Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a yelling, intimidating boss:
Our supervisor, who is the doctor’s wife at the clinic where I work, is constantly yelling at us, intimidating the staff and is just plain awful all the way around. Is there anything we as a staff can do? There is so much tension and stress created by this woman, we are at our wit’s end.I personally have started looking for another job but in the meanwhile I suffer. Do employees have any rights or recourse?
Signed, Ready to Quit
Dear Ready to Quit:
Based on the probable size of your office staff and the nature of the work, it would not seem likely that state or federal regulations or laws are involved. However, you may want to ask an employment attorney for a free phone consultation to find out if you have any recourse. Or, you could contact the Department of Labor in your state to ask about it. Dr. Gordon often talks about quitting as “voting with your feet” and that might be the only thing you can do.
However, it may be that as a united team your group could accomplish something. First, consider what seems to be the source of the angry remarks and comments. You say your supervisor constantly yells, but might she say she finds constant problems or mistakes? That may not be the case–and she shouldn’t yell anyway. But, it is good to know her perspective of why she feels justified in being angry sounding.Are there some who get along with her fine? What is different about those employees and what is their perspective? What she this way when you took the job? What has changed? Get to know the problem as a way to deal with it better.Consider stopping her in her tracks in an appropriate way. If she raises her voice in an angry tone, say, “Diane. Please. I can see you’re angry, but when you yell at me I can’t even think straight. Please don’t do that.” I don’t think she’d fire you for that, do you? But if you did it and the person next to you did it and so did everyone else, it would send a message and maybe she would tone things down. One practical way to stop people from yelling is to put your hands over your ears and say, without sounding angry, “Diane, I can hear you. You don’t need to raise your voice and yell like that.” If she continues, you do it again and again and again, until she stops.
Employees often don’t realize how much control they actually have over their bosses, if they are good employees. If they are not, that’s different, because then the boss might say “You’re fired.” But, if the doctor needs you and you are doing a good job, you almost certainly can speak up to ask the supervisor to stop yelling, or to not make sarcastic or demeaning remarks.In one office a woman said she and two coworkers literally had to confront their supervisor fifteen times in one day, in a quiet, appropriate way. Every time she said or did something rude or insulting, or picked apart work, they would say, “Carol, that kind of remark doesn’t help. Please don’t talk rudely to me.” “Carol, that was a really insulting thing to say, please stop that.” Carol, I thought I heard Lisa ask you to stop yelling. I’m asking the same thing. Please don’t raise your voice like that to me.”After one day of it, the supervisor realized the combined employees had more power than she did, unless she wanted to fire all of them–and not only did she not want to, she wouldn’t have been allowed to. She made noticeable efforts to calm herself. Often that kind of office culture is habit more than anything else. And often employees are treating each other as badly as they say the boss is treating them!
You may want to ask if your office can have staff meetings where you can focus on building the team learning new procedures or solving problems. Make it a team effort. Of course, she might take that over and use it badly! But, it might be a way to feel more united and less like individuals being brow-beaten and being victims. You are all adults and are living in a free country. It’s not like she can hit you or destroy you in some other way. Really, apart from firing you on the spot, there is not much she can do to hurt you.Consider having a few or all of the employees talk to the doctor about the negative affects of what is happening. Unfortunately, his loyalties and his personal well-being may require him to support his wife, but maybe not. It would especially be good to talk about how patients can overhear the remarks, or the affect it has on the quality of work people are doing.Keep this in mind though….you are part of a medical team and the patients who come there need you. They need you to be focused on them, not on fighting and feuds.
Try to at least feel that you are doing a job that serves others in some way and is important for that reason.Think about whether the supervisor is so bad it is intolerable. If it is, quitting may be all you can do. But, I think you could try other things too. While all that is happening, make sure your own work is topnotch and can’t be used as a reason for what is happening. Be your best and learn new skills and knowledge so you are highly valued there–and have a great resume for someplace else.Best wishes with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.
Tina Lewis Rowe