Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being target of picky boss:
I have worked for the same employer for almost 8 years. I previously worked here under the prior owner for an additional 5 years also under my current supervisor. She can be rather difficult at times. I realize that she is a perfectionist and expects us to perform at the same level everyday. Sometimes this is not possible just due to everyday life, of which you are cut no slack. Occasionally she shows she is actually human and does show some sympathy for any random employee and their circumstances.She says she is harder on me because she knows what I am capable of. At times the pressure is unbearable. She has always had to have someone she didn’t like in the office that she could pick on and be even meaner to. All of a sudden I find myself in this place for no reason. She also will discuss the issues she has with an employee with other employees in the office. Essentially badmouthing them and talking behind their back. She has talked to me about other people in the past and it always made me feel uncomfortable.
Now she is doing this to me. All because I made a made a mistake a few months ago and our vice president was to talk to an employee it affected. He took over 4 months to handle the problem and it reflected poorly on me since it took 4 months to resolve it. Even though it was not me who drug it out for 4 months they are making it look as if it was. So this is why I am now the target of her anger and backbiting.I feel it is unprofessional of a Department manager to talk about her employees to that employees coworkers and make them look bad. I know there has to be something that I can do to make her stop, but I don’t know what. When I asked if I could speak with her so I could confront her, she rudely told me no she was too busy. I insisted and said it was in reference to what happened the day before and she rolled her eyes and said I don’t want to talk about it. The owner of our company says we have an open door policy and that we should be able to talk to our managers about anything at anytime. But here I feel like I can’t and I am miserable and I don’t even want to come to work now. I don’t know what to do. Please advice me if you can. Thank you.
Signed, Miserable Target
Dear Miserable Target:
My usual advice is to first meet with one’s supervisor before going over that person’s head, and that advice still stands. But you say, “I have tried that and she rolls her eyes and said, “I don’t want to talk about it’.” Should you try again? For the moment, that is her answer and you had best back off and stop seeing yourself as a target, although you might be one. For the next two or three weeks, I suggest that you do your job as cheerfully and professionally as you can. Pretend, if you have to, that you are your boss’s favorite rather than target. Pretend, if you have to, that all is going well and that she praising you in her gossip. Pretend, if you have to, that the mistake of the past is really past. Get my point? You have become obsessed with the fact or possibility that your supervisor, for whom you have worked for eight years, has it in for you.
Your story above declares she needs to “pick on and be even meaner to” someone and that you are now that one; however, you don’t describe one harmful act she has done against you other than you say she has badmouthed you. Sure it hurts to know for a fact or to suspect that your supervisor has badmouthed you, but it also is possible that you imagine more as badmouthing than what she actually said. So I’m suggesting that you turn off that tape of negatives that you play over and over again in your mind even though that tape might be true. Rather replaying that, for your own mental health, replace that negative tape with a positive one. I’m not worried about your becoming Pollyanna because a lot of Polly in you will help balance the over-sized feelings that you are a victim. Be Pollyanna for the next few weeks, and I predict that your behavior and attitude will in fact change so much that your coworkers and supervisor will see you differently. Pollyanna is busy doing what needs to be done. She too is a perfectionist, as she knows her boss is, or at least she does all assigned that is reasonable to do and more. When she sees a way to make a coworker’s job easier, she volunteers to do so, so long as she doesn’t neglect her own. Polly also puts on her supervisor’s shoes. Doing so causes Polly to think positively about her supervisor, such as you did in the opening paragraph of your query when you said about her, “Occasionally she shows she is actually human and does show some sympathy for any random employee and their circumstances.” Think Pollyanna, Pollyanna, Pollyanna at home and at work and see what happens. Is it worth a try? Now if you give this a genuine try, really a try, and you still feel as disheartened as you did when you wrote the Workplace Doctors. You can tell me I was wrong and you can complain about me as much as you feel you are a target of your manager.
Then you can gossip about her and how mistreated you are. Or then you can again seriously request a meeting with her and confront her and spill out your frustrated heart. You can ask her if she has “baaaadmouthed” you. You can say that you have been employed in this workplace for nearly 13 years and that you must have been making a contribution; that now more than ever, you want to cut wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted effort. And you might mention some concrete things you have done. You can propose dos and don’ts about the kind of communication you want from her and she can say the kind of communication she wants from you. Hammer out rules such as: I won’t talk to anyone about you in any negative way and I want the same from you. If I have a complaint about you, I will come to you first, and I want the same from you. Stress the overarching goals that “Work matters. Attention to high quality is an ongoing goal. We are in this together.” Most of all see if you can come to an agreement to talk each week for a few minutes about how you might make your workplace customer-friendly and customer-delighted. If after such an eye-to-eye confrontation, you are still unhappy, tell your supervisor that you would like for her to go with you about this matter to the owner who said, “we have an open door policy and that we should be able to talk to our managers about anything at anytime.”
Enough said. My advice is embedded in my signature thought: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Please let me know if any of this makes sense to you. Follow UP Thank you for your reply. Yes what you said does make sense and I will heed your advice. I will say this though, everyone in the office has always felt the she treats me differently. They have told me this many times, but like I said my boss justifies this by her expecting more of me than the others. Which I suppose in a way should be a compliment. It is rather frustrating though to have her reprimand me at my desk out in the open while everyone else has the courtesy of the privacy of her office. It is also frustrating to have a coworker come tell me what she has said either in person or over the phone while she is at another facility. Most of this started while I was out of work last month for 7 days, part of which I was in the hospital. My work is payroll, benefits, and HR therefore it is confidential and most of it cannot be done by anyone else in the office. With the exception of my boss, but she does not know how to do most of my job. So while I was out my work fell drastically behind. She did not do any of my work while I was out and did not offer to assist me upon my return. I was barely able to keep my head above water and got the basics done. This is when her attention turned towards me and she has made it apparent that she feels I am now the office slacker. I could list specific events to substantiate this but it would take way too long.When you say be Pollyanna, all of us in the office are Pollyanna everyday.The girls have told me for years they don’t know how I deal with it and keep on smiling all day. We have all told each other that if it wasn’t for each other none of us would be here. We all like working with each other so much, that we put up with her everyday. “Go oft to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson