My boss is really breaking me down

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a new wrong-headed, credit-stealing boss: think my new boss has failed. Or shall I simply leave the company? I have a fairly new job offer from a competing company, but I am not sure that the company would be the best fit for me. I must admit that for the first time in 20years I have cried over a boss, I am usually a very strong person, but he is really breaking me down.

I am a 40year old woman who has 15 years experience as a project employee with designing cable TV network, a totally male dominated world where women usually only work in the softer areas (telemarketing, secretary etc.). Since 2001, I have been working in the same company except for a 6-month period in 2007 when I worked in a competing company.

I was referred by a headhunter to a very special position, but found out after 4-5 months that my heart was still attached to my old company. I kindly asked if my old company would rehire me, and they happily accepted me. During my absence it had not been possible to find a suitable replacement, so my position was still vacant. Upon my return, I was chosen to be the unofficial team leader and later as an unofficial key account manager for 3 other employees in the department and became a very trusted employee to our boss and the management. I must tell that I have been very happy with unofficial solution, upon my return, I was given a good salary, so there was no reason to complain, and titles are simply not important to me.

The other benefit was that the colleagues did not see me as a “boss” or “money-grasping employee”, but they saw me more as a mentor and guide. In April 2009, we got a new boss, a man who had no experience with cable TV (he comes from our mother company that only works with telephone systems). At first I was a bit naïve and thought that our new boss would pull on my skills as team leader, excellent project employee and many years of experience, but I was wrong. Very quickly I got the feeling that I was talking to a wall when I approached him with day-to-day issues and ideas, so I instead started to email him the issues and ideas, but still I got no response!From week one since he came, he has sent out a weekly email, listing big events, handing out credits to employees who had made a big deal and added extra efforts during a week.

During the summer, I suddenly realized that he had started to use some of my input and ideas. But he never gave me credit. Okay, I thought; I started to get a bit angry here. In addition to that I found he had no idea of business economics, which should be a must when a boss has to work with big budgets. A big problem occurred here in November regarding a major project that encompassed more than 1 year of work. We were about to miss totally because another department had failed to inform the client properly on all the extra work that had been done. My boss wanted to push through the final numbers and documentation to keep a pretty face in front of the client. I was in charge of the economics on the project and told him to STOP, STOP, STOP! If we pushed through the final numbers, we could not document the costs to the client. My boss got very angry and telephoned me from his cell, telling me to do as told; I stood tall and would not accept the order.

Two days later I was called to a meeting (just he and me) where he threatened me by saying, “If this were our CEO sitting here, he would have understood your NO as a resignation.” I just answered, “I said NO due to the high risk of loosing client for good by delivering final numbers when we could not document the costs, I never said I would resign, but if our CEO sees it that way, then so be it.”

Then I left the office fully aware that no CEO had been drawn into the incident. Since November, my boss has been totally ignoring me, not just emails anymore, but now also as a person. One exception was at Christmas; on December 22, he told me that he had to fire a colleague of mine on the 17th December. I said that I fully understood the necessity in the firing, but did not understand why it had to be done a few days before Christmas. To me Christmas was holy. Firing people should not be done unless they had done something criminal. That was not the reason for firing in this case. Our debate turned to another topic: a new way of planning for the mounting division. Today our technicians book their own appointments directly with the clients. My boss wanted to introduce a system, where the girls in the office book the appointments for the technicians. I told him that I thought the new system would “kill” the enthusiasm of the technicians and in the long run also might result less interest to do the extra hard work required to keep up the planned schedule.

His final comment was, “Then we just have the wrong employees on our staff.” Two and a half weeks ago we got a new structure (organization chart) for our division. Many employees were placed where they have always been, but some had been moved up or down. The team leader/key account manager’s function was now official on paper, but given to a male colleague of mine with 3-years experience. The position was also moved higher up in the chart and away from the rest of the project department. I was moved further down (along with the rest of the project department) in the organization and now I report to different leader who then reports to my boss. I fully accept my new boss (he has full insight in projecting), and I accept the fact that I was not granted the official title. But I was pissed off to see that a less qualified colleague had been chosen for the job–one whom everybody says is in it for personal gain, not for the company and everybody’s gain.

But worst of all: My now old boss has also chosen again one of my ideas during the presentation and without giving me credit!!! A few days after I contacted my new boss and explained that I was definitely NOT happy with the new structure. His restructure was a failure.This Thursday, I got a chance to speak to who was now my old boss while the other colleagues were at lunch. I argued why all project employees should stay as one group. And I reasoned that his new team leader/key account manager was strong in technical issues and would not be able to use these skills in the new function where everything depends on planning and economics. I also mentioned that these were not his strong skills, which my now old boss recently got to see, when a client had complained to the CEO about a very big delay on a project for which our new team leader/key account manager was in charge, a delay that was caused by poor planning during projecting. I decided NOT to confront him with the theft of my ideas (I have them on email and can document them later if necessary).

I kept myself calm and strong, not making it a personal issue, but an issue for the welfare of the company. I got the answer, “I am listening, but will not change anything.” Afterwards I asked myself where did I go wrong? Please note: I have only listed the major issues here-I could give a dozen samples of similar incidents. I wonder: Shall I go higher to the CEO with these issues about how I think my new boss has failed. Or shall I simply leave the company? I have a fairly new job offer from a competing company, but I am not sure that the company would be the best fit for me. I must admit that for the first time in 20years I have cried over a boss, I am usually a very strong person, but he is really breaking me down. I am truly lost here, please help me!

Signed, Beaten Down

Dear Beaten Down:

Before giving any advice, you should know that I have decided not to post your question and our answer now because it includes details that might reveal who you are should it be read by someone in your company or one to which you might apply. Also I did some editing to correct some grammar, such as your frequent use of the verb “were” for the adverb “where”. Knowing the grammar is not why I made this and other modifications, but I took the time to make them because should you need to communicate by writing in the future, avoiding small errors is not something you want to do in the future. I have not made major changes and if any that I have made distort what you intended, I apologize.

Apparently you are a talented in a special field and you are fortunate to be wanted. The central question is: Should you leave in light of the several frustrations you are now experiencing with your new boss, the one whom you cried over? (Because of your references to old boss and new boss and his recent restructuring, my use of new might be not quite what you mean.) As you learned when you left for a few months in 2007, the workplace grass on the other side is not always greener, and this could again prove to be the case should you take this “fairly new job offer from a competing company.” This doesn’t mean you should not discretely investigate it; as thoroughly as is possible. However, you must ask your self if you should make a change to get away from the frustrations you now feel or would it be prudent to fight and/or work within the new structure.

You have several options:
· To further engage your boss in making the best possible use of the new structure and doing all you can to make him look good.
· To again candidly confront him as you have in the past over specific projects and policy, but now with all you have said and more in your “stream of complaint” in this question you’ve sent us. Then try to come to an understanding about the do and don’t rules of how you two can communicate most effectively. Most of all come to an agreement about frequent interaction.
· To by-pass him to inform those above of his “incompetence.”
·To enlist your co-workers and those for whom you are responsible if any, in a genuine team effort to improve quality, cut waste and innovate. · To focus on your job and to bite your tongue, accepting that your job entails some company politics but not to obsess about it.
· To bargain for autonomy; changes you think are in the best interest of the company; holding in the wings the option of going elsewhere. There probably are other alternatives that you can think of because you know the business, your special expertise and the options within your company, such as a transfer. Take time to weigh these and other options. Above all don’t vent to others your frustrations. Don’t allow your self to go sour. Hold your head high and cheer on others. Be a champion of small acts that help shape the kind of work climate that is enriching. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Right?

William Gorden