Mixed Emotions!


I started my office administrator job a year ago feeling blessed, excited and with boosted morale. My boss believed in my capabilities-skills and intelligence. Over the course of the year, it’s been steadily downhill from that feeling. I now feel very incompetent and stupid all the time; I don’t like the idea of coming in to work.

My boss is nice generally, but when it comes to work, she’s very aggressive and want things her way at all time. When there is a small mistake about something she wants done, she goes on a rant–screaming and yelling on the phone, then hangs up and does not really give me time to explain. She would then call back a few minutes later and act as if nothing happened and suddenly tells you how she appreciates you. Sometimes she would tell me I made a mistake about something and starts ranting while I am be desperately trying to think when I made that mistake because I can’t even remember.

I have asked her for a meeting several times to discuss how I can help improve the office and also address the ugly situations about how she treats me. She always agrees to it, but never actually books a time. I keep reminding her, but nothing.

I’m now to a point where in I come in with no plan at all for my day. I wait for her to call me to tell me what she wants me to do because I’m scared of starting work without her knowing on what I am working, and she might get into an outrage. I’ve finally had enough, and went into another interview. I’m waiting for the decision. They said I have a strong chance of getting the position, but now I am getting stressed about actually resigning. My best friend told me I’m too nice and that I let her walk all over me. At times when those episodes happen, I get to angry and I fully intend to let her know I don’t appreciate the way she talks to me. However, I get too emotional. I end up not saying anything because I don’t want her to have the satisfaction of knowing she made me cry. I’ve given up stating my opinions about how to improve about work. When I talk, she makes me feel stupid because I don’t talk as fast as her–given that English is not my first language. In spite of all this, I feel badly about leaving. Her office is so unorganized she’d be having a lot of difficulty if and when I leave. She already has too much on her plate with her personal problems and work. Please help me. I’ve probably confused you because I’m so confused about this.




Dear Confused:

Weighing whether to resign a job is stressful. Although not quite as serious, in some ways, it’s like weighing whether to seek a divorce. For most people, who have a sense of responsibility, as I can see you have, once they are in a committed relationship, it tears them up inside both wanting to leave and feeling guilt about that.

You have been working “scared” of a boss who criticizes and explodes. You hate to go to work. Once there, you are afraid to launch in to a task without checking with your boss for fear she will not approve and give you hell.

You have interviewed for another job. If asked, you might accept it. However, as much as you want to leave, you feel feeling guilty because you think your boss needs you. My thoughts for you will cover three overlapping questions: Should you leave? Will it be better working elsewhere? If you accept a job offer, what might you do to make your resignation the best for you and for your boss? Should you leave? From what you have told us, it is not comfortable to continue working where you are now unless you and/or your boss can change how you communicate. It is apparent that your boss and you have not come to an understanding about your job responsibilities and quality of work. You have tried to talk with her about that, but she has not made that a priority and you have not insisted on it. Consequently, what began as a honeymoon at work has in your words “gone down hill.”

Since you might not be offered that job for which you interviewed, let me suggest several steps you can take to come to a more reasonable working relationship with your boss. List: 1. Job assignments; those that your boss has approved of how you perform them. 2. Instances of what your boss has criticized and what you have now learned how she wants them done. 3. In your own words prepare Dos and Don’ts of how you want her to communicate with you. These might include such things as:

· Do take time out to review my performance. Spell out what you like and specifically what needs correcting. · Do meet with me at the beginning of each day to briefly talk about assignments. Do take enough time for me to rephrase what you have said and to ask questions. Do jot down a schedule of what needs doing and for new and complicated jobs instructions should be in writing. · Do be patient. Do ask what I think. Do invite my ideas about how to make our office more efficient, how to cut wasted supplies, time, and money. Do take time at the end of each week to review what has gone well and what can be improved. · Do encourage and advise me in developing skills needed to build a career. · Don’t yell and scream. · Don’t criticize without taking the time to show what needs correcting. · Don’t talk so fast. Don’t expect me to speak as quickly as you do because English is my second language. Now with such preparation, insist on a performance review. Say you need to learn where you stand. It has been nearly a year and that you need to discuss how well you are doing. Insist. Name a date and time if she doesn’t. Don’t allow her to put it off to a distant two weeks. Say want to do so that day or the next. Say you want enough time to fully talk about your working relationship; that you want to talk about your assignments and how the office might function more effectively.

Once you are in such a meeting, bring two copies of each of the lists you have prepared. Begin by thanking her for agreeing to meet, and up front, say the topics you want to cover are your performance and communication. Of course, your boss will be in charge of the agenda, but you can also help guide the direction of the conversation because you have lists 1 & 2 that you have regarding your performance, the first topic. Do not hesitate to say how much you felt good about your job at first but that you feel it has been down hill for a long time. Your boss should hear about how much you want to please and how disappointed and scared you are of her. Tell her what you have written us, but probably it is not the time to say you interviewed for another job. Following the performance review, you have list 3 to guide discussion of communication with your boss. Depending on how the performance review goes, you can decide if it is appropriate to discuss communication. Will it be better working elsewhere? Maybe. Maybe not. You don’t want to get into another workplace like the one you are in now. So don’t jump at another job without carefully learning as much as you can about it; the skills necessary, its culture and climate. Before accepting, visit the place again. Talk with others who work there. Speak to the supervisor about how she/he assigns work, trains, and corrects. Does this boss meet with the staff and invite ideas? Does she/he empower employees and guide them to better themselves? Do not see this interview and an offer, if it comes, as just an out from where you are. Investigate before you jump.

Incidentally, if you re-read the e-mail you sent us and compare it with the edited version I am sending back, you will see that I have made some changes. I tried not to lose the flavor of what you sent, so I didn’t correct all of it, but I changed enough that you can see your written communication needs some improvement. One thing you might do to improve your job skills is to get some coaching on business writing. Perhaps, this relates to your skill with a second language, but many employees with only one language lack competent writing. See your ability to handle two languages as an asset. Possibly, you can get a job that needs both languages.

If you accept a job offer, what might you do to make your resignation the best for you and for your boss? Of course, you should not resign either orally or in writing until you have a written job offer; one that contains a job description and states what will be pay and benefits and when it you start work there. If you think that it is a good offer, you do not have to accept it before you submit a resignation. You may first want to have a conversation with your boss about your future with her. If she persuasively paints a picture of you two as important to working together, you might then not want to accept the offer. (Such a conversation probably will hinge on whether you followed the advice above about insisting on a performance review and coming to an agreement about how you she communicates with you and you with her.) If you decide to stay, you might not want to mention that you went for a job interview or you might want to tell her you were so discouraged that you did, (Se might ask where, but you can say that you’d rather not say). If you accept the job and have that is writing, you are obligated to tender your resignation. Usually give a two-week notice. With head held high, meet with your boss and tell her that you have accepted a job elsewhere and hand her a letter of resignation. Say you want to make the last two weeks as helpful as possible. The letter should contain a sentence of appreciation for what you have learned and the date you will leave. Expect that she might be angry and speak meanly, saying that you are ungrateful. Do not argue, but if she yells and screams, you will simply know that you have made the right decision. You may now have the courage to tell her that her behavior has helped you make the decision to leave, but I think it is wiser to simply say, “I appreciate what I have learned here and am looking forward to the opportunities that await me.” It would be helpful if you also can say that you have or will prepare a list of suggestions that will help the individual who replaces you. My best to you at this time of emotional uncertainty. I’m sure it is difficult to think of it as a time of adventure; however, it will be more manageable if you do. Work is hard enough even when you have considerate bosses and like your job. When you do life is so much happier. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden