Sick Of It and From It

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss that yells at us and intimidates:

I work for the worst boss ever. She constantly yells at us and intimidates us. We are all tired of it. Morale is low. It’s a doctor’s office and it’s his wife that causes most of the problems but he does to. He yells at us. The staff is mainly Hispanic, and he sometimes makes derogatory comments about “our people” as he puts it. His wife’s daughter works here too, and she feels she can yell at us at her discretion as well. I had been diagnosed with anxiety before and it comes and goes. But lately I’ve had real bad anxiety and panic attacks at work due to her. What can I do? She stresses out the whole staff and the tension is so thick you need a chainsaw to cut it. Do we have to suffer in silence?

Signed, Sick Of It and From It

Dear Sick Of It and From It:

If the your description is even half accurate, it is little wonder that you suffer anxiety. What do you want to do about it? Apparently, you need your job or you would quit and so would other of your co-workers who also are “tired of it.” Yelling and put-downs in a doctor’s office certainly are unhealthy for all concerned and that includes those of your patients. You don’t say what you do when you and others are yelled at and mistreated with “derogatory comments.” So I assume you just suck in your anger and hurry to do whatever has provoked the outburst.

Why you suck it in and consequently suffer anxiety most probably comes from a fear of confronting authority and the practical consequence of doing that is fear of being fired. What else might you and your “tired of it” co-workers do? I’ll suggest some ways to cope and you will have to weigh if they make sense and if you have the guts to do them. If you don’t have the guts to use your voice, then you’ll have to bite your tongue and continue to suck it in.

1. Log incidents of yelling and derogatory remarks–Who said what, when, to whom and over what. Do that for a week or two until you are ready to confront your “worst boss ever.”

2. Huddle with your “tired of it” co-workers and suggest that they create the same kind of log.

3. Also list incidents in which interaction with your boss, doctor and wife’s daughter have gone smoothly and why. For example, were you asked to do something rather than ordered to. Or did “please” preface an assignment or were you thanked for doing something or did you anticipate what needed to be done and that was appreciated?

4. Create a list of the various jobs that are essential to your office operating efficiently and effectively, and who is supposed to do what. This is important to preventing the need for yelling and put-downs.

5. While you and your “tired or it” coworkers are huddling, rather than gossiping about how you are treated, brainstorm about ways your office could be a “great” place to work, such as: ways to cut wasted supplies, duplication of effort, time, money, and more importantly ways to brighten up the surroundings by healthy lighting, pleasant colors, paintings, greenery, music, occasional celebration for one another, and plenty of praise for everyone who works there including the boss, the doctor, and the wife’s daughter.

6. You and your coworker are now ready to ask for a Time-Out confrontation with your office manager; the worst boss ever–once you have done this preliminary work. Do not short change the serious effort required to prepare for a meeting, but it can also be a creative “fun” time to compare what is the current work environment with what would make your office a “great” or at least a “good” place in which to work. Making this Time-Out request must be done firmly, such as, “Ms. Johnson, my co-workers and I want to make our office more efficient and effective. and we think our current environment is not a happy place to work. We think that you must feel this way too because there is too much yelling at us and too much frustration and anxiety. To be frank, we think our office is sick and not a healthy place in which to work. We want to make it better and we need your help. We want to schedule an hour to discuss with you what is on our minds and hearts.”

7. In that meeting, you or one of your coworkers will have to speak up and set the agenda. It would be good for you to present in a written agenda topics you and your co-workers would like to talk about with your boss, such as: · Things we might do prevent yelling and failure to please you. · Dos and Don’ts of how we talk to one another; do ask, do say please, do thank; don’t put-down Hispanics, don’t explode with yelling, etc. Have your logs with you and refer to them if you need examples to show what you don’t want; what causes anxiety and suppressed anger at how you are bossed. If you really want to make your point, you will need to describe incidents in the tone, volume and words of an incident. · Ideas for cutting wasted supplies, effort, and time. · Ways to please our clients and each other. · Things we might do to make this office more efficient, effective, and beautiful. Working down such an agenda will take lots of give and take between your boss and the rest of you. Don’t cut it short. Rather say toward the end of an hour, “We need to meet again, Ms. Johnson, don’t we to finish talking about these things?. Even if you work through all these topics, in order to not lose the momentum for this Time-Out, it would be smart to set a regular time each week for a skull session; a half hour or so to discuss and applaud those things that are going well toward making your office a good and great place to work and to correct those things that might be done to make it better.

Weigh these suggestions and share them with your “tired of it” co-workers. See if they make sense and if you as a group are willing to take the bull by the horns. If not, talk about other ways you might individually say to your boss, the doctor, and/or wife’s daughter a few short sentences at appropriate times such as, “Please don’t yell. When you speak respectfully. I am anxious to please you. You don’t have to yell to get done what you want. I want to make this office hum and a happy place to work.” Work is work. Your boss expects it to be done well; tasks performed in ways that please her and others who depend one’s work. That entails emotions and how one feels she/he is being treated. Those of you in the office, just as do patients, want more than medicine when they come to see the doctor; you each need and want to feel cared for. So with that in mind, realize that you have a voice and a voice that can speak in your behalf. Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and from what you write, your office can benefit from lots of WEGOS.

William Gorden