your boss sucks and isn’t going to change

Three letters, one answer.

1. Our new-ish CEO is terrible

I work for a company with about 600 employees, I am part of the senior management team. The current CEO took over a couple of years ago and things are slowly getting worse.

Nobody is authorized to make decisions anymore – everything has to be reviewed and approved by the CEO (down to things like written warnings to employees). On top of that, he is not good at making decisions himself – if the options available are less than ideal, he will delay deciding on an issue, ask everyone to do all kinds of research for “additional” information (it rarely is new or useful for the actual decision or it has been presented to him already, but then he will question its validity and send people off to verify it, again), call a number of meetings to “discuss” things (but there is no real discussion going on at this point – everyone knows that he will be the one making the decision anyway and it’s pointless) – everything takes forever to get done and every day feels like wading against the current. I think he’s afraid of making the wrong decision and the whole company is affected by this complete lock-down.

He also has some pre-set notions about what is “right” and “appropriate” but it is impossible to figure out why he holds those beliefs because he usually won’t even discuss those issues and will end any attempt with “we will not be doing this,” sometimes even in a raised voice. To a room full of senior management.

Access to the board is strictly controlled. Most employees don’t even know who is on our board at all. At a strategic planning meeting with the board, senior management was told to not make any jokes, not mention certain things that came out of the employee engagement survey (those have been completely ignored and did not make it into the strategic plan, of course) and had assigned seats during lunch, away from the board. The company is doing well and the CEO is a nice guy so the board has no reason to even suspect that any of this is going on.

Everyone on the senior management team is unhappy, frustrated and getting more and more fed up with being treated like children. And nobody has a solution for this other than looking for other jobs. But the company is great and some people have been in their jobs for a couple of decades – is there a way to salvage this situation?

Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.

I suppose it’s possible that a group of you in senior management could talk to the board (if you can find out who they are!), but that’s not a guarantee that you’ll get the outcome you want. It’s entirely possible that they’d just tell the CEO to deal with it, or that they’d nudge him to change a bit but not do anything else.

There’s a danger in getting too attached to an organization that you’ve been at for a long while. Right now it sounds like people don’t want to leave because they used to like the company — but that’s not the same company you’re at now.

2. My boss sent me a text tantrum because we weren’t concerned enough when she was sick

I have two bosses who own the office and are married. We are in the middle of a huge transition and one did not come in today. She is in and out frequently so I didn’t notice and sent her two emails with neutral requests for information and texted her the deposit amount as usual.

After I left work, I received a tantrum style text message “thanking” me and another coworker for our lack of concern over her illness. It said: “I’d like to thank both of you for your insensitivity during my illness. I’ve been really sick and almost went to the ER and not a one of you ever said I hope you feel better! You just keep sending demands and requests. You sure as hell don’t have a problem texting me when you don’t feel well and can’t come to work. Your lack of empathy for people better change. Cause I’m sick to death of this kind of behavior from staff.”

I was not informed that she was sick. I knew she was busy and tired, so I had sent two non demand-y requests for information by email. My coworker texted her a number at her husband’s request, one neutral question, and a video of a baby goat.

This is not her first tantrum. Bringing it to the attention of her boss (er, spouse) will likely get me a dismissive excuse or a response where he joins in her tirade of my apparent uncaring attitude.

I have no problem texting her when I am sick as she declared, because I am required to. I also respond to text messages and calls for information when I’m off sick without complaint. We have even been working extra hours to make this transition as smooth as possible and I’m just not sure how to respond to her increasingly negative outbreaks. How can I address this behavior?

Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.

You could certainly try saying, “I was really surprised by your text because no one had told me that you were sick. I text you when I’m too sick to work because that’s our policy, so I was confused by your mention of that. This was such an odd text to receive — is there something going on that I don’t realize?”

But really, you’re dealing with someone with zero professionalism who threw a text tantrum because people didn’t baby her enough when she didn’t feel well. And she’s married to your other boss, who apparently is similar.

There’s only one conclusion here.

3. My boss personally attacks me when she changes her mind

I work in a creative capacity, producing work that is pretty subjective. My boss is a woman with unspeakably bad communication skills. Not only is she unable to articulate her demands clearly, she is also the queen of moving goalposts — what constitutes “good” to her changes on a daily basis, depending on her mood. This is a recipe for disaster, and after working with her for 13 months, I’ve learned that it takes 20 stabs in the dark before I can even guess what her mental vision for a project is. (Usually, her vision ends up being totally contrary to her stated wishes at the beginning.)

The problem? When my work doesn’t align with her “mental vision” or when she “forgets” what she instructed me to do last week or when she changes her mind suddenly, her reaction is to rant. But instead of talking about my work, she turns everything into a personal attack. “I don’t know why you think I’ll accept such crappy work.” / “Are you trying to waste my time? I can see that you put zero effort in this.” / “What is wrong with you? Did you just decide to produce low-quality work today?”

How do I re-direct this boss’s attention back to the work instead? Her comments on me (besides being aggressive and unfair) do not help me produce the work that she actually wants. I’ve tried inserting questions like, “Can you tell me where the problem is?” or “What would you like to see here?” but she never actually answers me. Once, she replied with, “I don’t know, but this is not what I wanted!” Usually, she’ll send me out of her office with the bewildering: “Maybe you just need more time to think about it. You figure it out!”

I work hard at my job, and I never submit work that *I* think is second-rate. But my boss seems to think I’m deliberately messing with her when my output doesn’t magically match her “mental vision”. Is there any polite way for me to explain, “I’m sorry I’m not telepathic”? Should I even defend myself and my work ethic when my output is so subjective? And most importantly, how do I get my boss to start giving clear, concise feedback?

Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.

She has no idea how to manage effectively and she sounds like a mean, shitty person.

All you can really do is decide whether you can work there reasonably happily in spite of her, or whether it’s time to look for another job.

{ 231 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. paul

    I love the response to #3. Sometimes recognizing that someone is horrible to be around and interact with is all you can really do. Don’t beat yourself up figuring out what you did/didn’t do because some people are crappy and will be horrible regardless.

    Reply
    1. FlibbertyG

      Agree. There can be a freedom in thinking, “I’m just going to do the best I can do and not expect the people above me to make logical decisions – but that’s not my problem. Doop de do, back to work.”

      Reply
      1. Argh!

        In other words, follow Bob Sutton’s advice to be disengaged. If you are a professional and care about your work that’s not as easy as it sounds.

        Reply
        1. paul

          It’s not easy at all, even if you don’t care about your work; having someone harping on every little thing sucks.

          But it’s useful to keep in the forefront of your mind when dealing with people like that anyway, because otherwise its real easy to think it’s you.

          Reply
        2. Annonymouse

          or the power of now.

          There is only the present moment and situation. If you don’t like it you must either change it or accept it.

          If you are unable to change it then you must accept it, agonising over it will just make you unhappier.

          Reply
          1. Annonymouse

            Not saying you should put up with abuse!

            Rather you accept your boss is bat schmit crazy/incompetent/an ass hat and you can’t change that.

            What you CAN CHANGE is how you react when they go off, where you work and being able to shake your head, document and know it isn’t personally about you.

            Reply
    2. Lora

      This.

      I have one of these in my department. He likes to have his berating freak-outs in the middle of the open office, where everyone can see him, so at least everyone knows how he is. This also has the benefit of people letting the Grandboss know what’s up. Grandboss has been giving the MegaJerk a lot of seemingly random tasks in the hope that maybe he might be good at one of them, so he won’t have to be fired for being terrible, but that means he has to fail at a lot of things before he will be out of the picture.

      Today I got yelled at because two other groups gave me the incorrect information, and MegaJerk didn’t confirm which one was correct before yelling at me that I had put down the wrong numbers. The other managers were sitting around having the most profound moment of Fremdschamen I have ever seen.

      Reply
      1. Your Weird Uncle

        Ouch. I used to have a boss like that, who called me to his desk in the middle of our open-plan office and began to cuss me out (f-bombs and the like) for putting an item where I was told by my coworker who was training me to put it, not where the boss expected it to be. Unfortunately, he was the owner, so there was no stopping him (or his nightmare of a son who used to sit behind me and download porn on the public computer in the back room, ugh)!

        Reply
        1. Lora

          Grandboss has promised me it’s only about 6 more weeks, tops. Then he gets transferred to another project entirely. He’s already been told to stop pestering me and grow some EQ by two separate managers AND Grandboss, in addition to the weekly “this is not acceptable, get help or get training or something but you must be respectful” meetings that I have had with him.

          I can deal with it if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            That’s really frustrating.

            My dad used to have a boss with no EQ. After not seeing appropriate improvement, he suspended the Boss and forced him to take several months of leave where he received intensive coaching and training on EQ. He was much much better when he returned, and he stayed better all the way through his retirement. He still did shady things from time to time, but the office was no longer a misery hole.

            Which is to say, your GrandBoss really needs to manage your Boss. I’m glad they’re getting you out of there, but he can’t keep complaining without either (a) getting your Boss coaching/training, and/or (b) imposing progressive discipline. :(

            Reply
      2. ToxicWaste

        At my old job they actually like when others got screamed at- there was a lot of schadenfreude!

