Should My Manager Be Allowed to Call Me a B–?

Question: I work at a carry-out restaurant. I have three managers. Two of them I get along with very well, but I have always felt like the other manager has something against me. I’m 16, this is my first job, and I try to do my best at work.

Today we were really slow and we had stocked everything and cleaned everything. We had no orders out and there was nothing to do. I was talking to one of my coworkers about a video of me. She asked to see it and I pulled out my phone.

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I Have a Difficult Boss. Should I Quit–Or Stay and Hope for Improvement?


A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about whether or not to look for another position,
even though it appears a difficult boss is trying to do better. 

I am a dental hygienist. I have been working for a female dentist for 2 years. She had been treating me fairly for over a year, then I noticed her changing. Condescending, yelling at me. I talked with her about this change in her behavior, that I wouldn’t tolerate this. Her reaction was defensive, angry. Then when I told her “I want to work with you, what can I do to improve this situation?” She softened and said “Ok, we can get through this” Since then she has been treating me better. She is a domineering person, and has been sued by a previous hygienist for bullying, harassment. Also, has been in practice for 6 years and has lost 4 hygienists, 2 assistants, and too many to count for front desk. Do I continue to try to work things out with this dentist? Do I take another job? Where I live there are openings for full time hygiene positions. Thank you for your help.

The main issues for you to consider are: 1.) Do you need to decide right away about applying for another position? 2.) Do you have a reason to think the dentist will change permanently?

1. If you believe there will still be some good positions open, considering travel time, clientele, working conditions, etc., you may have a reason to wait to decide about moving. There tends to be quite a bit of movement between practices in some areas, so something good may be there when you want to make the switch. However, if you have identified one or more places you think would be a good fit for you, you should probably take advantage of the opportunity, rather than lose it and have to settle for something less.

One way to decide is this: If it was two years ago and you had a choice between her practice (with the knowledge that she has had problems keeping employees) and one of the others you are now considering, would you still think it worthwhile to risk working for the dentist, to get the other advantages her practice offers? Or would you think you could do without some aspects of your current work situation, if it would mean you could feel more confident about the work environment? Or, would it be no choice at all, if you had other opportunities?

You probably had heard some rumors before you were hired or soon after, but thought it was worth taking the chance. For a year it was–until the employment honeymoon was over. Of course, the reality is that it will be over in any new office at some point. But, there are dentists who are professionally enjoyable to work with, so you might find one of those elsewhere.

2. Your dentist has apparently had conflicts with almost all of her former employees. Not all of it may have been solely due to her treatment of them. I once was asked to do a lunch-time presentation to dental employees about bullying, gossip and dirty tricks. There was a lot of blaming and finger-pointing, but few of the hygienists, technicians and receptionists ever acknowledged their own responsibility for a pleasant workplace. Disappointing!

Let’s assume the personality and communication style of your dentist has been the primary cause of the number of employees who quit working in your dental office.
*What has changed that would make you think the situation will be consistently good in the future?
*Are you the only employee who has ever expressed concern, so you think now she will change her former habits?
*Has something changed in the dentist’s life?
*Has something about the working conditions changed, to the point that the dentist will react differently in the future?
*Do you think she feels justified in some of her reactions to you and will expect you to make some changes, if she does?
*Are you willing to make the changes?
*What will she need to change to be consistently and continuously pleasant to work with? Do you think she is willing and able to make the changes?
*At her best, is she truly excellent to work with, or even then does she make you feel badly or uneasy, to some degree?

3. Workplace relationships are like any other relationships, in that they can be rocky on occasion, then improve. However, like other relationships, sometimes you have to accept that it’s over. You can patch things up temporarily, but if too many unpleasant things have happened, there is never the same level of joy and trust. At that point, it’s just a matter of time before the final split, no matter how much both people try to keep it together.

That is where the analogy ends, because unlike a personal relationship, you never promised to love and honor that job forever. There was an understanding from the start that you could be fired if the dentist wasn’t happy with the outcome of your employment—and you could quit, if you weren’t happy with being employed there.

