three things to do: Do nothing except comply. Ask for different working conditions and be specific about sleep and reimbursements. Quit and let him be miserable on his own or with a new person to kick around.I will be very interested in knowing if you find a resolution that works well for you. Best wishes to you. 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.