        Reply
    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      This is the one part of the The No Asshole Rule that I wish had greater exposition. Sometimes, when you have a garbage person for a boss, you just have to acknowledge that that’s the case, and then let it go. That doesn’t mean it’s ok for her to be abusive—it’s not. But she’s not going to change, and so you can either pretend you’ve got a forcefield around you that protects you from all the orangutan-like shit she keeps throwing at you, or you can quit.

      But I empathize with all the OPs. This is a crappy situation to be in.

      Reply
    4. Christine D

      I think this person’s boss is my old boss. My old boss would describe to me exactly what she wanted and I would think it sounded HORRIBLE and try to gently sway her in another direction. I would get berated and told that she was my boss and when she asks me to do something a certain way I should listen. Okay, fine…EXCEPT when I’d do it as directed she’d hate the end product and scream that she never asked for it that way, I had put together things illogically, it was poor work, was I trying to sabotage her?

      Finally had enough and the last time she asked me to set up something in Excel a certain way I gently told her I didn’t think it would end well. She (as always) was insistent, so I drew up a quick mock-up and brought it to her. Asked her to review it and sign it, acknowleding that she really wanted the data inputted that way. She did, so I spent hours making it. As always, when the final product was put into play she hated it and came careening at me, screaming at me in front of customers about how I always try to sabotage her, that she had NEVER asked for what I had produced to be that way, etc. I brought out the signed mock-up and asked her, “does the finished product look just like what you signed that you wanted?” It did, so of course she stammered and got red in the face and screamed “WELL YOU KNOW I HAVE ADD. YOU PROBABLY BROUGHT THAT TO ME WHEN I WASN’T PAYING ATTENTION SO THIS IS STILL ALL YOUR FAULT”.

      I put in my notice that day. It was my first job out of college and I dealt with her for nearly 3 years. I didn’t even have another job lined up, but I knew I’d go crazy staying there. I had no idea there were normal bosses and great office environments out in the world. Thank god I found such a place weeks later and have been there since (almost 8 years now!)

      Reply
      1. MW

        > “I had no idea there were normal bosses and great office environments out in the world.”

        I’m sure this is the only reason 90% of batshit bosses get away with it. In my first job I accepted so much stuff as ‘normal’ that really wasn’t.

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    5. Aku Mata

      3. I’ve worked for people like that for more than 3 years now. I have grown a very thick skin over time.

      And actually – they have changed too, although they do still have their moods and temper tantrums (often unrelated to my part of the work, but I still get it), I no longer take it very personally – I just recognize it as what it is and just try to stay in the moment and not think too much about how much time it could have saved if so and so had said this or that earlier or how useless the ranting is etc etc.

      When I started this job I used to be a pretty sarcastic passive-aggressive brat myself. People often forgot to mention what resolution or size to use, what the artwork will be used for, whether there should be such and such things on – and I would often stomp up the stairs, make my typical sarcastic remark, ask the questions, get my answers and go back to doing the stuff.

      And boy, when someone said something that was so obviously bad or stupid, I also HAD to say something sarcastic about it.

      And the people that had to work with me hated it so much.

      One day one of those bosses came to me and gave me a speech that I should tone the whole sarcasm thing down.

      In time I did. There were other instances in life and office-work that helped me grow in that sense and I think working with difficult people like this is a strange kind of pressure if you figure out how to handle it in healthy manners.

      I’m here thinking that if I can investedly handle these people’s temper tantrums without becoming a hurting sarcastic peach, I could potentially go and do great things elsewhere too :)

      Reply
      1. Aku Mata

        What I forgot to add – even the most craziest managers or bosses get tired of being so annoying at some point that they will, A BIT, start adapting to your pace (even when they truly believe you’re a suckling underling) only in order to get something over with ; )

        People can change – they just need pressure. Even said bosses. But it’s not really workers’ responsibility to pull such things trough, neither should we be foolish enough to hope that this is how things will work out in time.

        If you can’t handle the crap they throw at you – there surely are people somewhere who are more professional in this.

        But mind you – there will always be nitpicking, comments, some sort of micromanaging etc etc – so the safe path here would be to just grow resistant towards it emotionally and be flexible. If you’re not your own boss in the creative business, there’s a great chance there’s always someone who is trying to enforce their own vision.

        Reply
  2. Argh!

    Ohmigosh #3 you just saved me the trouble of e-mailing Alison about my boss!

    And yes, I have been applying for other jobs. If seems my boss’s true mission in life is to be one-up compared to me no matter what I do or how well I do it. She nitpicks everything (that she bothers to look at) and constantly changes her mind about what she wants, and never in the direction of “I never thought of doing it that way. Great idea!” She knows best, and suppressing my salary and personal goals is “helping” me.

    Reply
    1. ali

      I have also worked for this boss. It’s no fun. I am so glad I was able to get out. Even though I loved the work itself, it was just not bearable to be torn down that way so often.

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    2. Adlib

      Yeah, I know someone exactly like #3. Fortunately, she’s not my manager, but someone I have to occasionally deal with, and it’s usually not pleasant either.

      Reply
    3. Midge

      Um, what? Keeping your salary low is helping you? What a jerk. Hope you find something better soon!

      Reply
      1. 2 Cents

        How about my manager at my last job? What she said when I gave my notice: “I know we’ve been unable to give you raises for the last 4 years [during the recession, but still], but we did give you more work and more experiences, so hopefully that helped.” Yeah, they basically gave me the jobs of two other people in addition to my own. Thanks!

        Reply
        1. Anonymoose

          Not to be an ass (seriously), but at least you can take the experience with you to a better job. In the long run, it was a gift (as long as it’s work that you want to be doing in the long run, eh?).

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            No, it’s not a gift. A gift would have been adequate compensation for all that extra work. This is just a silver lining.

            Reply
      2. Argh!

        Our salaries are tied to our performance reviews which are supposed to be helpful tools for performance management. I’m supposed to swallow all the insults and reach every moving goalposts in order to grab the brass ring that she somehow manages to grab each year despite being incompetent.

        Oh yeah and our salaries come from the same pool of money so there’s no conflict of interest, right?

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          I had a professional colleague who managed a team at a non -profit consulting agency and who was given a pool of money for raises. For several years in a row she took all the money herself ‘because I do all the work around here.’ She stiffed her entire staff. As you can imagine they deserved raises for just working with her at all. It only ended when the CEO (in another state) found out she had been doing this and insisted the money be distributed to staff in the next round of raises.

          Reply
            1. Lora

              All I can guess is maybe it’s the first offense they got caught on? It’s sort of hard to make a case to HR for “this person has atrocious judgment and is a giant a-hole” if all their examples of being a jerk face with no moral fiber are all different things even though the root cause is being a giant a-hole.

              Reply
    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Ah, if she starts denying requests for you to speak at conferences, etc., and then secretly calling the conference organizers to volunteer her own services, then she would be my old Toxic Boss.

      I’m sorry Argh! and OP#3. Bad bosses are awful.

      Reply
      1. Argh!

        Presenting at conferences brings glory to her & her boss vicariously so that’s safe, and it also boosts my resume so I’m definitely working on that!

        Reply
    5. ReneeB

      There was great freedom the day I realized working for the twin of Boss #3 meant that a significant but unspoken part of my job description was, “Be available to be yelled at and dismissed.”

      I couldn’t understand why she seemed to give me instructions that were actually the opposite of what was needed to complete a task, and then rip it apart in front of me, make piles around the room, and have me clean them up and re-do everything, on a regular basis. I didn’t know if this was deliberate or subconscious. And I spent far far too much time dwelling on that, trying to understand what was happening, and what I could do to try to affect the relationship in a healthy way. How could I be firm and authoritative, but warm, not insubordinate, and not take her sh*t?

      Until the day I realized – it wasn’t possible. The unspoken iceberg of my job description was, “Be available to be yelled at as a release valve for this Very Important Person’s issues and problems, so that others on staff don’t need to deal with it, or so that the pressure is ameliorated before she gets to them.” The copy room refused to bring paper for her printer. Vendors avoided her. Even IT wouldn’t come fix her computer. Only the VIPs on her level would deal with her, and she was unfailingly polite to them.

      It was a very strange position to be in. HR had nothing to say, and I realized they knew, they understood, and they could really do nothing about it. This person brought significant money into the organization, and if she wanted to chew people up and send them home crying, then it was just HRs job to hire more people. As long as I stayed in the position, I was solving their problem, but they could do nothing to solve mine.

      There was so much freedom the day I realized there was literally nothing I could do. This boss was playing out some strange stage dramas that existed only in her internal theater, and my job was to be drafted as the improv partner on a daily basis, without warning and without a prompt as to where we were going with anything. When I realized these issues belonged to her and I was just living in someone else’s altered dream world, I stopped trying to change the relationship or influence her.

      I also got out into a new job, but it took over a year. In the meantime, for the year I had left, I washed my hands of emotionally taking care of her, or reacting in any significant personal way to her jabs and condescension. The person who replaced me lasted 4 months, and was a bitter person by the end of it.

      Some bosses are just not psychologically fit to be supervising other people. And sometimes there’s not anything that can be done about that except recognize it belongs to them and not to you, and leave the place of employment.

      Reply
  3. The Supreme Troll

    For OP#2, no, definitely not right, but they are the owners. Unfortunately, the last part of my previous sentence sums up the situation.

    Reply
  4. Jaune Desprez

    Thank you for this. It’s so easy for even experienced workers to fall into the trap of trying to please a boss who can’t be pleased. There’s only so much that managing up can do, and then you have to accept that it’s time to move on. Sometimes, the only way to win is not to play.