I don’t like to give you absolute advice, because there are many things that enter into your decision, which I don’t know about. However, I would imagine you have spent many evenings at home feeling upset about the way you were treated at work and many mornings hoping things would be better and many work days feeling stressed and unhappy. It seems to me that if you are a good hygienist, with something to offer another dental practice, you should give yourself the chance to be happy and confident at work. Your dentist may benefit from the fact that someone she liked, but mistreated, has decided to move on, just as the others have.

When you tell her you are leaving, consider using the concept of relationships as you explain your decision. Let her feel that she too has a chance to find a better fit for what she wants in an employee. But, in case she tries to convince you to stay, remember the Paul Simon song, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”: Make a new plan, Stan, and get yourself free. Once you decide, say it and stick to it.

Best wishes to you as you work through this challenging time. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what decision you make and how it works out.

Tina Rowe
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Boss Called My Wife a Bad Name Behind her Back, But No Action Taken. What Now?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a rude and obscene comment
made by a manager, behind an employee’s back. 


My wife took a problem to her manager, in front of other co-workers. They took care of the issue. After my wife walked out the door, her manager called her a “fucking bitch” in front of three other co-workers. She found out through other co-workers that it happened. It was brought to the attention of HR, but nothing has happened since then! There was to be a meeting, but it hasn’t happened yet, and it was reported three weeks ago.   What can we do about this?

Three weeks is a long time to wait for the organization where your wife works to take action about a complaint such as this.  HR usually can only start the process and then it is up to the manager’s manager to investigate and recommend action.  However, the director of HR is the best place to start, for your wife to find out what is happening with the complaint she made. It is also important for your wife to have, in fact, made a formal complaint about it. If she only talked to someone in HR but didn’t write a statement, it may be that HR views a meeting or other action to be optional, not required or expected. They may not think your wife made a formal complaint, merely an informal report.

There are no laws about the language that can be used in a workplace, unless the language is part of harassment based on gender, race, ethnicity, etc. Nor are employers required by law to investigate complaints of rudeness, obnoxiousness or even general obscenities, or to impose sanctions for it when it happens.  However, the best businesses do–and your wife’s HR department should be concerned enough about what happened, to investigate it anyway, whether they are obligated to or not.

No matter what the circumstances of the original confrontation between your wife and the manager, it was rude and inappropriate for your wife’s manager to use those words when describing your wife, especially to coworkers. So, some investigation should take place and if the allegation is shown to be true, the manager should be reprimanded to at least some degree. The action taken will vary according to the nature of the business and their rules and policies about such things.

HR may have called the manager’s manager and told that person that your wife reported what she heard from coworkers–and the higher manager informally investigated it and either decided there was nothing to it or informally reprimanded your wife’s manager and thought that was the end of it. I’m wondering if the employees who reported it to your wife have back-pedalled when they were asked about it by HR, or if what he said was not as blatant as they reported.

The bottom line: The main thing your wife can do at this point is to send an email to HR, (so she has it and their response, in writing) asking what action is going to be taken and when can she expect some sort of resolution to this unpleasant situation. Apparently she is still working and still reporting to that manager, so it must be very uncomfortable for everyone involved.

In the meantime, she should make sure she stays focused on her work and doesn’t get caught up in talk with other employees about what happened. The same people who told her what her manager said are also likely to tell her manager everything she says!

If your wife intends to keep working in the same business and if she must work with the same manager, perhaps she can, through her actions, show him he was wrong–not only in his remarks but in his assessment of her as a person. We can never have too many allies and one enemy is one too many, so it will to be her benefit to find a way to show her manager that he was wrong about her.  Maybe over time there can be a truce between her and her manager. It may even be that at some point she can talk to her manager and explain how hurtful and angering his remarks were. If she can do that, it might lead the manager to apologize for the poor judgment he showed in his comments.  As unlikely as that sounds right now, it could happen–but it will require that your wife and her manager are communicating enough to allow the door to be open to that conversation.

I can imagine that this has taken up a lot of your time and energy. I hope it will be resolved soon. Best wishes to both of you!

Tina Lewis Rowe
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Can My Manager Go To My Second Job To Verify I Was Out Sick?

A question for Ask the Workplace Doctors:
Can my manager come to my second job to check on me, when I’ve called in sick? 


