My Boss Is Not Like Himself

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss who blames himself for a loss:

My boss hired me. I like working for him bcz I think he is smart. Lately he lost 7 high school students from our charter school to a public high school. He is upset and saying it is what it is. This is not like him. He does hv assistant principals that are not creative, but why is he blaming himself suddenly. He works long hrs. but it is not like him.

Signed–Not Like Him

Dear Not Like Him:

You are sensitive. You identify with your boss. You recognize a change in him that is linked to a loss of seven students from your charter school. He’s taken blame for this. It is natural for you want understand and help.

What lies ahead is what concerns him. I assume from what you have submitted to Ask the Workplace Doctors that you are seeking advice about how best to communicate with your boss in light of sensing his pain. Therefore, I suggest several thoughts for your consideration:

  1. Listen. Be professional. You were hired to do specific tasks and to be available for others that might arise. The most helpful thing you can do now is to perform those tasks effectively. Be business-focused, pleasant and friendly to all you contact.
  2. Avoid unnecessary talk to coworkers and him about the loss of students. If he wants your advice he will ask for it. When and if he does, listen, more than talk. Since you likely interact with many coworkers and students, you may have heard opinions of why the students changed to public high school. Gathering accurate information for cause of  this loss is important; however, more than likely some of what you hear is not correct. Again I suggest avoid unnecessary talk. Don’t pass on what you have heard. You say your boss is smart. He will do the gathering of information–perhaps by enlisting his team of assistants–he will analyze it and draw conclusions.
  3. Identification with one’s boss is constructive but should be only professional. You are not his mother, significant other or therapist. He is in the position to head this charter school because he is capable. It is his responsibility to make it succeed and he has staff, assistant principals and faculty to help. You have expressed negative evaluation of assistant principals, saying they are not creative. Guard yourself against such performance evaluation. Rather realize that you do not walk in their shoes. Assume they have good intention and goodwill. If your boss has mentioned negative assessment about them or anyone, take care not to confirm that.
  4. Wherever you are on your career path, you are learning about organizational life. There are ups and downs. Reducing uncertainty is a process important to coping with the downs and creating the ups. You are employed in a workplace committed to learning. Students are not the only ones that are learning. Your boss, his assistant principals, faculty and staff also are learning how to cope and find ways to make your charter school efficient, effective and emotionally satisfying.
  5. Think big and small. Think big by enlarging your identification to be with all parties to your charter school–staff, faculty, students, parents, community. Think small by logging specific instances that make you feel good–minor things you do for your boss and others and they do for you. They add up.   

I hope these thoughts from afar speak to what you wanted from sharing with us concern for your boss. You want to be someone who helps. Your every act and communication, I predict, is warmed by that. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. I mean by that you in a place and are at a time that will be blessed you. –William Gorden

FOLLOW UP Thank you.  This means a lot to me.  It bothers me when people work long and hard hrs. and have to take accountability for an unexpected loss of students.  The district has more of a say in most matters than the principal at the charter school I work at. Lately it has been in newspapers too that a local high school has received a huge amount of state funding possibly in an attempt to close down the charters schools.    

The charter is finding it difficult to compete now that the new Governor in our state has taken the opposite position about charter schools than Governor Christie.  Honestly, the assistant principals are too inexperienced and not helping much, but you are right I have not walked in their shoes.

As for me, I will do as you suggest – work hard and contribute as much as I can.  I do not take part in gossip and never had because it is not my style. I am not the mother, wife, spiritual leader or therapist to my boss and do not try to be and he would never suggest it.  Hearing the pain in his voice seemed so unnatural, but I need to realize he has his moments too although he is always strong for the faculty.

I would like to pay you for your advice.  I could not have hoped for such great advice that will carry me far.  Feeling better already.

FOLLOW UP RESPONSE Thank you for taking time to respond so promptly. You will continue to give of yourself. feel free to scan our Q&As. You’ll find those of Tina Lewis Rowe especially empathetic and workplace savvy. Here is a poem I leaned many years ago:

Look to this

Look to this
day, for it is life,

The very
life of life,

In its
brief course lies all the realities

And verities
of existence:

The bliss
of growth, the splendor of action,

The glory
of power.

For yesterday
is but a dream

And tomorrow
is only a vision.

But today,
well lived, makes every yesterday

A dream
of happiness!

And every
tomorrow a vision of hope.

well, therefore, to this day!

~Sanskrit Proverb~



The  Sanskrit verbal adjective sáṃskṛta- may be translated as “put together, constructed, well or completely formed; refined, adorned, highly elaborated”.

The term “Sanskrit”  was not thought of as a specific language set apart from other languages, but rather as a particularly refined or perfected manner of speaking. Knowledge of Sanskrit was a marker of social  class  and educational  attainment in ancient India and the language was taught mainly to members of the higher castes . –Dr. G

FOLLOW UP 2 Thank you very much.  You have been a great help to me. I am going to share your poem with my one high school special education class.  They are 9th graders

and having difficulty adjusting to their new environment that is demanding.  They worry about their futures a great deal of the time and as for me I need to be more grateful for each day

and the opportunities I have to help special education students.

Best regards…..



I frequently repeat the Exhortation to the Dawn and teach it to my students. I don’t want to overload you, but this note is to invite you to scan my LinkedIn posts and to suggest an article by Brittany Neish, a former student:

The 6 Qualities of a Great Boss

Well, my boss does not excel in some of the areas but nicer than others in the field of education.  I think he was a science major and tends to look down at Special Ed. teachers. I also have a history degree but they only pick men for that position.  Not an ideal situation but in New Jersey many schools are not in good shape because of lack of funding. I was just given an evaluation for mid year and did well except was told I must attend the teachers “potluck” lunches or run the risk of being labeled as not fitting in.  It sounds ridiculous and it is but what is one to do. Many thanks for the article.  The best…