    Reply
    1. Julie Noted

      Yup. It’s such an important lesson to learn, and I expect most diligent employees take longer to learn and accept it than is good for them.

      I worked for a company that had several senior execs like OP1’s CEO. It was small enough (~500 people) that several over-controlling, can’t-make-a-decision people on the executive team was sufficient to derail the whole management culture. I stayed there two years too long, trying to influence the culture, raging internally with frustration, in part because lots of the work content was interesting and important and long tenure was the norm. That was two years of my life being miserable at work and dragging down my work friends with my unhappiness.

      I left, the old place is still a shithole, but I’m SO much happier and productive at work. Friends who are still at the old job are now where I was mentally, hating the place but not ready to accept that I needed to leave.

      Accepting that something won’t change is hard, but can be so empowering.

      Reply
  5. Fictional Butt

    #2– I’m a little surprised that Alison didn’t recommend a direct apology here. Obviously you shouldn’t have to apologize, but this seems like one of those situations where an apology would work best to smooth things over. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize you were sick. I hope my texts didn’t disturb you while you were resting. I hope you feel better soon!” or something like that. Does that make sense, or is there a boss/employee dynamic here that I’m missing that would make an apology inappropriate?

    Reply
    1. Sabine the Very Mean

      No you’re probably the bigger person for thinking this way but I would totally let this be the sword I chose to die on. This woman needs to be treated as she deserves–like a petulant child. To do that, look for a new job and bail without even the slightest concern.

      Reply
    2. Fictional Butt

      (And to be clear– I mean an apology in addition to the wording Alison suggested. Not just apologizing and pretending the boss’s tantrum was totally normal.)

      Reply
      1. Jesmlet

        Yeah this is probably the route I would take but I’m admittedly an apologetic person. Regardless of her toddler-like tantrum, she may have had reason to believe you were aware of her illness and I’d still want to apologize for disturbing her and giving her the impression that I didn’t give a sh*t about it even though it’s clearly not OP’s fault. Though a video of a baby goat would probably make me feel better so no points lost on that for OP’s coworker…

        Reply
    3. Malibu Stacey

      I worry about the precedent that would set. Like I mentioned below, I had a friend who do stuff like this, and an apology gives the person validation that this is an acceptable response because you don’t feel well. There’s showing your boss respect and there’s being a doormat.

      Reply
      1. Allison

        And unfortunately, some people don’t know the difference. I know someone who’s obsessed with respect, and I swear, her definition of respect is complete submission. You have to bow down to her, treat her like the most important person on the planet, and give her whatever she asks you for.

        Reply
        1. Naomi

          This reminds me of a great I comment I saw on Tumblr somewhere: essentially, the word “respect” can mean “treating someone like an authority” or “treating someone like a person”, and sometimes when people say “If you don’t respect me I won’t respect you” they mean “If you don’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person.”

          Reply
        2. Whippers.

          This is so true! I think a lot of bosses don’t know the difference between the two.
          For the former type of boss, even the slightest hint of lack of agreement is taken to be a lack of respect.
          I had a boss who, during quarterly “supervision” meetings (they were supposed to be used for staff guidance and were standard for all staff) used to sit and berate me for all the things she thought I was doing wrong without any constructive criticism whatsoever.

          Any indication that i did not agree or was annoyed (by which I mean facial expression, body language) was construed as a lack of respect and used to berate me even more.

          Reply
          1. Whippers.

            Essentially I was supposed to sit there blank faced, nodding in agreement in order to show her the respect she felt she was owed.

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            1. Cercis

              Oh geez, my boss from hell was the same way. And when I did manage to keep a blank expression, I’d be called out for that. Basically, I was supposed to smile and simper and agree xe was right and that I needed to just be better.

              Reply
              1. Whippers.

                Haha, yes I don’t think my manager actually liked the blank expression either as she referred to me as “difficult to read” on several occasions.

                I should have told her that when she could read me she didn’t like what she saw.

                Reply
        1. Amber T

          This. It would be one thing if the boss said “hey, I don’t know if you realized this, but I was really sick and contemplating going to the ER. Next time I’m out sick, would you mind not emailing me/not texting me/insert idea here?” But when an adult throws a tantrum, it’s hard to take them seriously, and it’s not worth apologizing in this case.

          Reply
        2. Hornswoggler

          I would say it without an apology – “I didn’t know you were sick. I do hope you’re feeling better.”

          Reply
    4. Antilles

      The key dynamic here is that there’s apparently a long-established pattern of the boss throwing ridiculous tantrums and the spouse ignoring it.
      Reasonable people accept apologies (when appropriate) and listen to your justifications. In a case like this, a reasonable manager would also likely admit “yeah, sorry I also overreacted”.
      But this is not a reasonable person, so the apology would likely either be completely waved off OR be leveraged into a chance to re-litigate the same points and get even angrier.

      Reply
      1. MegaMoose, Esq

        I’m generally a fan of apologies, but I agree that it doesn’t make sense when this is just the latest in a long string of absurd overreactions. If this was the first time they’d reacted like this, I might chalk it up to sick/tired/stress and go ahead and offer a *small* apology and wish them good health or something like that. But I’m totally with Antilles here that it would most likely be counterproductive here.

        Reply
  6. Antilles

    I love Boss #2’s email because it’s just so ridiculous.
    “I’d like to thank both of you for your insensitivity during my illness. I’ve been really sick and almost went to the ER and not a one of you ever said I hope you feel better! “
    When someone is gone for a day, you don’t immediately assume ‘major ER-level illness’, you assume it’s either errands or an off-site meeting or a stomach bug or whatever.
    “You just keep sending demands and requests.”
    This is called working in business in the Year 2017. People send emails and texts when they need information and do so even on days when you’re out of office. This is true for everybody between the lowest-level fresh nugget to the CEO. It’s up to you to have the discipline to not check your email or decide not to reply.
    “You sure as hell don’t have a problem texting me when you don’t feel well and can’t come to work. “
    This is because letting your manager know when you’re going to be out is part of the job requirement.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      And I don’t give anybody tragedy points for *almost* going to the ER. Which means either convenient care or staying home.

      Reply
      1. lionelrichiesclayhead

        Right? Anytime someone says “almost” in this type of rediculous overreaction context, I want to be like…”so you’re saying you didn’t go to the ER”.

        Reply
      2. SignalLost

        I almost went to the ER recently, but then I decided I’d get better food at a restaurant, so I went there instead. :)

        Reply
        1. Been There, Done That

          but did the restaurant put a band-aid on your skinned knee and applaud your performance as Camille?

          Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yeah; saying you “almost” went to the ER is kind of a comment on how not-severely-ill you were.

        Reply
    2. Allison

      Right. If you’re sick, you need to set expectations for anyone who might hit you up during the day. Don’t expect people, even the people “beneath” you, to somehow “just know” how sick you are. You say, at the beginning of the day “I am very sick today and may not be able to answer texts or emails unless it’s an emergency. If you need ___, please ask ___.”

      Your direct reports can’t read your mind. Your manager can’t read your mind. Your colleagues can’t read your mind. NO ONE CAN READ YOUR MIND. Use your words.

      It’s bizarre that she says people don’t have a problem texting her when they’re sick to work, as though that’s a bad thing, when she apparently *did* have a problem texting them and letting them know she was sick.

      Reply
      1. Malibu Stacey

        I wonder if the boss didn’t assume her husband had informed the LW she was sick & not to text her – but a) like the old saying goes, you know what happens when you assume, & b) the beef is with her husband/co-manager, not her employee.

        Reply
        1. Anonymoose

          “b) the beef is with her husband/co-manager, not her employee.”

          This is what I thought when reading it. She’s actually just irritated that her husband ‘doesn’t care enough’, it has nothing to do with ‘selfish staff’. Unfortunately she’s not self aware enough to realize this.

          Leave. Quick style.

          Reply
      2. JeanLouiseFinch

        I had Boss #3, and I finally told her “I can’t read your mind; if I were a mind reader, trust me, I would have a much, much better job; if you could read my mind right now, you’d be running out of here screaming.” I quit 2 weeks later.

        Reply
  7. anon today...and tomorrow

    These three letters make me feel so much better about my boss (and I already like her!). My boss is pretty cool in that she has the backs of her team. She’s firm and fair, but also not willing to let other departments steam roll us.

    Reply
      1. OhNo

        I feel like these two extremes are all I ever see talked about. Do average, so-so bosses actually exist? I’ve certainly never met one.

        Reply
        1. SarahTheEntwife

          Sure! They’re just no fun to talk about on the internet ;-) My first boss was pretty average — nice person, supportive, kind of micromanage-y but not to a degree that made me want to throw things.

          Reply
        2. fposte

          I’ve had a bunch of them. Not evil, not brilliant; good in some things, not so great in others.

          Reply
        3. Kyrielle

          They do! Sometimes they’re strong in one area and weak in another (in which case they read as ‘amazing’ or ‘not great’ depending on what you talk about), and in others they’re mostly middle of the road.

          Anec-data: I’ve reported to some of them. For examples:

          One who was aces at keeping management’s expectations reasonable and us on track, but who wasn’t so great with praise and feedback. (This boss wasn’t horrid: you wouldn’t get a lot of feedback as long as you were doing okay, but you _would_ know if you were messing up, in a timely fashion, and fairly reasonably presented – so not an awful boss, but man you didn’t get much reassurance if you were doing okay, and you might not be able to tell ‘okay’ from ‘stellar’).