Hi, I currently work 2 part time jobs in two different stores in the same shopping center. I have had problems with one of the stores ever since I joined. They waited to pay my September’s wages all the way into December. Then, they messed up my December’s wages and I wasn’t paid until in January. My bank has been overdrawn and I couldn’t even buy any of my parents or friends any gifts, which ruined the whole holiday season for me. They also haven’t recorded the overtime I have worked for previous months, so the store manager had to check CCTV footage to see when I was in, to rewrite any overtime. This was also paid late to me. ( I will call this store, Store A). The second place I work is much more professional and I have not had the slightest problem or worry about anything and they treat the workers like royalty (I will call this store, Store B)

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Stalked By My Boss’s Jealous Wife

Question for Ask the Workplace Doctors about being stalked by a jealous wife: 

“My boss’s wife is jealous of me and  I think she is stalking me. What can I do?”

Dear Workplace Doctors,

I am a female electrical engineer working in a research development group. I have two little children and I support my husband who has a medical problem and cannot work full-time.  My boss and all of my co-workers are male. I have been at this new job for about 4.5 years. My boss is one of the toughest people I have ever worked for and I have had to complain to  his boss and HR about his aggressive anger toward me, in the past.  He fights with my other coworkers the same way but he doesn’t seem to be as aggressive toward them as he is to me. I have had miscarriages while I worked there and never even felt I could tell him I was pregnant, because I didn’t want him to know.

One time, when I was pregnant again, I went to HR about his treatment of me, because I didn’t want the stress to have an effect on me. After he found out I was pregnant, he took me to lunch to apologize. I agreed just to keep the peace. Then, a couple of times he gave me a ride home because it was on his way.  (My husband usually drops me off and picks me up.)

One day, out of nowhere, his wife followed us on the way going back from lunch.  He pulled over to a gas station and she came up to my side and started yelling at him. I first did not know who she was but realized right away because she was talking about him giving me rides without telling her. She seemed relieved when she saw that I was very pregnant.

After that I refused to go to lunch with my boss and he understood.  But, one day she called and told me not to go to lunch with him, not to work alone with him and a lot of other things.  I didn’t want to be in the middle of an argument so I agreed.  Then, I went to him and asked him to ask her to leave me alone or I will have to bring it to his boss.  He didn’t want to talk to her and eventually I took it to  HR and they told me that sometimes business lunch can;t be avoided but to try to get another person to join if possible.

This worked well for awhile, but then we had to work on an important project  and we  decided to discuss it during lunch. She must have been following him every day, because she followed us that day.  Later she called me and demanded that I go outside our office to talk to her and I refused.  I told my coworkers about the situation but didn’t want to make a huge deal out of it.

After I got home, my boss called and said his wife was getting crazy and he wanted me to talk to her, but I refused. Then he called and said he couldn’t stop his wife from coming to my house.  She showed up and knocked on my door then banged on my door and jerked the doorknob. I should have called the police, but my boss asked me not to.

I made a request to move to a different group (more like a demotion) but that was not approved by my boss’s boss, because he says I am too good at what I do and they cannot have me leave.

Recently I have been getting odd phone calls, which I think are to find out where I am, especially when he is out of town. I also get calls without anyone talking. I feel I am being stalked by a jealous wife. What can I do?



Dear Stalked,
I think, based on some elements in your message,  that you live in a country other than the United States. As a result, I do not know what the laws are about harassment or being staked by a jealous wife or stalked for any other reason.  I also do not know how supportive your HR section will be about this issue.  But one thing is clear: this has not been handled in the most effective way from the very beginning. Certainly HR and your boss’s boss have not responded appropriately and your boss has made the problem much worse, but you have not been effective about how you have handled it either.

As I read through your long message, which I edited for article length, I could only think that there have been many times when your boss’s wife could have done something violent to you, your family and your workplace–and she still might.  She seems mentally deranged. But, you continued to go to lunch with your boss without witnesses and you continued to get a ride home and take personal phone calls from him away from work.  I do recognize that you tried to get help at work, and that was certainly the right thing to do, but I don’t see that you ever followed-through on it. That is not blaming you as the victim, that is reminding you that no one cares about your safety and security–and the safety of your family–as much as you do. You will need to take the full action that you can to stop the stalking, the harassment and the fear that this has caused.

