Out of Control Boss

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about problem female boss: His boss is female and in her late 40’s to early 50’s and is a very successful woman in her area of expertise. But when it comes to running a team of people she has no respect. Plus that she …

Hi I am contacting you on behalf of my husband, he constantly comes home telling stories of his days at work and is very stressed. He has worked at the company for a couple of years now and the more he tells me the more I get infuriated with his boss. His boss is female and in her late 40’s to early 50’s and is a very successful woman in her area of expertise. But when it comes to running a team of people she has no respect.

She is currently in a relationship with one of her coworkers who started at the bottom and all of a sudden shot to the top and became manager overnight. This has happened to many workers in the past who entered into a physical relationship with her, they have all eventually left for one reason or another. She lavishes gifts on him when it was his birthday saying it was from the company but no other worker gets gifts on their birthday, and gets as many privileges.

My other major concern is that this woman sits in her office and drinks all day. Quite often my husband says he will go in the office and there are a couple of bottles of Jack Daniels and an ashtray full of cigarette butts even though the no smoking signs are every wear. And she proceeds to drive home after drinking all day on a Friday.

My other concern is that she seems to think she can just make rules up as she goes. She dictates when there is to be a week long shut down so it coincides with her holiday and because this year it’s the week the children go back to school all her staff are unhappy. So, she just turned around and said if you don’t like it then I will dictate all your holiday days and we will have a 4 week shut down.Can she do this? There’s nothing in their contracts that state she can. I feel this woman is out of control and there is no one at the company in a position to question her because the managers have relationships with her, one is her son and the other is in a sexual relationship with her. As a group of people what could her team do to stop her from making ludicrous and unfair decisions?

Signed, Frustrated

Dear Frustrated:

The big issue is whether there is anyone over the boss’s level in the company. If she is the owner or the highest level person, there is probably nothing employees can do, except, as Dr. Gorden says, “vote with their feet” and leave. But, if there are people higher than her, there are at least avenues to start making a change, if employees are willing to do it. First they should document very specific situations and state the effect this has on work. Or, they can contact higher level people and report that right at that moment the woman is drinking in her office.Those actions require that the employees stand up and be counted–and you will find that in spite of complaints most won’t do it. So, that leaves there right where they are.As for whether or not the boss can set shut down weeks–if she has that control organizationally, yes she can, because there are no laws related to that, that I know of.

If all employees express their concerns, perhaps just knowing that she is producing a very angry group of people who might potentially quit, may stop her from being so extreme. But it sounds as though she may not care about that at this point!Keep this in mind as well…most employees complain at home about work, but often that is just venting and anger that goes away when they are at work. I’m not doubting your husbands true feelings. But, if you could be at work you might see it from another perspective.Often people write to us telling about situations that sound horrendous. But, when they are told ways to deal with it, they back down quickly and say it’s not that bad. Or, that they can’t do it because they’ll get in trouble or they don’t want to cause problems, or whatever. And yet, they just told us that things are so bad they’re ready to quit or they hate work or they have ulcers or are breaking out in hives every day!

So, at some point I figure if someone has a boss that is so bad they are intolerable, something simply must be done–or the person should let their feelings be known when they tell someone in charge that the company will be losing a good employee over a very bad boss. Consider this: Have your husband set down with you and produce a written timeline of events both positive and negative about the manager. That way he can consider if there are good points he doesn’t want to overlook when making note of the bad things.Try to be as specific as possible about the events, as to who was involved and when it happened. Then, note what impact this had on work or profits or him specifically. It’s important to establish that link to the work, if he goes higher in the organization about it. Next is to list the people who could verify these things, whether or not they have said they want to complain. If asked, they might at least vouch for the truth of the allegations.Then, mail those things to the highest level that seems appropriate for action. Or, your husband could take the list personally. It might also work to send something anonymously, even though I don’t like that approach. Still, sometimes it is a way to start an investigation. In the meantime, your husband needs to be sure that he is doing or saying nothing that could be construed as insubordinate or harassing about sexual or gender issues related to the boss. And, he should make sure his work is so good that no one wants him to leave.I know this is frustrating for you as a listener. But you may have to do as I do when people write to me over and over about something. I tell them to either do something about it that makes a difference or suffer in silence because I CAN’T do anything about it.That’s not unfeeling or unsympathetic, but really, after awhile it can become tiresome! And, until he takes strong action you will never really be sure all of it is absolutely correct as reported.I know your role in this is challenging. But, you can help by, in a loving way, insisting that your husband either take some action or adapt to the unpleasant situation or find a way to improve it by working with other employees and the manager herself.Best wishes!

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.