          Another was a really nice person with reasonable work load expectations, and good with people, including customers (which was handy when the boss stepped in to defuse a situation!), but was a little non-confrontational. Things that required confrontation got dealt with, appropriately, even – but only after they’d had a chance to grow a bit while the dance of avoidance happened in the hopes that things would resolve themselves.

          Reply
          1. Koko

            My current boss is a lot like the latter you mention. He’s wonderfully supportive of our development, understanding when someone makes a mistake, gives generous praise when we succeed, and gives us a lot of latitude to solve problems the way we think is best as experts in our respective domains. But he’s definitely a bit conflict-averse and sometimes volunteers our team to do work we really oughtn’t be doing because he doesn’t want to say No to the person asking. He also can be a little bit sensitive, sometimes when we have to push back on his ideas you can tell he takes it personally and gets a bit sad/subdued for the rest of the day, and because we all like him we don’t want to make him sad, so it makes us reluctant to push back. I know he is 100% not doing that on purpose to manipulate us because that’s not the kind of person he is, he just wears his heart on his sleeve. Overall I think he’s a great boss, but if we were doing a scorecard he’d probably come out in the middle range.

            Reply
        4. Alton

          Depends on what you mean by average, I think. I’ve definitely had a couple managers who were professional and good to work with but who still had a couple traits that could be frustrating, like occasionally forgetting to respond to e-mails.

          Also, I had a job for a while that didn’t have much hands-on management, and where the managers worked remotely or traveled around the region, and I maybe only saw them once every few months and only communicated via e-mail or phone occasionally. I had some managers there who were pretty unremarkable. If I’d seen them more often, I might have liked them more or less. But as long as they let me do my thing and were available in an emergency, I was happy.

          Reply
        5. Someone

          Well,
          1. Average bosses don’t make many good stories
          2. Average bosses that try to improve will become good or even great bosses or decide they aren’t cut out for that kind of work and stop being bosses.

          Reply
        6. Falling Diphthong

          Dear AAM:

          My boss is average. Not great, not awful. Pretty solid, but just in an okay way. Things are fine. Not much drama going on.

          Reply
          1. MegaMoose, Esq

            Haha, well put. I’m thinking back, and I’d probably characterize all of my bosses from “ehhh” to “eh?” to “not bad.”

            Reply
        7. SignalLost

          Yup, I have one now. Definitely takes heat from mgmt but doesn’t pass it on indiscriminately, which is nice. Nice enough guy, though I don’t really feel I know him because we have never spoken socially. Refuses to enforce certain policies, which causes problems, but they’re at the annoyance level rather than life-or-death-and-it’s-my-fault level. Could be better, could be worse. He is the vanilla pudding of managers.

          Reply
        8. jamlady

          My previous boss was incredible at the work (no one else compares – seriously) but she was terrible at people management. She had no experience managing people and she was a very shy, non-confrontational personality in a very toxic workplace. She is amazing and we keep in touch, but there were definitely issues with her management that ended up making it difficult to work there.

          Reply
        9. JanetM

          Yes. I’ve worked for some. They handed me work and let me do it, let me know if there was a problem, and paid me regularly. (I’ve never had an issue with that, but my Dad did — one company where he made sure to go to *their* bank at lunch on payday to cash his check, and one that deducted his taxes for a year but never remitted them to the IRS.)

          Reply
        10. Lora

          Yup. Have had 13 of em.

          Score thus far:
          Awesome 5/5: 3
          3/5, meets expectations: 13
          Will smile when I read their obituary: 4

          Reply
        11. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Yes! So many so-so bosses exist (I think at least 50-70% of mine have been average).

          I think it’s kind of like people who give reviews—you take the time to talk about it if it’s extremely good or extremely bad. Most people don’t weigh in on all the average they experience because it’s not very interesting.

          Reply
        12. tiny temping teapot

          I had the same boss for 14 years. He went from pretty good with some flaws to horrifyingly toxic. His ability to manage well ended when we expanded to over 6 employees which was about 8 or 9 years into my time working for him.

          Reply
          1. JeanLouiseFinch

            I had a boss who basically turned toxic although he treated me pretty nicely. I later found out he had Alzheimer’s and I have always wondered if this was the cause, because his weirdness seemed rooted in some pretty odd instances of cognitive dissonance.

            Reply
        13. seejay

          Sure but what do you want to hear about, the boring ones or the ones that make you go “wow, I’m glad I have a boring boss”?

          Reply
        14. Dana

          I’ve have roughly a dozen bosses in my two careers. Three I would have followed over a cliff. Two were straight up incompetent. The rest were just pretty much okay and everything was fine. I have no idea if this is normal or what, but that’s my experience.

          And yes — it’s the awful situations that are the most fun to discuss on the internet. For sure.

          Reply
        15. Serendipity

          Yes, my current boss is one.
          He’s great at letting me manage my own time – as long as core business hours are kept for customers and my work is done at a reasonably high standard he doesn’t care when or where I work. This flexibility has been a real godsend while I’m coping with a complicated pregnancy that has me seeing specialists/hospital on a weekly basis and needing daytime naps to get through my day. He also does little things for morale like buy coffee for the team every week (we don’t have a coffee machine), and will always back you up in your work against customers or other departments. Given that my work is making hard decisions that can sometimes be subjective, controversial and high-stakes dollars, having your boss in your corner rocks. He also takes criticism really well.
          On the other hand, he can be really grumpy and touchy at times, and give you a chewing out over something unexpected (and unfair) if he’s having a bad day. He sucks at reward and recognition – I had to print our HR policy that staff get a celebration and gift on their 10-year anniversary and show it to him to get any kind of notice. He bought me coffee and a muffin. Wow, thanks.
          I also get the vague feeling that he is engaged more with the men that report to him more than the women, and I am certain that I am paid significantly less ($20k) than more junior colleagues who were hired when market rates were higher. It’s impossible to tell, we don’t discuss salaries, but I know where market rates are and my pay is low enough that he’s a sucky boss for it, but not low enough to give up all my other perks and leave.
          So, overall some good and some bad, and I’m happy to work for him

          Reply
        16. Tedious Cat

          I think due to work styles and personalities, one person’s “best boss ever” can easily be another person’s mediocre boss, or even nightmare boss. And that’s why fit is so important.

          Reply
        17. Fisherman2

          I think middle of the road bosses definitely exist – but I don’t think they are the “norm” in the statistical sense.

          My life experience seems to tell me that management quality is more of a bi-modal distribution than a normal distribution.

          Reply
    1. Princess Carolyn

      Ugh, my boss is like that but she’s leaving the company soon. I’m scared we won’t find someone this good to replace her!

      Reply
    2. LizBee

      Same! My boss is a terrible communicator, but he’s very patient when I have to ask him to clarify three times.

      (It’s taken a year, but I’ve finally stopped beating myself up for not always understanding his instructions the first time.)

      Reply
  8. LR

    Oh man, I was actually thinking of submitting an identical question to #1 about the ED of our nonprofit, but I worried it would be too recognizable if any of my coworkers read askamanager! (I actually raised the idea of going to the board with a couple of high-ranking people and they were adamantly against it…)

    Reply
    1. Interviewer

      #1 – If your boss is paralyzed by indecision on day-to-day operations, and actively withheld negative aspects of the employee survey from the strategic planning process, that tells you all you need to know about both your boss AND the future of your organization.

      Reply
      1. LR

        Well, not the second part – but she is EXTREMELY overworked and so stuff will get pushed down her priority list… like her edits to the text for the new website, which our consultant started working on 14 months ago…

        Reply
        1. zora

          then she needs to delegate and let go, and let someone else handle the text and get it posted, and just deal with the fact that it might not be perfect.

          That’s just not acceptable in the long run to let things wait for 14 months just bc she’s ‘too busy’

          Reply
      2. LR#1

        Yeah. On some level we all know that. And on the other hand, the company is doing well despite him. So while looking at job postings daily, I am somehow holding out this irrational hope that *something* has to happen to end this insanity…I absolutely know that we are all complicit in this by staying on. A complete cognitive dissonance :)

        Reply
        1. Tabby Baltimore

          Now I’m fantasizing about all of senior management having new jobs lined up at about the same time, then triggering its own Saturday Night Massacre and just upping and leave en masse. As a peon, that would be awesome to behold.

          Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      LR, I’m on the board of a nonprofit, and I had the chance to see staff at a recent conference. The things they told me that they decided against telling the board blew my head back. If this is action paralysis, then I’d be cautious about escalating to the board. But I really wish my staff had told me—when it happened—about several really alarming incidents that would have merited firing the ED.

      (To be fair, we likely won’t fire the ED, but we have moved up our retirement & transition timeline.)

      Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          No, they were worried about retaliation. But the ED has gotten away with a lot of bad behavior over a very long time, and I don’t blame them for worrying or feeling like there’s nothing they can do.

          Reply
      1. Cedrus Libani

        If there’s a chance the board truly doesn’t know, and OP#1 has a history and credibility with anyone on the board, it might be worth a mention on the way out. Like, “I’m not the first, nor the last, person who is leaving rather than continue working with ED. Just FYI.” But I wouldn’t personally put my butt on the line any more than that.

