What Is The Best Way To Handle A Jealous Boss?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about suspicion of superior sabotage:

My immediate supervisor graduated from her college with honors (in theater-nothing to do with our field). She was hired 2 years before me, with no experience in the industry. My Big Boss was impressed with her at the time. She became supervisor by default, (everyone else quit) and this is her first attempt at it. (The employees before me described her as hostile.) She lacks leadership qualities and she is a bully.

I am pretty smart, and I catch on to things very quickly. I am a doer, and I recognize areas that needs attention clearly. I fix them right away. I have taken on projects that have been neglected for at least 2 years or more (I have been there for 9 months) I have been very successful at completing projects and everything in the office seems to be running in a more productive way. I do not care about the credit, the things should have been done all along. The owner/boss has no qualms with me. My supervisor is very jealous, and I can see why. I have become very good at what I am doing. I have even picked up on things that she never experienced. I feel confident that I have found my niche and I wish she could respect that. Instead, she never mentions any improvements/positive contributions, only criticizes. I pay little attention, because I know that I am on my way to becoming a very valuable player at this little office. I refuse to allow her to distract me.

Lately, I have been finding “mistakes” in my record keeping, that are inconsistent with my routine of doing things. I fix them and say nothing, however, it reeks of sabotage. Last week, the office door was mysteriously left unlocked, and she came to the rescue. (Although she is not listed as an emergency contact with the local police dept.) This is how she said that she was contacted – The police discovered the door open, saw her name plate, went through my rolodex, and called her, and not the principal.

Two days later, another door was left open. She was very smug about it. (Both nights I checked all the doors just like I always do.)  She wants me to look irresponsible to upper management! Of course, I have no way to prove that she has targeted me in this way, but I have been keeping a running log of each activity that I do throughout the day. It slows me down, but I have to make sure that I don’t have empty accusations, and I do not want to keep taking this bs. On a few occasions, she has chastised me for breaking rules that she hadn’t made yet.

The last straw was when she flipped because I asked her to please stop taking things that I am actively working on off of my desk without asking me. I was tired of having to go back and do the legwork to find the answers to questions I had previously worked on that “walked away.” On this occasion, it was an innocent opportunity to speak up without accusing her, because the stack that she took were from my discard pile for shredding. The owner is aware that she and I have been having trouble. He has heard about these problems with her in the past (with past employees). The Big Boss feels sorry for her. He attributes everything that she does to my coworker and me to his mentoring. He wants to help her change, and he sees her as a very bright girl with a depression problem. He feels loyal to her, and I find myself adopting his point of view, despite what I know that she is doing to me. Because of his loyalty to her, and I am not one who particularly likes throwing people under the bus, she is sliding by. Can she change & what can I do to protect myself? Thanks for your help.

Signed, In a tough spot

Dear In a tough spot:

Your message covers a lot of territory! It seems, from the perspective of an outsider that, although your supervisor may have issues, you do as well! You have worked there for 9 months–a small amount of time–and apparently are doing very good work–according to you. But you DO have a supervisor and you are, whether you like it or not, subordinate to her. That seems to be the source of most of the conflict.When you say you pay little attention to her or that you told her to please stop taking things from your desk, I picture a situation in which you don’t want to be supervised by her–you have found your niche and want to be left alone. Perhaps that leads her to feel it necessary to remind you that she is your supervisor.If, as you say, she has some supporters higher in the organization, you will want to be careful about your assumption that no one has qualms with you. They may not, but that still does not mean they will let a supervisor be treated badly or ignored. And even if they sympathize with you, they may not care enough to take your side if there is a problem. Consider these thoughts:

1. Accept her as your supervisor and treat her with the respect you would give someone you liked better. She has tenure over you as well as position. Rather than listen to gossip about her, consider working with her to improve things, rather than working on your own to do it.

2. Organizationally your supervisor is responsible for inspecting your work, evaluating it, giving you feedback, correcting you if she thinks it is needed and commending you as well. Except for the fact that she is not commending you, it appears she is doing the other things expected of her. Perhaps you could ask her about some of your work that you are particularly proud of and tell her you wondered how she felt about it. Fish for compliments if you have to! That might remind her of how important that part of her job is.

3. You may not have proof that she has set you up with some of the locked door issues, but you certainly should speak up about the fact that you think there is something suspicious going on. What if some other employee is coming in after hours and leaving things open? You could be falsely accused of that as well. I don’t see a reason to assume it must be your supervisor’s fault, anymore than she should assume it is yours.If I were you I would ask for a better investigation about the situation, and say you realize it looks as though you did it and you want to be sure no one thinks that. The police officers could easily be contacted to find out the circumstances of the unlocked door, for example.

4. The situation about chastising you for rules she has not made yet could be taken several ways. She may have made a rule just to make you look in the wrong. OR, you may have done something problematic that after you were chastised, she and the managers decided there should be a rule made about it. Unless the rule was of a very minor nature I doubt she made it without input from higher up. That’s what I mean about there being more than one way to look at it.

I’m not there and perhaps you are a great employee and she is bad supervisor. But it sounds me to that some humility would be helpful on your part, while you are ensuring you do not get blamed for things you did not do.Unless your office is known for firing people or suspending them, I can see no reason to keep a log of all you do. When that kind of thing is discovered it invariably looks bad for the employee doing it, no matter how bad the supervisor might be.If the situation is intolerable perhaps you can get support at another level. But, if you are not being fined money or time because of lies your supervisor has told about you–and apparently you are not–you may simply need to learn to work with someone you don’t respect or like. That happens to many people at some point.Consider talking to someone you DO respect there, and ask his/her perspectives about your strengths and areas of developmental need. Ask for advice about how to work more effectively with your supervisor. Or, if you really believe she is purposely sabotaging you and your work, ask what resources you can use to help you.Then, continue your focus on your good work, while remembering that in the final analysis, unless they fire her or you quit, you and she will still be working there no matter what happens.Best wishes as you find a way to work in this situation that is not very pleasant for anyone involved.

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.