My Boss Grabbed Me In Anger

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about physical attack: he grabbed me by my shoulder and completely turned me around. She basically chewed me out.

I work at a pharmacy in California. I had a dispute with the manager while at work. At one point she thought I was trying to ignore her so she grabbed me by my shoulder and completely turned me around. She basically chewed me out and I begin to have a panic attack. I had to leave work and head to urgent care. I got blood work done and the doctor told me that I couldn’t breathe because I had just suffered a panic attack.

Signed, Panicked

Dear Panicked:

It sounds as though you and your boss aren’t getting along at all. I would guess you already had some problems with her before this. If she was talking to you and you turned away, she probably felt you were showing disrespect and refusing to talk to her, so she reacted in a way that showed her anger. She didn’t handle that in the best way, of course.

Apparently you had trouble breathing, but were able to drive yourself to urgent care and were told there that you were having a panic attack.It doesn’t sound as though your boss did anything that would rise to the level of being a crime or that is so severe she could be fired (unless this is one of many times.)

So the issue now is, what are you going to do about the problem between you and your boss? If you decide you want to keep working there you will have to go back to work and I doubt that dramatic a situation can be ignored.If there were witnesses to the situation and you can show that you did nothing wrong and the boss was completely in the wrong, you may be able to go higher in the organization and ask for help to resolve the matter.

If a reasonable person would say your boss was justified in being frustrated, angry and upset, it could be that you will need to talk to her to find out how you can change some aspect of your performance or behavior to comply with her directions.If she can show that you did something contrary to rules, policies or procedures or that you failed to comply with her preferences for the work, the company will probably feel that you have created the problem for yourself. If you can show that she has a long history of mistreating people and you were communicating as effectively as you could under the circumstances, the company may decide she is the source of problems and may move her or direct her to act differently in the future.

So, the outcome of this will depend upon what led up to the argument, if there have been problems before and if there were witnesses to the situation.If you haven’t been back to work yet, you may want to call your boss before you talk to her again face to face. You may want to say something like this, “Jan, I went to the doctor yesterday because I couldn’t breathe and he said I was having a panic attack as a result of being so upset over the things you said to me. I want to come back to work and do a good job but I want to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.”Wait and see what she says next. She may apologize for reacting so strongly. Or, she may say she felt she had no other options since you wouldn’t listen to her.

You know what the original argument was about, so you can refer to that and say what you will do next time if the two of you have that kind of disagreement. If you know you did something she didn’t like, you may be able to say that you didn’t know she felt so strongly about it and you’ll do it differently next time.You know best what it will take to make things right. On the other hand, if your boss truly is mean to you and others you may decide you don’t want to keep working there anyway. Dr. Gorden refers to that as “voting with your feet.” If you have a trusted person there (not a family member, who nearly always will just take your side), explain the entire situation from beginning to end. See what their viewpoint is, given the totality of the circumstances. That may help you decide if you should take at least partial responsibility for the situation or if you were treated unfairly. Best wishes to you with this situation. 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.