        I did have a situation, as a college student, where I assumed the powers-that-be knew about a notorious manager we all called “Dr. Pedophile”. (Yes, this was a non-profit that dealt with minors. No, the front-line staff never left him alone with said minors.) Years later, I was at their annual Christmas party, and we old-timers were loudly exchanging Dr. Pedophile stories. The CEO overheard, and was furious that we hadn’t said anything. In retrospect, yeah, we should’ve escalated that one…

        Reply
  9. Malibu Stacey

    #2 reminds me of a former friend of mine. 95% of the time she was the funnest, sweetest friend ever, and then one day out of the blue I’d wake up to a facebook message like that: I’m turning people against her, she’s mad that I didn’t invite her to a party that I wasn’t hosting, etc.

    I would want to engage and try to figure out where it was coming from, because her accusations were so out there, but I realized you can’t logic anyone who’s decided to use you as their emotional punching bag so badly they are inventing transgressions.

    Reply
    1. Venus Supreme

      #2 sounds like my father. I understand why he acts the way he is, but I’m not here to diagnose. I’ll share how I’ve dealt with this accusatory behavior. My siblings and mother get the brunt of his angry messages accusing them of everything wrong under the sun. I stopped receiving those types of text messages because I was very clear on my boundaries with my father and me. I will not answer his texts; if he wants to talk, we’ll meet face-to-face with others present or talk on the phone, etc. etc. Fortunately, in OP2’s case, they can make a clean cut from this situation by changing jobs. I think that’s the best bet if OP2 wants to 100% avoid any future confrontations. If that’s not easy to do, I’d recommend making their own boundary they feel comfortable with that won’t affect their quality of work/communication.

      Reply
  10. Vaca

    I had a boss similar to #3. Yelling at me over nonsense, no firm idea about what he wanted but convinced that he had one and that I should be able to guess it, ranting and personal insults. Finally I walked into his office, sat down, and said:

    “This isn’t working for me. I am unable to guess at what you want. Either you need to clearly articulate what you want, we need to live with multiple revisions without insults, or we need to stop working together. If the latter, I wish you well. Otherwise, the personal insults come to an end effective immediately.”

    He had never had anybody be so direct with him before. He looked like he was about to explode, then seemingly came to the realization that this was why nobody else was willing to work with him. He got better.

    Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        Weirdly, every once in a while it just takes that one one heads-up for someone to realize that they are the problem. And promptly enact a fix, that actually takes.

        Reply
    1. Anja

      I had a similar boss, though significantly less awful. There were no personal insults. Just unclear instructions, exasperation, complaints, and revisions. It ended the day he told me “You need to put yourself in my brain – I need you to give me what I want, not what I tell you!” to which I responded something along the lines of “Boss…that isn’t going to work. The way you think is so entirely alien to me that I’m never going to figure out which direction your brain is going. So you’re just going to have to actually tell me what you want.” He stared at me momentarily, and then laughed. He improved significantly after that.

      He wasn’t jerk, just very scattered at times with a short attention span (eg. I’ve had to put invoices behind me in my chair during a meeting as he kept getting distracted by them while I was discussing other issues with him).

      Reply
      1. Snazzy Hat

        Boss: {reaches for invoices}
        Anja: {smacks hand} No.
        Boss: {pauses} {reaches for invoices}
        Anja: {lightly bonks Boss on the head with rolled-up invoices}

        “Put yourself in my brain”. That is classic.

        Reply
  11. (another) b

    Ugh, #3 was my old boss. Every time he would say “I have an idea” I would cringe because it meant a ton of work to match his vision…which was never explained. He would ask me “Why did you do it this way?” And I would respond “Because you asked me to.” He would reply “I never said that. Change it back.” We once had an hour long meeting about using an exclamation point or not in an eblast… AN HOUR MEETING.
    You have to get out. Bad managers don’t change.

    Reply
    1. Insurance

      Ugh. My prior boss would have an entire vision of a project from start to finish…in his head. He would never share or explain what he wanted but would blast you to the moon and back when it was wrong.

      Reply
      1. Edith

        The biggest fight I had with my dad growing up was the day he asked me to hand him a spatula and I opened the kitchen tool drawer and gave him one. This was the most outrageous and craven show of disrespect he had ever seen. Why? He likes to get kitchen tools from the countertop kitchen tool cup. It didn’t matter that the spatulas were identical or that I had no possible way of knowing he preferred the cup to the drawer. We spent two hours at the kitchen table that evening, me sobbing, him screaming, and Mom trying her hardest to get him to understand how unreasonable he was being. He never got it.

        Reply
    2. Argh!

      My manager is that picky and absolutely convinced that being a copy-editor with weird ideas makes her a good supervisor. I’m not the only one who has copied things from one document to another and things that were previously okay got nitpicked to death. “But you had no problem with the August version of this!!!!’ is just seen as whining.

      Reply
  12. Teapot Librarian

    I’m definitely not the boss I should be, but I am feeling a lot better about myself after reading these three letters. I really hope that the answer to my employees if any of them wrote in would be “your boss sucks but it sounds like she’s trying to change.”

    Reply
    1. Snazzy Hat

      That’s kind of how I feel about being a landlord. I’m not great at it, my heart isn’t even in it (think of it as forced volunteerism), but I know what I’m supposed to do to be a great landlord and, well, I’m trying. It would be a lot easier if I could throw money at contractors, of course, so I do what I can physically, financially, and emotionally.

      Reply
  13. A Potterhead for life

    Q#1 Alison wrote, “There’s a danger in getting too attached to an organization that you’ve been at for a long while. Right now it sounds like people don’t want to leave because they used to like the company — but that’s not the same company you’re at now.”

    This is so unbelievably helpful advice! My company is about to go through a major transition and understanding this perspective will be so helpful for long-time employees who would prefer to keep things as they are today.

    WOW. Thanks, Alison!

    Reply
    1. OP#1

      That is what was very eye-opening for me too (thank you, Alison!). I guess there is still this (probably) unreasonable hope that something has to change and we can all like the company again. Not that the CEO will change his ways, but that somehow he will not be CEO anymore. *Sigh*. Off to the job boards.

      Reply
      1. Another person

        I’ve been through a good workplace turning into a nightmare twice now due to changes in leadership. It doesn’t get better until you get out, the damage is already done. Once good people start jumping ship it’ll never be the way it was again. I’m sorry for your loss.

        Reply
    2. Matilda Jefferies (formerly JMegan)

      Somebody gave me that advice relative to my divorce: “The person you’re divorcing is not the same person that you married.” It’s incredibly liberating.

      Reply
    3. jamlady

      My last company was like this and I was hired on about 6 months before we had new mgmt and the health of the company totally flipped. I actually left after 8 months of toxicity (14 mths total) and the people who were there long before are still there waiting for it to go back to normal, not facing the fact that this IS the new normal.

      Reply
      1. Basia, also a Fed

        Yes. I worked at a private firm for 18 years before two of the VPs bought the company. We all thought – these guys have worked here for 25 years each, so it was business as usual. They are toxic, and one is a little scary. The name of the company was the same, our offices, clients, contracts, work was the same. As jamlady said, all of us Associate VPs would sit around and moan about how to return things to the way they used to be. I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t interested in seeing how this all plays out (plus I landed my dream job at the federal government). Four years later, the people who stayed are still complaining and wishing things were the way they used to be. They can’t accept that this is the company now.

        Reply
    1. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived

      I agree! I hope there are lots of job openings in their respective fields, with comparable/better salaries, reasonable commutes, a good/great boss, and they all get hired within days of applying.
      I have high hopes for all OP’s here.

      Reply
  14. Another person

    #1, 100,000+ to this:
    “There’s a danger in getting too attached to an organization that you’ve been at for a long while. Right now it sounds like people don’t want to leave because they used to like the company — but that’s not the same company you’re at now.”
    Grieve your loss and move on.

    Reply
    1. NoMoreMrFixit

      I can’t give you enough points for this one. So painfully true. Been there and stayed waaaaay too long. Bosses like this cannot change. No amount of pushback or polite requests for feedback or guidance will fix these types. As a result the culture changes and people eventually give up and move on, often in batches.

      Reply
      1. Someone

        A large batch leaving all at once and citing the CEO is probably the only thing that can can convince the higher-ups that something really has to change.

        Reply
        1. Adlib

          Sometimes that works. We’ve had entire offices walk out. We had an entire team turn over, and literally no one looked at the management. (Granted, I’m not sure how forthcoming people were in their exit interviews.)

          Reply
          1. Observer

            Then the problem isn’t the CEO, but the boss. I don’t consider myself the best manager that ever was, but I had no illusions that the turnover we were seeing in one department was anything but the fault of the person managing the department.

            Reply
          2. LKW

            I had an awful manager. We started a project with him and three of us working for him. At the end, two people left the company and I refused to work directly for him and forced his boss to supervise me ( I needed no supervision day to day, I just needed someone to submit my performance review). I said to leadership they should consider the outcome as part of his performance review. The two who left were amazingly talented, the manager was not.

            Reply
        2. OP#1

          I doubt that it would even work out that way – at this level, you really need to be able to give your boss’ name as a reference; not sure how many people would be willing to be truthful and burn that bridge…

          Reply
            1. OP#1

              A couple. They are at a level removed from the CEO, so I am not sure if they are even seeing the day-to-day crazy unfold.

