New And Uncomfortable

Question to Ask the  Workplace Doctors about liking a new job with an unexpected hostile environment created by the boss:

I finally found a job after 7 months, and although what I’m doing now doesn’t really fit the job description, I am open to developing my skills in this field. I’m enjoying what I’m doing, but the office structure is really bad: we don’t have a process when it comes to design approval. It’s getting worse because we found out that our immediate boss doesn’t care about processes because he’s a “creative” and not an office “square.” He’s also shifty and forgetful with the day’s agenda.

So when the bigger boss criticizes our work, we can’t explain how it came to be that way. But then I don’t mind that too much either–my coworkers and I can streamline our process without my boss. But what bugs us most is that he talks tactlessly. He’s a laid-back and easygoing man who’s pretty approachable to most people, but: he brings down other people, talks about building porn sites, and discusses his illicit extramarital affairs in front of his female employees (that’s three of us).

And today, I caught him watching porn on his PC! These and his rather “unconventional take” on work discourage us to trust him and listen to his comments and suggestions regarding work. Now we’re not even prudes here. We have the choice not to care when he makes those comments outside of work, but this IS work. How can we tell our boss that we’re really offended? We’re really afraid that he’d take this badly and, in turn, might refuse to regularize us when the time comes. So we try shushing and complaining jokingly, and even try to do a “reverse psychology” thing wherein we’d sarcastically comment on the conversation, but these seems to encourage him. We’d like to respect him and do the best in our job, but now he seems to be too shady to trust and it might affect our work. Any advice? Thanks!

Signed, New To The Job

Dear New To The Job:

It’s good to learn that you finally found a job after seven months. These times make just having and keeping a job important. And I sense from what you describe, that that concern is on your mind and makes you afraid to confront your shifty and forgetful, laid-back, easygoing, and sex-talking immediate boss. You and your two-women coworkers have some choices before you. I am posing those that come to my mind, and you might think of others:

1. Continue to treat Jon, let’s call him Jon because from your description that name would seem to fit his behavior, as a boss who can be ignored, by-passed by making changes in what he has incorrectly told you. You three can talk about and sarcastically flip off his sex talk. This option as you say seems to re-enforce him. But you are safe from worry about not having his approval. The fact is that you three have been able to do your job in spite of Jon. So this might be your safest option.

2. Bypass your immediate boss and take your concerns directly up the ladder. Carefully prepare. State your concerns in specifics; both about the lack of structure and non-related to your job sex-talk of Jon. This option should get action. The boss above wants a productive workers and he is responsible to see to that. Also a company is responsible to address the sex-talk lest it be guilty of allowing a sexual harassment/hostile environment to exist.

3. Meet with Jon as a three-some and honestly share your concerns about his apparent not caring about the structure and design process and also about his off-task sexual remarks. To prepare for this you might log the problems you have encountered regarding the work assigned and also the remarks he has made regarding his sexual affairs. Take care to recall as specifically as possible the dates and context of these. Also take care to reflect upon and qualify your motives. You can see him as an obstacle and adversary and candidly tell him that you think he should manage you all more professionally and avoid non-work topics. And if he can’t do this, that you’d like for him to join you in a meeting with you top boss. Or you might determine to see him as someone you care enough about that if he can make a genuine effort, that you will “join” him collaboratively to create a productive working relationship.

I prefer the “Or” that I have just proposed. But this option will take courage and most likely it will not be a quick fix.Your immediate boss’ attitude and pattern of managing likely has been well established and modifying it will take patience and must be an on-going process. I sometimes suggest that entails two steps: One is confrontation in which do and don’t communication rules are hammered out about boss/bossed interaction. Two is establishing regular skull sessions that addresses as a work group the questions: What have we done this past week that deserves applause and what might we do to make our working together more effective?

Think through these and other options. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and is not that what you really want for Jon, yourselves, and your company?

William Gorden