Problem with Boss’ Husband

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about verbal abuse: I tried talking to my supervisor because he intimidates me and I make even more mistakes. She did nothing.

I just started a job last month. My supervisor’s husband is the warehouse mgr. I still make some mistakes on orders, and when I do, he comes up from the warehouse and slams down the order and starts saying things like “What the heck is this?”, or he raises his voice. Others have heard him. I tried talking to my supervisor because he intimidates me and I make even more mistakes. She did nothing and I felt I had to do something and I spoke with HR. Of course my boss is pissed off I did that and talked about her husband to HR.

Last Friday, he told his own wife off (my boss) and my boss stuck up her middle finger to him. It’s very stressful and I just wanted him to be more patient with me and give me a chance to learn my job instead of being so negative towards me and walking up to my desk every time I make a mistake. How do I smooth this out with my boss because she’s really pissed off? I felt I had no choice. I felt her husband has zero tolerance for mistakes and has no patience. I tried addressing this to her before, but she never apologized on behalf of him or anything.

Signed, New Job Still Make Mistakes

Dear New Job Still Make Mistakes:

Unfortunately, your boss’ husband, like too many people, doesn’t realize that mistakes are not just carelessness. Mistakes, especially when new on the job, come from not getting adequate training and lack of clear instructions. Moreover, apparently your boss’ husband has a habit of intimidation, even with his wife. Can this be changed? Not likely and if so not quickly. Can you cope with him slamming a mistake on your desk and shouting at you? I don’t know. Is there anything else you can do other than get out of there? Maybe.

You by-passed your boss, and she’s unhappy about that. I don’t know how naïve you are about the workplace, but by-passing inevitably gets back to the one by-passed and that adds another problem to the one you sought to resolve by by-passing. Don’t expect an apology from her for not protecting you from her irate husband. Rather, you need a time-out session with her. In that, you need to apologize for going to HR and to say that you will never do that again. But you can briefly explain that you did that because you were confronted again by her explosive husband and didn’t know where else to turn. And you should affirm your desire to do good work and acknowledge your fear that you will make other mistakes. Ask her if she thinks you can learn the job and what you need to learn to not make more mistakes.

In short, ask for her evaluation of your few weeks on the job and her help to prevent further mistakes and/or you will learn upfront if you should seek work elsewhere. Conclude your conference with your boss by listing the steps you should take to do your job and come to an agreement about how you and she should communicate. Especially, put in writing how to respond to her husband. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Pledge to do your part to make her and her husband’s jobs easier.

A second thought: Hello, often Dr. Gorden and I add to the thoughts of the other and I will do so in this case. I don’t believe you were completely wrong to go to HR, considering that you tried to get your supervisor to intervene and she did not. According to how directly you asked, perhaps she had not realized how serious you were about it. So, she felt blind-sided. However, let’s put the responsibility about this correctly. It isn’t your job to protect yourself from rude, intimidating behavior, it’s your supervisor’s job. She is probably treated terribly at home and the two of them probably have similar mean-spirited arguments at home. He probably figures you will talk back if you don’t like what he’s saying to you, because that is the way he and his wife “communicate.”Now you are wondering what to do at this point.

Dr. Gorden suggests talking to your supervisor and that may be a good idea. You don’t say how you know she is POed, at you. She may just feel embarrassed.If you are going to talk to her, I don’t think you should promise not to go to HR again, because you may need to do it. But, perhaps you can say, “Lisa, I wanted to explain that I went to HR because I didn’t know what else to do get Bill to stop yelling at me.” Then, just stop and let her either fill the silence or not. You’ll notice that is a short sentence. Don’t try to memorize a speech about it, just say that one sentence and let her fill the silence.

She may say you should have come to her again or that you’re too sensitive or whatever. Just let her talk, because nothing you say will change her mind anyway. When you get a chance to talk, just repeat your basic thought, “Well, as I said, I can’t learn if Bill is angry and yelling. So, although I’m sorry I had to go to HR, I had to do something to get him to stop. I want to do well here, so I hope we can get over this bad situation.” Let her say yes or no, then say you have to get back to work, and leave.You may find it easier to send an email. That may not be optimal in some cases, but may be one way to do it and have proof of what you’ve said. Of course, the big issue is, did going to HR help? If they seemed concerned and since then you have had no problems, it was a good thing. Even if things aren’t much better, at least you’ve shown that you won’t just sit and be yelled at.I hope you’ve found some friends there with whom you can have a good relationship, without gossiping or being negative. That will help you get over these new-job issues and give you time to settle in.You may find it helpful to make a template or sample form to help you fill orders out correctly. Or, take a few minutes to review each order more closely. If the foreman comes to you using an angry tone, don’t cower, just say you’re sorry and you’ll correct it. If he continues, just wrap yourself in Teflon and let his words slide off you and onto the floor where they belong.

If it happens again, ask Lisa what she wants you to do to stop Bill’s tirades. By that time you’ll have a couple of months on the job and may have more confidence about speaking up.Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you do and what happens.

Follow Up: Thank you for your quick response. We actually did talk today and she made it clear that if I were to stay at this company, I would have to deal with how he is. She completely defended him and said that he doesn’t yell, yet they had confrontation last Friday and he told her off in front of the entire office. I had bad advice going to HR and I told her so. She asked me if I was going to stay or going to leave or did I want to “think about it”. That made even a more uncomfortable position for myself. I didn’t know what to do. I can’t quit cause I need the money. I had already apologized to her for going to HR and even emailed that HR person and asked if I could retract what I said.

I do know that the company knows he has an attitude problem towards others. I was told someone else complained about him before. I don’t know if I quit I would be able to draw unemployment because of the issue. Thanks.

Reply: If you need the money, for now stick with it and do all you can to learn the job. Meanwhile search for a job that has career potential. Once you have an offer in hand, and that might take months, you will know better if you can survive and want to continue in your warehouse job. I don’t know what is the law in your state, but I doubt that you could get unemployment compensation for quitting after one month.

See Unemployment Benefits How to Claim Unemployment Benefits By Alison Doyle, About.com Guide. Apologizing to your boss and she speaking with you about whether you were going to stick with your job has put the issue clearly. Sure it put the ball in your court, but since you say you can’t quit because you need the money, you know the answer of what to do. Meet with her promptly and enlist her help in learning the job and working cooperatively with the manager, her husband. Doesn’t that answer your puzzle of what to do?

Follow Up Again: Today isn’t bad. She’s still ticked off but being professional. What were doing is she checks my work before her husband sees it. Plus its making me more confident. Thanks for your imput.

William Gorden