Nasty Boss

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctor about:

I have been in my job for about 4 months and i am having a problem with my boss. She yells at me every day, in front of the entire office, which is completely humiliating. When i first started there was another girl that she use to yell at and humiliate,this girl was off sick for 1 day and she called her all sorts(Ii recall being disgusted by her behaviour) this girl finally had enough and walked out. Now she’s doing the same to me, i go home in tears every night and dread going to work. At work I sit in fear all day, scared as soon as she says my name.I have been doing my job as well as the girls job who left. I don’t even have time to eat in work because I”m so busy with the extra workload. I have been making more mistakes because of this. I’m starting to feel like I”m stupid and incompetent. I’m scared to even talk to her about it because she frightens me. This makes me feel even more pathetic and useless.I really want to leave this job but am scared with the current economic situation that i wont find anything else, I really don’t know what to do.

Signed, Fearful

Dear Fearful:

Thank you for contacting us and for providing additional information. It seems you have three options:

1. Quit that job and find a place where you are treated with respect. Before you leave make sure you let HR and others know exactly what led to your departure. There are other jobs and this one will probably not get better until the supervisor is replaced–which might not happen.

2. Learn to tolerate parts of your supervisor’s behavior for the sake of keeping the job. However, I really, really think you should stop coming to work early, skipping lunch and staying late. What if your personal life prohibited that? Ask for assistance in learning new ways to do the job in less time, if you feel you must do all of the work of two people.

However, I think you should simply say you cannot do the work of two. I don’t think you would be fired for that. I would almost bet that the supervisor has told her own managers that she can get the work done with one less employee–and you are the one she picked to make that happen. I’ll bet also that the other employees wouldn’t go along with it if she tried it with them!I recall a manager telling me one time that the one statement by an employee that he couldn’t do anything about was, “I’m sorry. I just can’t do more than I’m doing now.” He said that was particularly difficult to overcome if everyone knew more work was being piled on.You can’t keep living and working the way you now are–and it will only cause more errors, which will increase your stress more.When I say you can learn to tolerate the worst of her behavior, I don’t mean to imply that she is doing the right thing or that you should put up with really terrible actions toward you. But, if you want to stay more than you want to avoid the yelling, you may need to keep the philosophy that you are getting paid by the mean word from her! Another way to approach it is to think of a favorite female movie or TV star. If they were working in that situation and didn’t want to quit, but also didn’t want to confront their boss in an aggressive way, what would they do?

Most of our favorite strong women would listen without emotion, then, shrug it off as the actions of a poor manager and go back to work with a shake of the head an a confident demeanor.The kind of person you want to be will not be the subject of sympathy by everyone. Instead, you will be considered tough enough to deal with a really obnoxious person without letting it tear you up inside.Optimally, of course, you could talk to the supervisor and tell her how her actions are affecting you. But, based on your follow-up information, I don’t think that would do any good at this point. She might even like the idea that she frightens you! So, I think you will have to solve this without her participation.3. Your third option is to stay there and take on the problem.

Decide what you will do if your confrontation doesn’t make things better, and be prepared to do it–likely to quit. Then, make a list of the things your manager has said, being very, very specific. Give witnesses and times.Write to your HR department and say that you are requesting an investigation into the treatment you have received. Be honest that it is making you very uncomfortable to complain because you have never done so before. But, insist that you can’t continue working in that environment.Say also that you are fearful that you will be retaliated against and that you are asking that the supervisor be specifically told not to retaliate against you. Say in the letter that you will come to HR immediately, every time she uses language as she has in the past, or threatens you verbally.You say you don’t think you can complain because you worry about what will happen.

But one thing is for sure–you can’t keep going this way. I know it will not be easy. But you might make it better for everyone by acting on this. For one thing, HR may just be waiting for the chance to get rid of this woman. In the meantime, don’t let your feelings get in the way of you knowledge and skills about doing your work. Continue to make yourself a valued employee so you have influence about this and other issues. If you are making mistakes, slow down enough to avoid them or correct them. Ask one of your coworkers to proofread or inspect your work. In addition, develop your life away from work so you have a reason to go home and a way to escape the mental pressures. Make your time at home special.Those three options are not ideal, but each of them is one way to handle your situation. Best wishes with this challenge. 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.