              Reply
        3. Another person

          By the time all the good employees leave, though, it’s already too late to go back to the way it was before. The people who made it a great place to work are not all going to quit whatever jobs they moved on to and come back months or years later when the toxic leader is gone. Sure it may get better eventually for the people who stay, but at what cost?

          Reply
  15. Insurance

    #3 was my prior boss. It took me 10 months of stress, anxiety, depression and dreading going to work before I had enough. Mental happiness means more to me than a job.

    Reply
  16. Alton

    I love the title of this post!

    #1: If he *does* change, I’d imagine it’d be because he burns out and can’t keep this up. Demanding this much involvement seems like a huge waste of time and resources for a CEO.

    #2: I’m not super surprised that this sounds like a smaller business run by a married couple. It’s not that those businesses are always dysfunctional by any means, but the structure can definitely allow for dysfunction and bad management to continue more easily.

    #3: OP, it can definitely help to realize that you’re not to blame, but I would still strongly consider looking for another job. I had a manager for a while who wasn’t this bad by any means, but she had a tendency to communicate poorly and then get impatient if I asked for clarification or freak out if I followed the instructions she didn’t remember giving. I knew the problem was that she had too much on her plate and couldn’t handle the pressure well, and I didn’t take it personally. But when I did eventually get a position with calmer managers, I realized that my old manager had gotten to me a lot more than I realized and that I’d been pretty stressed out.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I suspect #1 is freaking out about how to be an effective CEO, so he’s instead focusing on tiny issues that are really not worth the cost of allocating his time because they’re things he theoretically knows how to do.

      Reply
  17. Lynne879

    I can’t express how important Alison’s comment is in #1:

    “There’s a danger in getting too attached to an organization that you’ve been at for a long while. Right now it sounds like people don’t want to leave because they used to like the company — but that’s not the same company you’re at now.”

    If you get too attached to an organization you’ve worked at for a long time, the harder it will be to leave if you’re ever at a point of extreme unhappiness with working there.

    These letters actually come at an interesting time, because I’ve finally decided to job search to replace my weekend job. And I’m job searching specifically because my boss sucks and isn’t going to change.

    Reply
      1. Annonymouse

        Perfectly sums up most of us.

        I left a job I loved because my boss was an ass hat. But I left TWO YEARS later than I should have because the kids and work.

        That man made me doubt myself and abilities, worked me to the point of illnss and injury, treated everyone terribly, stole credit for my work and never once said thank you/good job etc in the 4 years I worked there.

        Incidentally I love my current job and workplace doing the exact same job but with a much more supportive but less organised company.

        Reply
  18. Snork Maiden

    I like to think that the baby goat video was the last straw for Boss #2. “How dare they send me a picture of a healthy animal frolicking around. Can’t they see I am VERY ILL.”

    Reply
    1. Aunt Margie at Work

      I am not healthy.
      This goat is healthy.
      therefore they are mocking my inability to frolic.
      The syllogism of the solipsistic psycho.

      Reply
  19. Falling Diphthong

    (Outside person or thing) sucks and isn’t going to change.

    This is one of the reasons I so enjoy the blog–that often people seem to get hung up on what is reasonable or rational or fair, and you can’t (often) be very very reasonable at people and thereby force them to be reasonable back. You might be able to change how you react to them, or how often you have to interact with them, but you can’t cause them to not suck. Accepting this is the key to figuring out what you can do.

    Reply
    1. Aunt Margie at Work

      Like boiling a frog in a pot of water. When he realizes whats happened to his surroundings, it’s too late.

      Reply
    2. J.B.

      I love the responses to this one – absolute classic AAM. And reminds me that none of us are alone in this crazy world.

      Reply
    3. paul

      That’s easily my favorite part of Allison’s advice; she tries to keep it to stuff that’s actionable. Sometimes abstract right and wrong are going to take a back seat to determining if/how you can fix a workplace issue.

      Reply
    4. Elfie

      Yup, I try telling my husband that, but he just can’t wrap his head around the fact that unfair things are allowed to happen. It’s incredibly frustrating.

      Reply
  20. Ennigaldi

    #3 reminds me a lot of an old boss I had who was trying to manage me out. I’d only ever had good reviews, then suddenly it was like a switch flipped and nothing I did was right. Since I did the same two or three tasks and little else, it was super confusing to hear “this thing you’ve been doing for a year and trained other people on is completely wrong” and have zero clarification no matter how many ways I tried to work with her to clear up processes or check things over. You can’t do anything right with some people, the only thing you can do is try not to let it eat away at your self-worth.

    Reply
    1. Cercis

      Subpart to that – if you think you’re being managed out, you probably are. You are not being paranoid. Either learn to give boss what xe wants or get out. If boss is not happy no matter what, GET OUT.

      I recently read Shola Richard’s Making Work Work and realized that, while yes, I could have handled the shit better, in the end the only choice I had was to leave. Maybe (big maybe), if I’d handled it differently at the beginning, things could have gone better, but once xe started working on managing me out, the situation could not be salvaged.

      Reply
  21. NJ Anon

    I have been in each of these situations. 1) Forget the board, unless the place is going under or something illegal is going on, they won’t get involved. 2) and 3) I had a supervisor who spoke to me like this. It was the last thing they ever said because I packed up my stuff and walked out. No thanks.

    Your bosses suck and most likely will never change. It is unfortunate but the way of the world. I haven’t had a good boss in so long, I forget what it is like.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      2 and 3 made me think throughout of today’s Prudie chat, in which someone ruined the bride’s day–and even post-wedding months–because she happened to wear the same color as the bridesmaids’ dresses.

      Reply
      1. HisGirlFriday

        Oh, jeeez! I actually did that to one of my best friends from college. She got married in April and I wore a light blue dress from the JCrew party line, and I didn’t know until I saw her sister, the only attendant, in the JCrew bridesmaid version of the same color I was wearing.

        We laughed about it, though, because blue is my friend’s favorite color and one of the colors I wear often because of my coloring.

        Also because my friend is not ridiculous, and realizes that things like this happen.

        Reply
  22. spemaste

    This is so tough. It’s hard to accept that any reasonable person wouldn’t respond appropriately if s/he understood how much turmoil, frustration, etc. their action/inaction was causing. It’s hard to accept that “If I can just find the right tack to take, s/he’ll understand and fix it.” just won’t work with some people.

    I’ve been in this situation a few times and it usually takes me awhile to reach that conclusion on my own. I’m so sorry to anyone in this situation, it is really tough.

    Reply
  23. SusanIvanova

    Nobody has called Boss #3 out for gaslighting yet? Trust me, as the child of a deeply insecure emotionally abusive parent, the signs are blaring out in blinking neon. She doesn’t know what she wants or what she’s doing, but rather than admit it, she’s taking it out on you. Run.

    Reply
    1. Argh!

      I’m trying to do that with my #3, who is doubling down. Since she’s setting an example by not ever admitting she’s ever been wrong, I feel justified in fighting back. If I admit I’m wrong, wouldn’t that be an admission of weakness? Then I’d be bullied even more.

      Reply
      1. SusanIvanova

        I suspect yes; at least, that’s how it works with parents. The power dynamics between bosses and parents are different, but because of that I haven’t backed down when I’ve had bosses like that. It did put me on the layoff short list once, but since I was already job-hunting I wasn’t the least bit unhappy – and I do still have the respect of all the co-workers there.

        Reply
  24. Giles

    Is it wrong that my response to the boss in #2 is “…so you’re saying you don’t want me to text you to let you know I’ll be out sick? Cool, that works” ?

    Reply
    1. Lizzle

      I was thinking something similar. Perhaps, “Well, first of all no one told me you were sick. Second, I’m sorry, I honestly thought I was required to text you when I was out sick. I didn’t mean to bother you; I’ll skip it next time. Hope you feel better soon.”

      Reply
  25. Dust Bunny

    I used to have a boss like #3, except possibly worse. He was so bad we actually considered taping him during meetings so we would have proof that he had told us last week exactly the opposite of what he claimed to want today. We were pretty sure, based on other behaviors, that he was bipolar. It got worse when his wife, who was originally from another country, went on extended trips to see her family–we’re not sure if he was just stressed or if she, who was super organized and one of the few people to whom he would defer, managed any medications he might have been on, and he slacked off when she wasn’t there. We could never tell if he’d come in joking around or if he’d fire somebody at first sight (and then wonder where they were the next day). It was like babysitting a fifty-year-old man.

    He actually did really good work when he was focused and in a good mood, but it wasn’t worth working for somebody who was so unpredictable.

    Reply
    1. Cercis

      My experience is that there’s no amount of proof that will help. I would have confirmation in writing of the direction to take and then be told “no, that’s not what I said” and when presented with the written instructions flat out deny that the plain meaning was correct “well, I know I said I wanted red, but everyone knows that red ACTUALLY means blue, duh!” This particular boss actually sent me to a communications class because xe said I needed help communicating. What I learned in the class was that my communications skills were actually pretty damned good – including being able to switch for my audience – but that hir skills were sorely lacking. Sadly, the class couldn’t help me learn to read minds and know when red actually equals blue.

      Reply
  26. Nervous Accountant

    I had my own #3—when I didn’t know how to do bank reconciliations for bookkeeping, he said “my 11 year old could do it, what did they teach you at that shit shop (my former employer)” and actually ran in to his office to pull out my resume. (this is when “Nervous Acc” was born). Sadly I was too desperate to have a job and therefore stand up for myself and took this behavior for way too long. There were so many other things besides this, but the bank rec comes to mind because…..I actually enjoy doing that now. (go figure)

    Reply
  27. Anon for this one

    #3, I would think this was terrible advice if I hadn’t seen it work with my own eyes: maybe you should yell back.