Your first action should be to write a numbered list of the times when your boss’s wife has called you or accosted you. Make it easy for both HR and the police to read and understand. List the date and approximate time and what she did and what you did. Also list the actions your boss took when you asked him for help with the matter and what HR  or your second level boss did when you reported it.  Then, submit that list to HR and say that something must be done to ensure your safety at work.

You have a boss who has a mentally disturbed wife. You do not know what he tells her about you, so she could be thinking things are much worse than they are.  It is bad enough that she stalks you and her husband. Even worse would be that she could harm you or your family. She certainly has created a distraction about your work. I would think your HR section would be very concerned if you state all of that clearly, especially if they have any legal advisers for situations like this.

Regarding the disturbing phone calls:  You probably have some form of Caller ID on your phone. If not, get it, so you can recognize numbers and not answer. That would also allow you to clearly identify that the calls are from the wife and you could see if your phone company would take action about it. Do not answer and do not talk if you answer and there is no response. If it rises to the level of harassment, because of the number and times of calls, contact the police and make a report of phone harassment or whatever violation is appropriate for where you live.

Be aware all of the time about your surroundings. If you are being stalked by your boss’s jealous wife, she probably is in her car most of the time. Be aware of that vehicle and be on the lookout for it. If you see it, go to a place of safety and wait for her to leave the area. If she does not, call the police and report the license number and who you suspect is following you. Make it very clear that you feel stalked and harassed and you will make a complaint. You have to be willing to make a complaint and testify for the police to fully assist you..

This next is important as well: Tell your husband–and  your children, if they are old enough to answer the door– to look out and see who is there first.  They should not open the door to the wife or the boss at any time—and neither should you.

If you have the financial means to do it, consider asking for legal advice from an attorney. Find out what you can do and also get advice about how to best deal with it so as not to weaken your case if you do go to the police.  You may want to ask if you have a good civil case against your company for failing to protect you when they know it is your boss (and his wife) that is the source of the problems.

In the future, do not, under any circumstances, get in a car with your boss unless there are others in the car. Just don’t do it. Do not take a phone call from him away from work. Do not stay after work with only your  boss around or be alone in a private area with him at work, or do anything else that could be reported back to the wife. (That may be how a lot of this got started.)  Many men and women have a personal rule that they will not be alone with the opposite gender at work, just for reasons like this.

My final advice is this:  If you are as good an employee as your second level boss says you are, you could get a job somewhere else and maybe that is what you should do.  Or, you should make it clear at your own work that you will leave if you are not given a less stressful boss to work for. The key is that you have options and you do not have to work in this situation.  It will take pushing it a bit on your part.

If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens and how you deal with this case of being stalked by a jealous wife. I’m sorry you and your family are being put through the situation and I hope you can get help soon.

Tina Rowe

To our readers: If you have been stalked by someone at your workplace or have had problems related to your boss’s wife being jealous of you, or any other workplace issue, look at the thousands of  questions and answers in our archives. Or, send us a question, being specific enough that we can help you fully.

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Favoritism By The Boss

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about favoritism by the boss

“My boss favors the golden boy manager. How do we (other managers and our staff)
deal with this and keep motivated?”

Our problem is about the difference between a boss and a leader. I am a manager of a Finance team and report directly to the Finance VP — along with four other managers. The problem is that the VP shows favoritism to one of the other managers and it is obvious to all other managers as well as our staff.

This favoritism ranges from giving extra support in meetings to securing financial and people resources, The ‘golden boy’ is on a pedestal (they also have a friendly relationship and have lunch together, call each other on weekends, etc).

How do we deal with this and keep ourselves motivated? How can we help our boss be more of a leader instead of only a boss that shows favoritism?

Not Quite As Favored

Dear Not So Favored:

Yes, your V.P. is more boss than leader. Put that thought of favoritism by the boss way back in your mind if you can’t put it out of your head. Bosses shouldn’t play favorites, but some do. Some find a closer working and social relationship with certain subordinates. Some help them as mentors do.

