My Boss Hates Me

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss who hates him/her:

I got into my current job only a couple months ago. Since day one, I sensed my direct boss does not like me. Some instances: 1) On day two, before my computer and IT access rights were set up, she suddenly asked me if I had “already” spoken to some person from another department. She behaved as though I knew who this person is and what issue was at hand. When I explained that IT had not given me any access rights yet (therefore I cannot see the contact listing), she gave me a “tch” and roll her eyes.

2) When my co-workers approached her for advice, she will smile. When I approach her for advice, she will say, almost in a barking manner, “What again?!”This happened in my 1st month.

3) She will task me with work, but not the resources. Then she goes on leave. She will assign someone to guide me, but that person is never around. I have to resort to ask other co-workers for info. When she came back from her leave, she took a long time to finally see my work, only to say its all wrong, and how come I don’t know anything. She said she “won’t pursue” the matter. This happened in my 1st month with her as well.

4) Recently, in my barely 3rd month, she spoke to me and said she cannot see a future for me in the company, that I cannot keep up with the work and her standards, and I should re-think my options and let her know if I am going to stay. She also said in a strange manner that I should remain optimistic as “you can find a job anywhere”. She asked me in an equally strange manner if I feel that I had been cheated. She then added that I must have been feeling like a lousy piece of shit.

5) She accused me of speaking rudely to the other departments. I was very shocked, for I have always prided myself for my manners. I asked her to share with me an incident in which she found me being less than polite. The question seemed to bounce off her ears, and she simply said, “Well, you are not very polite.” I cannot bring this case up to HR because this happens in HR.I’d like to find out how I should handle such a situation because it is getting really uncomfortable, and I never worked for someone like that in my previous jobs. Thank you for your help.

Signed, Really Uncomfortable

Dear Really Uncomfortable:

Is not the characterization of feelings about your job as “really uncomfortable” an understatement? Three months in a new job in HR with five examples of your immediate superior’s displeasure your work undoubtedly has you as that boss said, “feeling like a lousy piece of shit.” Did she misjudge your feeling? Since you are in HR, you imply that there is no place to go for guidance about how to handle your situation. Might the Workplace Doctors know better than your own Human Resources Department what to advise you?

Probably not because you are closest to the situation and your department has protocols for what an employee and a superior should do to handle the kind of problems you describe. But I will make several suggestions:

1. Review and summarize the job description given upon your hiring and the training given and the skills that you brought.

2. Look in the mirror to reflect back on your work history; You say you “never worked for someone like that in my previous jobs”. Why did you leave those jobs? Were you eased out or did you come to this new job because of its opportunity for advancement? Is this new job just a job or is it a career path for which you are trained and to which you are committed?

3. Prepare a list of tasks you have accomplished satisfactorily. Request an early performance evaluation. Talk about performance. Confronting actual performance should help you get past the general feeling you have that your boss hates you.

4. Your response to your boss’s accusations seems reasonable, but incomplete. You appear assertive; however, from here I can’t know the tone of your voice or that of your boss. It is clear that you two need to come to an understanding about how to communicate: Her instructions, when to check your work, how frequently to confer. How criticism is best given and taken.In short, you and she are not a team and you don’t have a coach. Rather you have a policeman (not to give that profession a bad name) who fails to monitor and who provides an unhappy report. Can this be changed? Not without a head-to-head confrontation and probably an agreement to meet frequently to collaboratively ask and answer: How well are we working together as a team?

5. Suppose an employee from another department brought to HR a description of the five unhappy incidents such as you have above. How would HR respond to them? Would HR investigate? Would it interview both the new employee and her immediate superior? Would it check the factual basis of the charges both the new employee and superior have made? Would HR determine if the new hire was competent and responsible? Would HR recommend a program for improvement, training, counseling, or a transfer? Would it recommend that the employee be fired or given a deadline for improvement?

6. HR is not without unhealthy work practices. What recourse is there for a review of its self? Learn what you might do. Possibly you can schedule a three party meeting; with your immediate superior and her superior and you. In that meeting you can get clarification on where you stand. The uncertainty you are working with and taking home with you can be reduced.

7. Have you studied my associate Workplace Doctor Tina Lewis Rowe’s answers, such as Falsely Accused and Warned http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=3630and her own site http://tinalewisrowe.com/? She presents detailed advice regarding what actions one should take when work isn’t satisfying standards.

8. I am concluding my suggestions by asking if you acquainted with Susan M. Heathfield’s Guide to Human Resources. Scroll down to read her most recent page. She is a wise HR resource and invites questions such as yours. Click on that invitation and send her your question: From Susan M. Heathfield, your Guide to Human Resources Vol. 12 No. 10 – ISSN: 1533-3698 January 22, 2011 Dear People:I write a lot about how to treat employees as if they are remarkable, performing, contributing, successful members of your workforce. These are great employees who deserve your best recognition and consideration as an employer.