    Maybe not literally yell, but crazy respects crazy. I have a close family member with an adventurous approach to nightmare bosses (has accepted and stayed in jobs with revolving door histories and boss horror stories), and they had not one but two that sounded a lot like yours. They tried to be a good employee, but eventually lost their temper, only to discover that their bosses had developed a newfound respect for them. Responding bluntly and without filter might be a workable short term solution until you can find another job. She says “you didn’t even try to do what I asked,” you respond in a stern, slightly annoyed voice, “when I do what you ask, you hate it. So tell me what you want me to do, because I don’t have time for this back and forth you insist on putting me through.” My prediction: Your boss will not respond well. Your boss will get MAD. You might argue about it, it might get heated. Your boss will attempt to rip you to shreds. You will say exactly what you think, act like none of this impacts you, then announce that you need to get back to work and she can let you know if she changes her mind, again. Within a few days, your boss will come to you with a new attitude. She may even apologize, if she’s ok with admitting wrongdoing ever (some aren’t). Boss can trust you now. You keep it real. You know your worth, and maybe Boss underestimated you.

    Disclaimers: This approach is not for the faint of heart. It is not pleasant, and after the first round, you’ll be convinced that you’re about to be fired. My family member literally packed a box the first time, and was once suspended (framed as an unpaid leave) only to come back to a raise. Also, no matter how real you keep it, your boss is not going to change. This will continue to happen, and the underlying behavior doesn’t stop. She’s still going to change her mind every 30 seconds and continue to expect you to be her version of perfect (which also changes every 30 seconds). You should still be looking for another job. What changes are two things. First, you’ll feel like you have some control over the situation, because at least you said your piece. Second, your boss begins to see you as more capable and competent. This particular breed of boss thinks that other people are too stupid and short sighted to see the world as they do, and they’re surrounded by yes men and liars instead of do-ers. By coming back at her, you’ve proven yourself as a do-er. That’s valuable. In both situations in which I encountered this boss in the wild, the person who came back at them was treated as a valuable commodity. The bosses were still terrible, but after a blow up or two, my family member was spoken of with respect and given nice projects and extended freedom, which made their remaining time there more palatable. When they quit, one boss gave a good reference and the other literally begged my family member to come back and was baffled when her request was refused because they’d “gotten along so well.”

    Finally, there is the chance that you actually will be fired. This is a high risk approach, and you should know it has the potential to backfire spectacularly before you decide if it’s for you. If this turns out to be a different breed of boss than I’m thinking, she might get mad and call your bluff. Even worse, you might now be an “enemy” and she’ll make it a mission to make you miserable. But I’m willing to make a guess that your boss thinks she’s exceptionally smart (likely disproportionate to her actual ability), has a big ego, spends an unusual amount of time out of the office or on personal business, may have skeletons in the closet and depends on loyal employees to keep quiet about them, employs a “divide and conquer” strategy by spreading gossip or having “enemies,” and doesn’t respect boundaries. Am I right? If so, I’ve probably pegged your boss correctly, and if so, I would almost bet that standing up to her will have a positive impact on your working relationship. It’s not for everyone (I don’t think I’d be brave enough to try it), but since your boss sounds like a carbon copy of my family member’s nightmare bosses, I figured I’d throw it out there. YMMV.

    Reply
    1. David

      For what it’s worth, I had a relationship like that, and finally blowing up in return temporarily got them to back off and helped restore some parity. Not that the relationship was good or healthy, but . . . it got less miserable.

      A relationship’s a lot easier to leave than a job, though.

      Reply
    2. Lynne879

      Eeeeeeeeh maybe it depends on the boss and even the situation.

      A coworker of mine recently stood up for herself when TerribleBoss yelled at her but that resulted in him being even more of a jackass and upsetting my coworker even more :/

      Reply
    3. AllTheFiles

      “Crazy respects crazy” is so accurate, at least it has in my employment history which involved tons of crazy. It has worked in my experience but always remember it is burning the bridge on your way out, but starting the fire while you’re still on it.

      Reply
    4. Argh!

      Where I work losing your temper is a sign of weakness and unprofessionalism, and it also gives the bullies information on how to trigger you. I advise against that!

      Reply
      1. AllTheFiles

        Who cares if you look unprofessional to unprofessional people? I wouldn’t even say “losing your temper” so much as “stop taking their ish” because you don’t get upset so much as you tell them off. Shouldn’t give them anything to bully you on, since they just got put in their place and all the info exchanged was about them.

        Reply
    5. Whippers.

      I do think this is very true actually.

      In my last job I had a manager who everyone found very difficult to work with. I never lost my temper with him; always tried to remain calm and reason with him although I did find myself getting shorter and shorter with him towards the end of my time there. He never respected me.

      The person who replaced me also finds him very hard to work with. However, she has no qualms about having arguments with him, telling him off, refusing to do things for him. Guess what? He loves her.

      Reply
  28. Toasted Souls of the Damned

    #2 OP here…

    So my response to her text message was the same as my coworker’s…we both said absolutely nothing to her or her spouse. We discussed all possible outcomes and decided the most irritatingly professional one we could select was to not reply to her at all. Not surprisingly, she has not apologized. She HAS spent the last few weeks asking everyone but us if we are okay, are we upset about something, are we applying for other work etc. She even went so far as to have a staff-wide meeting telling us all we needed to get happy or GTFO. I’m paraphrasing there but she did directly state we are a family and we are all replaceable in the same meeting.

    In the meantime we have updated our resumes and along with all but 2 other staff members, we are all actively looking for new employment. I have been in this position for five years and I am coming to realize that while I enjoy certain aspects of the job I am no longer able to work in an environment where I have to tell my bosses not to curse at me, act as their emotional support, explain to them how I cannot do eight days of labor in one day, or work 50-60 hour work weeks covering three positions to sit in a review where I am docked points for being ten cents off on my deposit numbers one time six months prior. They are crazy, they deserve each other and we deserve better.

    Reply
    1. LKW

      OH GET OUT. I worked for a husband and wife that were a team of crazy. I actually refer to that job as “working for the crazy people”. I lasted 3 months. It was that bad. I would be asked to come in on weekends just in case one of them came in and wanted to review contracts so I could make a photocopy of said contract (no more than 10 pages usually) otherwise they might put them in their briefcase and leave. I had to use phrases like “No, I am not going to research satellite dish packages so that you can watch the world cup during office hours” and for the first time (and last time) in my career I had to lie to clients because boss was having another tantrum and wouldn’t speak to them.

      Reply
    2. EmilyG

      “she did directly state we are a family and we are all replaceable in the same meeting”

      That is just amazing. I’ve never worked anywhere that described itself as a family, but I’ve read this blog enough to consider it a danger sign. It also sounds like the couple want the employees to take on the style of their relationship with each other, which… no.

      Good luck, TSotD!

      Reply
    3. mf

      This sounds super toxic. Glad you are planning your exit strategy. In the meantime, whenever she asks if you’re happy or goes on a tirade about how you need to get happy, I’d recommend just agreeing with her: “I can see why you’d want us to be happy. Personally, I am very happy.” It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t believe–as long as you’re saying what she wants to hear, you’re making it tougher for her to fire you.

      Reply
    4. Life is Good

      Interesting that she asks everyone else what you are thinking. At old dysfunctional company, the b*tchy HR person was extremely rude to me and a coworker and we both told her we were offended. We found out later that she asked people all over the office if they thought we were upset with her. At one all hands meeting after that, the owner made the whole office (25 people) stand in a circle, then announced it was time for a group hug. It was truly icky and awkward. Glad I am not there anymore.

      Reply
    5. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived

      She basically told you to be happy or GTFO? “The beatings will continue until morale improves!”
      All the best of luck in your job search!

      Reply
  29. Mischa

    She even went so far as to have a staff-wide meeting telling us all we needed to get happy or GTFO. I’m paraphrasing there but she did directly state we are a family and we are all replaceable in the same meeting.

    My grandboss did this about two months ago. Extremely toxic work environment. Unsurprisingly, 30% of the staff has resigned.

    I hope you find a nice, stable new job very soon. No one should be cursed at regularly while at work. How terrible.

    Reply
  30. e.b.

    #3: I could’ve written this letter about my boss, as well. (With the added fun of “how do I list references when she clearly doesn’t like me/respect me/think of me as anything more than a dog that’s just pissed on her rug?”) My condolences, OP.

    Reply
  31. Surrogate Tongue Pop

    #3 – ERMAGERD. This was me a few years back working on a “how to request funding for projects document” that my VP had me create. The problem? He told me NOT to talk to the finance team for input (I did anyway, because…whaaaa?). The other problem? He was a brain-to-mouth-say-whatever-in-the-moment-but-retain-no-memory-of-it (i.e. say what he thinks when he thinks it at 100 MPH) type of guy. He decried my first few versions, even though I wrote down his feedback after each version and incorporated it in the next iteration. Somewhere around version NINE, I brought my direct manager into it and we collaborated together based on what we were hearing directly from VP. I’m talking late nights, white boarding, reviews of the work, agreeing that we had captured everything we heard and then some, etc. Still no dice with VP dude. I think I made it to version 11.6 (POINT SIX!!!) before we had something apparently “usable” to discuss with project stakeholders, only because he version 9 home and actually PUT WHAT HE WANTED ON THE DIAGRAM. Then says by version 11.6 “maybe I should have told you that stuff at the beginning”. UM, WHATTHEWHAT? And the “best” part? He then reprimanded me for “being late” with this process documentation. Never mind there was no due date specified (yes, my boss and I asked). To this day, he is the legend boss of “dear LORT, you couldn’t pay me enough money to work for him again”, as said by many people who had the…uh…pleasure of working for him. Those sentiments spanned two countries!