Rather, focus on finding ways to prompt your VP to engage all of you in working together as a team. Among the most subtle, yet direct ways, to coax your manager to be a coach, are found by posing questions in staff meetings such as:

• Are there ways that we might make our division (department, work unit, whatever is appropriate) more effective?

• How might we improve the way we communicate?

• Are there some things we can do to make each other’s jobs or units work easier?

• We appreciate the fact that you do not micromanage, but are there things we managers might do to help our staffs see the big picture your work as VP of Finance represents?

It would be wise to have a list of incidents that you might mention that prompt whichever such questions you pose. It also would be wise to not spring questions from nowhere, but to have planted the seeds with the VP informally. Possibly ask that such questions be put on the agenda with the purpose of improving coordination and cooperation among you managers and staffs.

Almost every work working unit, especially a team of managers who speak for their staff and those in their charge, needs to take time out to do as sports’ teams do after and before every game–that is to have skull session on what went well (or has been working well) and what might we do to make this next game (quarter, month, week) go more smoothly and effectively.

Bosses don’t always have a sense of how important such sessions are. So those in their inner circle must help them give time-out skull sessions a genuine trial period. Learning to work together is not a quick fix but an on-going process. So will you weigh these thoughts and let us know what you do and what does or doesn’t work? Possibly, we will have some additional thoughts to send your way a bit later.

While you are doing all of this, look at the way you treat the employees for whom you are responsible. Make sure they do not have a reason to complain about favoritism by the boss! You may be surprised at who they think is your favorite!

Working together with hands, heads, and hearts takes and makes big WEGOS.

Earning our signature WEGO is an on-going process of work group communication. That is how work groups earn the right to call themselves a team. Will you send us what you and your work group do to create agenda skull sessions to review and improve team collaboration? What works? Or what does not work? The hope and purpose of Ask The Workplace Doctors is this kind of learning from each other.

William Gorden
Ask the Workplace Doctors

To our readers: Do you have questions about favoritism by the bossboss vs. leader at work, verbal abuse between employees, unpleasantness, challenging/problem employees and other workplace communication problems? Look at our archives of thousands of questions and answers to find an answer. If you need additional assistance, write to us, providing enough details to help us respond effectively. read more

Store Manager’s Badmouths Subordinates

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss’s demeaning gossip: How do you cope with a boss who gossips?

How do you deal with a store manager who disrespects you in private so nobody hears her? My boss does this to a lot of employees. How do you deal with this?


Deal With It?


Dear Deal With It?:

You get specific. By that I mean you talk to your boss about what specifically you have heard about yourself that she supposedly said or you heard her say about others. You ask her if it is true that she said. If she denies it, you say, “I hope you didn’t say that or anything like that. A boss should not gossip about any of us. If she has a complaint, she should talk to that person face to face. That’s what I want you to do with me and not to talk about me to anyone else. Can I count on that?”

This is a direct and forceful way to make a rule about communication between you and your boss. Will you do that, and also will you not complain about your boss and rather talk to her about what troubles you about her bossing? To gossip about your boss gossiping is exactly what you don’t want her to do about you. It’s human nature to get something off your chest that bothers you. That’s why you sent this question to Ask the Workplace Doctors. But it’s better to get specific that to generalize about disrespect and to get specific with the individual who you feel has shown that.

The constructive way to deal with a complaint is to offer to help solve it. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and is not that what you want?

William Gorden read more

Should A Manager Intentionally Embarrass You?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss who yells: Is that an acceptable way to boss?

I’ve been working at Wendy’s for around two years now and my manager, who is now the general manager, like to yell at the employees for doing something wrong–this includes new team members on their first day who don’t know anything. Even if I myself slip up she screams at me in front of customers though it was a tiny mistake. She even embarrasses customers when they come in with a wrong order and she sometimes raises her voice at them. Is that allowed? Is it right?

Signed,  I’m Yelled At

Dear I’m Yelled At:

No, it’s not right, and no, your manager is not allowed to do that. Whoever owns your local Wendy’s surely would not approve of a manager who has a habit of yelling at you and other employees. The question then is: What, if anything, can you do about it?

