How To Get My Boss To Stop Ignoring Me?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being ignored:

I am working at this law firm as an accountant/bookkeeper. My boss seems to have some sort of unknown problem with me. 90% of the time he works remotely but whenever he is in the office, he completely ignores me as if I am not even there. He talks to everyone in the office except me. He hardly every replies to my emails or my instant messages except to yell at me. Whenever something goes wrong, he blames me and yells at me. If I prove to him it was not my fault he never apologizes.

Today DC metro area is being hit my this serious winter storm. Everyone in my department including me emailed him asking if they could leave early. He replied to everyone except me. Now everyone has left and I am still stuck in the office. I am trying to look for another job but the market isn’t very promising. What do you think I should do to keep my time at this job a bit more bearable?

Signed, Tired of the Treatment

Dear Tired of the Treatment:

It certainly sounds as though your boss is treating you unfairly! You mentioned in a follow-up message that your boss treated you at least in a civil manner until a coworker started acting badly toward you, then his attitude seemed to change. I would imagine she has either made up something about you or told him about something you said or did that he feels especially upset about. However, it’s wrong of him to treat you in the way you described.

You have a couple of options if you want to stay there. The first one involves becoming more active in your work group, the second option involves asking HR to help you figure out the problem.The first one is the one that could be beneficial to you in ways that could help you in other jobs in the future, as well as this one. Instead of decreasing your communication, increase it in appropriate ways.

Every day look for a way to build your network of positive contacts by saying hello to people, saying a quick thank you for their help, volunteering to assist them if you can and it’s appropriate for you to do so, making sure you help clean up in the break room or restock the supply area or whatever. Take a leadership role rather than the role you have apparently been taking of just keeping your head down. A person who doesn’t communicate much is often seen as either arrogant or just strange. Reach out to others and be the one they can count on to add a pleasant element to the office as well as the one they can rely on for work issues.You mentioned in your other message that there are a lot of office politics, which is true many places. You don’t have to get involved in that. Be warm and welcoming to everyone, then get back to work. You say your boss isn’t there much, so that should really be a load off your mind a lot of times. Use that time to become a credible resource for others, to be valuable to them because you are helpful and also friendly.

Communicate so they get to know you, without being excessive about it.Look at you and your work area and make sure it is top-notch and looks better than anyone else. Be a leader in that as well. If you have a performance evaluation form–a blank one will do (you may be able to get one from HR) or a copy of one you’ve received or can remember. Look at the things you are evaluated about and work to do something to provide proof of that area every week. Document what you have done and anyone else involved, in case you need that for the future.If you do something significant, send an email to your boss and simply inform him of your activities to “keep him up to date.” That way he can’t say he didn’t know. Y

ou said you have done good work but the boss blames you for things. Listen closely to what he says when you think he is blaming you. I’m not saying he is right, but it may be he is more upset because you didn’t warn him or you failed to keep a record or something other than what you think is the problem.You don’t say how you have responded when he has become angry and yelled. One way to react is to bravely stand up for yourself enough to say you’re sorry for the confusion (that doesn’t admit you did anything wrong.) I hesitate to suggest that you not let his yelling get to you, because someone will think I’m encouraging tolerating bullying behavior. BUT, the truth is, yelling means different things to different people. So, if you have friends there, ask them if they think the yelling is so bad you should complain, or if they don’t see it as being loud enough or angry enough to merit complaining to HR about it. That brings me to the second option for action.

If you have been getting satisfactory evaluations and have not gotten in trouble for anything, it doesn’t seem likely that you would jeopardize your job by asking for assistance from HR or from the level higher than your boss, if there is someone you can identify at that level. You may not want to approach it that way, and I can understand why, since it could irritate him more. But, it might at least give you some protection. If you do ask for assistance, you don’t have to say you’re complaining, just ask if they can help you figure out what to do next. Tell them honestly that you would talk to him about it but you’re afraid it would make him angrier and could put your job in jeopardy.

Statements like that at least let HR people know your concerns, in the event he complains about you in retaliation. Get all of the emails you’ve sent to him that he hasn’t replied to you about and also make a list of the other things that have bothered you. Especially mention the event about the snowstorm–which seems really unexplainable to me.You never know, others may have complained about this person as well. But look at it this way…even if he gets angry, it might not be any worse than it is now! Or, maybe he would tell you what he is so upset about and at least get it out in the open. So, those are the two options–and I think you should try the first one right away. Sell yourself to others and build a support system in that way. Don’t gossip to them about the coworker or the boss and don’t be put off if they don’t seem interested at first. Almost no one will ignore you if you are unfailingly kind and obviously wanting to do a good job. (With the exception of your boss apparently!) After you’ve tried that for a few weeks, if things aren’t better, then you can decide if you want to go to HR. By that time you might feel good enough about things that you can tolerate him a bit longer. Or, you may find all of this will help you figure out what has been going on with your boss. He may even see you in a different way and things might get back to where they were before the problem started.Let us know how this works and if it helps you or if you find another method that works better. You may be able to give us insights to help others in the same situation. Best wishes!

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.