But, once in a while, I also acknowledge the fact that not every employee matches this description. In fact, some employees are downright difficult to deal with at work. These are the employees about whom you email me with questions. My article about managing deadbeat employees was a direct response to a reader’s request that I quit with the happy, happy long enough to help him manage a seriously deadbeat employee. I think that you will find it useful, too. Have a terrific weekend. I’m in single digit freezing temperatures here with gusty winds blowing snow about. Hope it’s a bit warmer where you are. Do you know that I write a new blog post every day? Check out the blog in the center column on my home page.Comments, questions, suggestions? Email Me.

Please forward this newsletter, in its entirety, to your colleagues, coworkers and friends, because you want to add value to their work and lives.Regards and wishing you and yours the best this weekend,—Susan

I will be interested in what you do; in how you handle what for you is more than simply “really uncomfortable”. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my signature advice; it says that work should be mutually satisfying and enriching. Yours in not. What will it take to make it so, or is it better that you vote with your feet?

Follow UP: I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your feedback. Although our company’s policies and guidelines suggest that a JD and induction checklist has to be given to the new hire, so far, I have received neither. My boss keeps telling me she will get to it when she has time. I had tried to find an opportune time to speak with her, but she will attend to my other co-workers’ queries first, and tell me to “yours wait later”. She will then say I never talk to her.

I have 7 years of HR generalist experience. My superiors in my previous jobs have given me either OJT or formal training, which I appreciate, but I admit a lot of experience comes from actual work and overcoming challenges.

I left my previous jobs for advancement opportunities. My previous bosses all have given me feedback that I am reliable, self-starter, competent, and has great initiative. I always get to work early, leave late, and sometimes I skip lunch to do recruitment.

Now, into my 3rd month in this job, I have not received a single bit of direction or guidance; I am falling onto my past experiences to ensure my recruitment and HRM duties continue smoothly. This is not sufficient because each organisation has a different culture and way of doing things. I have made a few accomplishments in my first 2 months. I managed to secure the recruitment of 3 really difficult to get candidates. 2 of these cases were actually in my boss’ hands for almost half a year and the line managers were complaining, so I was tasked to take over. I took less than a week to close these 2 cases, but she still said I am “too slow” for her speed.

I tried highlighting these to her during the recent review but these also bounced off her ears, all I got was a blank look. A separate incident involved one of co-workers’ backlog paperwork, which had not been settled since April 2010. She wanted me to take over and clear them in a week. As I was tied with recruitment, I asked for a slightly longer deadline (2 weeks) but was told it was so easy she herself can do it in one day. There were frequent incidents where she will tell me to take over our team assistants’ work because they are busy. It has developed into a situation where the assistants will try their luck in dumping their work on me, but I resisted it because I feel we all have different work priorities. I don’t expect them to do my work or even help me, but they should not feel they can dump their work on me.

I spent a lot of time reflecting how I may have spoken to my boss, how I may have presented myself (body language), to assess if I may have come across as pushy or arrogant or something like that. It is better to assess internally first. I have concluded I have not acted like that. I even asked some of the line managers whom I work with if they found me speaking less than politely – they were all surprised why I even asked. I tried to think if there was any way in which I may have been slack in my work and attitude, but I am affirmative I have been very proactive, especially in this situation.

The confusing part in this whole episode is that, she was the one who hired me, but it comes across very strongly from day 1 she does not want me in her team. It is just so weird. Nonetheless, I am going to continue to try my best in my work and find ways to improve our relationship. I will give up when I’ve tried everything possible and it still does not work. Thank you & warm regards.

Follow Up Response: It’s always good to get feedback. And this additional information that you provide tells me that for some unknown reason your assessment of how your boss behaves is far from supportive. Does she “hate” you? That is not clear; however, she for sure isn’t a cheerleader or coach. Will that change with your determination to meet her expectations? From here, that appears problematic at best and unlikely at worst. As you know, it is difficult to know for sure what you are getting even when you recruit someone as you are doing. Also it is not easy for a new hire to know what she/he is getting into even when they carefully investigate and cautiously interview before accepting a job. In your case it seems you didn’t learn enough about the way your boss manages before you accepted this job. If you had, you would not have taken it as an advancement, but as a demotion regardless of better pay.

You have reflected and probably have become more obsessed each day with your boss/bossed “hates me” feelings. You’ll have to determine how long this can go on. Once you are clear in your own mind about what you want and can spell out the dos and don’ts of how you want day-to-day communication to function with her, it might help to schedule “time-out talk-out” review with her–a time in which you candidly say to her what you have said to Ask the Workplace Doctors.

The outcome of such a meeting, a meeting in which all pretense is absence, should inform both of you of how long you should continue and if you had best look for work elsewhere. Work is hard enough without working for a bully boss, one that is too busy for you, and/or not supportive of you.

Follow Up2: I’m trying to get my boss to give me a follow-up review every 2 weeks, provided she even wants to. In the meantime, I can only keep trying my best, hope that she can change her attitude. Failing that (or my sanity giving up, whichever comes first), I think I will find other employment because I agree I cannot be happy and productive if she keeps up her strange behaviour. Thank you so much for your enlightening advice. It has been of tremendous help. Warm regards,

William Gorden