You have some options other than looking for work elsewhere or biting your tongue as though you deserve her yelling:

1. On the spot upon hearing her yell, you can say, “Ann, please just tell me what bothers you in a normal voice and I will listen.”

2. By-pass your yelling boss and request of upper-level management that they should talk to her about how she manages. I don’t recommend this option.

3. Request a time to speak with her privately. Ask how she thinks you are doing in the job she has assigned you. Then say that you know she wants the best for Wendy’s and from everyone who works there. Say you appreciate that; however, you know she is frustrated when she sees something wrong. She might then ask you how you know and you can tell her. Or you might then simply say, that you too want to learn how to manage and that she is your example. Asked if you should yell at those do something wrong. This should open the conversation for you to say that you don’t like to be yelled at and she has a pattern of doing so. Also ask if in the future, when she yells, what she wants you to do.

If you like working at Wendy’s, ask your manager about it as a career path and what you should do to get the training necessary. Always remember that a question is better than a complaint. Learning how to make yourself heard in a persuasive way is important because there will be other bosses you also yell who you have on your career path.

You have a right to be treated with respect. Moreover, bosses who yell hurt the business for which they are working. You can help them realize that yelling is not good for business and it is disliked by those they boss. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. To enjoy the be payoff of wego will require you having the courage to say what you dislike as well as like about your boss.

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Confidentiality During Performance Reviews

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about performance review: When I went to close the door, he said to leave it open, so it stayed half-opened, half closed. He then proceeded to open the door all the way.

I just completed my Performance Appraisal review with my boss this morning. In the past (with previous Managers as well as the current one), our performance meetings were held behind closed doors, for confidentiality purposes. Today was different – when I went to close the door, he said to leave it open, so it stayed half-opened, half closed. He then proceeded to open the door all the way.

My reviews aren’t very negative; I barely get feedback at all. I describe my job (note: I am the only one who holds my position, in an office of 10 employees) and what I do on a daily basis, reminding him of the tasks I accomplish and even those beyond my job description as “added value” (such as assisting with computers, and software).

Everyone else’s performance review today was held with the door closed. I feel cheated as though he felt the need to “air out my dirty laundry” regarding some tasks that fell to the wayside due to an employee being on leave (tasks I was not aware I had to pick-up). Also, he offered very few comments other than the task slip-up and nothing was given in writing. As per previous practice, which is an organization-wide procedure, managers are to give written comments to which the employee responds. I was asked to provide comments without him having written anything – which makes me wonder if he will be adding anything that I will not have been made aware.

Call me paranoid, but there have been serious trust issues with this manager in the past, as well as harassment (him yelling at me for no good reason, among other bigger issues). How can I insure his written comments reflect those received orally during the meeting? How or on what do I comment when he has not yet made his statement? (He would be the type to sneak by some negative comments, then come back to say “well, I told u…..”) I thank you for your insight!

Signed, Can’t Trust THE Man

Dear Can’t Trust THE Man:

You are right: trust matters, especially trust in a superior. Regarding the open-door performance appraisal, you can inquire of Human Resources about your workplace’s protocol. The open door for you and not others doesn’t seem right. You can also ask about being asked to respond to only his oral and no written evaluation. HR can clarify this matter, but I wouldn’t hesitate to speak to this man about this too. You have a voice and that is your way to assert your concerns; possibly a candid open or closed door session with him could begin or re-establish an obviouslydistant boss-bossed relationship.

Performance evaluations at their best are two-way surfacing how a boss sees and wants and how the how bossed wants to be seen and wants to be communicated with. Here is a time to talk about what has not been going well and what could be better. Such a session need not be seen as adversarial, but as motivated by what doesn’t seem right to you and what you think should be the way you communicate with each other.

In short this could be a time to establish do and don’t rules about your two-way working relationship. Does this make sense? Approach it as what I call WEGO. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is what you want for yourself and for him, for you both to have a trusting working relationship. Sometimes there are reasons for keeping a door open, particularly when a boss has been accused of inappropriate actions. I doubt that this is the case.

William Gorden read more