Problems With Problem Boss!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a sales manager that interferes  with customers:

It would be so nice if you could answer me. Is it normal that a manager yelled at me in his office and before leaving his office he asked me a hug???? Is it okay that he yelled at me for no reason?Is it normal & okay that he speaks badly in the back of the president of the company, his boss, the project director, my sales colleagues…everybody???I am a sales representative. Is it okay that he interferes with my job? My sale is closed. Then he goes sees the client, and the client becomes so hesitant that he does not want to buy anymore???

Signed, Boss Problem

Dear Boss Problem:

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. You ask several times if it is normal and OK for the manager to do the things you describe. It’s “normal” to do those things–in that they are not unusual actions in some poorly managed workplaces. Is it OK? No, it doesn’t sound that it is, given the circumstances you describe. The fact that you ask as you do indicates to me that you realize it isn’t appropriate for your manager to yell at you, talk behind the backs of others and interfere with your sales. You probably also do not like the idea of hugging after a conflict–or maybe hugging that person at any time.

So, the next step is—what can you do about it? Is it possible for you to ask for a meeting with someone higher up in the organization? Is this manager the only person responsible for your work or do you have others you deal better with? Is there someone who has witnessed his yelling at you and who would support you in a complaint? Do you have an HR section that might be willing to listen to your concerns? Do you think those higher up would like the way he’s been acting? Do you think you’d get in trouble for letting them know? And of course, there’s the issue of how often this is happening. If someone yells out of anger or frustration once every few months, it’s inappropriate and irritating, but not debilitating for work. If they yell regularly–like daily or several times a week, that can become so distracting that you can’t work. Consider as your first response, asking to talk to him and expressing your concerns.

Tell him that you want to do a good job but you can’t do that if you’re concerned about getting yelled at. Tell him as well, that you wonder why he would get involved with one of your sales. Tell him about your view that he almost talks people out of buying. Ask him to talk to you about why these things are happening. He may not realize how he’s impacting you. Or, he may realize it, but after you talk to him he may realize that he can’t get by with it anymore. You may have to say, “I don’t want to have to say anything to anyone else about this–but I’ll be forced to, if this keep happening.” Or, the next time he yells at you, you may prefer to respond by saying, “Please don’t yell at me like that. I don’t think anyone works well when they’re being yelled at–and I know I don’t.” As far as the hugging goes, you could say, “I really am not much on hugging, so I’d rather not.”

In some offices hugging in a friendly way is a way to dispel conflict–although I’ve always thought of it as forced friendship and don’t like it. I like to hug someone I care about at work, but not for that reason! If you don’t want to be hugged and you’ve asked that he not do it, that’s one issue you can certainly take to the people above you. They know the liability risk if they don’t do something about it. You would need to document when he hugged you, the circumstances, if you let him know you didn’t want to participate and if you didn’t let him know, why not–and then send that in a letter as high in the organization as necessary to get action.

Since he is a manager over you that would be a valid reason why you might feel that you can’t say no directly. That brings us to WHY is this happening? Why is he so angry he yells? Does he only yell at you or does he treat everyone the same way? If he offers to hug you, why is it important to him to keep the relationship in that way? Is the hug friendly or does it seem too physical to you? Does he think you are still friends with him in spite of everything? Why would the manager interfere with your sales? Does he have to correct something? Does it benefit him in some way if you don’t make a sale? Could you get with others to complain about the behavior? Have you or anyone else ever expressed your feelings to him about his style of communicating? I can’t understand why anyone would think yelling would accomplish anything–but I’ve worked with people who yell and who seem to not think anything of it. There were other people in the office who didn’t think anything of his yelling either–and thought some of us over-reacted to it.So, by different people view that style differently.

If your job is one that you can’t leave, you may have to tolerate something that seems intolerable on occasion. But, if you can convey your concerns to someone who can make a difference that would certainly seem to be preferable. Otherwise, it may be necessary for you to let your bosses know that you’re leaving if they can’t provide you with a manager who will treat you with respect. That might get their attention when nothing else does. I’m hoping that a talk with the manager would be enough to let him know that his style isn’t working! There are really only a few options: Find a way to let someone know of his inappropriate behavior, confront him about it and ask firmly that he stop, tolerate it or move on to a job where you have a more professional manager. That last may not be easy to do–but if this situation doesn’t change for you, you may find it is the only way to be successful in your work. I hope this has triggered some thoughts for you as you develop a solution to this problem. Best wishes as you work to be an example of effectiveness, in contrast to your manager! Think WEGO in what you choose to do.

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.