    Reply
  32. CAS

    #3: Get out. Just get out. There will be no pleasing your boss. It’s best to stop looking for logic where you will not find it. My wife could have written your letter. In fact, it could easily have been written by one of her former coworkers. Note, I said “former coworkers.” My wife was being managed out. Fortunately, she was able to retire with her benefits intact before the ax fell. One of my wife’s ex-coworkers simply bailed out one day. It got so crazy for her that she just stopped reporting for work.

    Nothing their boss said or did made any sense. If my wife asked questions to clarify, the boss would yell at her about how she was at too high a level to not understand “the vision” and that she wasn’t going to do my wife’s work for her. If she’d set the bar and left it alone, she could not have forced my wife to retire. That was her vision.

    Reply
  33. saffytaffy

    I was in a situation identical to #3 at the same time that I was in an abusive relationship. So much of my life involved “trying to be happy in spite of” the bad behavior of others, and even though I tried to see that as a challenge and a test of character, it was a waste. Trying to be “happy despite” isn’t worth the energy.

    Reply
  34. JanetInSC

    For #2: Your bosses sound slightly unstable. Nevertheless, I would text back, “I’m so sorry!! Had no idea you were sick. Hope you’re feeling better soon!” It’s just easier to go along…until you find a better job.

    Reply
  35. LKW

    OP#1 – Is there any possibility of deflecting this to a 3rd party – hiring a business consulting firm under the guise of “looking for opportunities to streamline and identify inefficiencies and synergies” (how’s that for consult-o-speak?)? That way you have someone who is used to dealing with c-level people who can coach and say “You’re running your ship into the ground by trying to do all of this yourself.”

    Reply
    1. tiny temping teapot

      At the non-profit org of great toxicity where I worked, the board hired a mediator to deal with the “issues” – the only viable solution was too expensive (hire someone else to manage everyone since the ED was incapable), so basically the mediator threw up her hands and said good luck.

      Reply
    2. OP#1

      Head of HR has tried/is trying all that they can think of along those lines, but things are not working out. And hiring someone (paying money!) is a decision of at least a year. And even then, the answer would probably be “no”.

      Reply
  36. pope suburban

    This morning, I handed in my resignation to a boss like all of these. He’s an inveterate gaslighter, he withholds essential operational information from me (I suspect deliberately, because then he can yell at me for being stupid), he once tried to publicly humiliate me in front of most of the company (It…didn’t work out the way he thought it would; everyone was mortified on his behalf), he ignores every request I make even if it’s for safety equipment, he throws me under the bus all the time, and he lets other employees do and say whatever they want to me. He thinks this stuff is acceptable, and that this is just some chummy, family-like small business.

    And he was SHOCKED when I quit. Like I was seriously going to stay here, in a job that used to have an incredible turnover rate, getting verbally abused for peanuts, forever. He thought this was a sustainable thing. I didn’t laugh, but part of me wanted to. He sucks, and he’s not going to change- so now I’m getting out.

    Reply
  37. Student

    #2 – I can see why this bothers you. It’s unprofessional and stupid.

    But it’s also absurdly easy to deal with. You say, “Oh my gosh, nobody told me you were sick! I’m so sorry! Are you going to be all right? I hope you’re feeling better now!” Then, when she comes in, you say something similar in persona, and you encourage her to just reply with a note that she’s out sick if it ever happens again instead of stressing out about our requests.

    Then treat this flaky boss making silly demands like you would any flaky boss making silly demands – decide whether the job is worth giving her the emotional BS she expects, and clean up your resume if it is not.

    Reply
  38. mf

    LW 2, I’d’ve texted my boss the following: “Apologies, I didn’t realize you were sick. Perhaps if you could inform me via text of your illnesses in the future, I will then know when it is an appropriate time to express concern.”

    (Yes, that is a super passive aggressive response, but frankly, your boss deserves it.)

    Reply
    1. mf

      And if/when she tells you about how sick she is, all you need to say/text is: “That’s very concerning.” See, now you’ve expressed your concern!

      Reply
  39. Noah

    I’m not sure OP #2’s boss is quite as bad as AAM thinks she is. It’s not clear she’s asking to be babied. I think she’s being asked to be left alone when she’s sick. Maybe she told Husband/Co-Boss to tell the employees about it, and he dropped the ball. Her response to texts/emails is still way over the top, but not as bad as AAM suggests if this is what happened.

    Reply
    1. Toasted Souls of the Damned

      No, she’s that bad. Today before I left she pulled me into a room and screamed at me about my negative attitude (for the record I have been polite but not effusive since the text incident which was just one of many tantrums). She screamed so loud they heard it through the entire office and through a closed door. I was called names, threatened and generally berated. It ended with her screaming I had better “get perky” or she would be writing me up.

      Reply
      1. Grabapple McGee

        Good Lord, and you didn’t walk out then? I’d go bag groceries if I had to. Anything to remove myself from THAT.

        Reply
        1. Toasted Souls of the Damned

          I’m a single mom with no other support. If I could walk out I definitely would but I need to find a job that will let me support my child.

          Reply
  40. Stelmselms

    Your/my boss sucks. “Get out!” you reply. But you just. can’t. leave. (Maybe not yet, or maybe not at all (you have the insurance, circumstances beyond your control, etc.) Tips and suggestions to get through the day until that time?

    Reply
  41. BaristaBandit

    My favorite bit about this post is that you described the boss as a shitty person in #3. I sometimes forget that you’re a human who likely uses curse words, albeit not as flagrantly as others might. It was such a delight.

    Reply
      1. CC

        I was going to mention this too, I thought it was something you kept off the blog for a particular reason – but I wholeheartedly believe that the word “jerk” just does not fully cover the extent of how terrible some people are. These answers are spot on.

        Reply
  42. Thinking Outside the Boss

    Justice Scalia once said that all federal judges should get a stamp that read, “Stupid, but constitutional.” Then someone sent him the stamp.

    I think we should get Alison a stamp that reads “Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change”

    Reply
  43. Massmatt

    This batch of columns is making me think of sex advice columnist Dan Savage, every now and then he has several advice seekers all in terrible situations and his response is abbreviated to “DTMFA”.

    Reply
  44. Anon attorney

    I think it’s really easy to fall into the trap of assuming that the boss is difficult but fundamentally rational and we’ll intentioned. We then try to manage up. That would work for the boss who is just crap at the job but it’s not enough for those bosses who are sociopaths and act in bad faith. You can’t manage or please such a boss. But we’re very reluctant to write the boss off or acknowledge that she has no intention of improving. I suspect the best way to deal with such a boss is to become very, very boring and low profile while you find another job.

    Reply
  45. Almost Fergus

    People can and do change jobs and residences, all the time. It’s tougher to change other circumstances, though.

    Reply
  46. Mab

    I’ve worked for all these bosses, sometimes at once, before I realized my main problem is being told what to do. Now I work in a position where that’s not the case and boy howdy, what a difference. I need managers who know I know stuff and believe in my ideas, not who direct and tell me things. I need people who believe in hiring good people who carry unique skills, not just butts in seats to do tasks.

    Reply
  47. TootsNYC

    #2, the boss who’s so hurt that you didn’t say “feel better”

    I just bullshit these people. Very calculatedly.

    So I’d text, “Goodness, I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize you were sick. I thought you were taking a personal day. That sounds awful. I hope you are feeling better.”

    And then I send out my resume.

    Reply
  48. Chocolate Teapot

    1. It is a legal requirement in some countries that members of a Board of Directors are registered with the authorities, so you can find out who they are simply by ordering a copy of the trade register excerpt. It might be money well spent.

    Reply
    1. OP#1

      Thank you. I know who the board members are and have met them, I was only saying it in the post to make a point of how secretive and controlled things are. As a result, I (or anyone else except the CEO) don’t have regular interaction with the board so cannot even begin to contemplate how they would react to anyone reaching out.

      Reply
  49. Tim C.

    It really is too bad that when asked “Why are you leaving your current job?”, you can’t be truthful. I had a similar “your boss sucks” situation when I left my old job. However the poor management was so well known, it was unspoken. Still it was not discussed openly. What really frustrates many is that HR always backs the management. It is a shame employees will have to resort to cutting losses and find a new job.

    Reply
  50. AEM

    These are definitely sucky bosses.
    I’ll be honest though, I submitted a question a few weeks ago that could fit this category and got excited when I realized the theme of the post… oh well hopefully someday, right?

    Reply
  51. that guy

    #1 How the hell did this person ever become a CEO? How did he become a manager? Weird.
    I had a micromanager boss like that. He once gave me a document about a client’s electrical installation standards, and asked me to summarise any information about some specific aspect of it. So I went through the document, and told him that there is no specific information about how they want the job done, just general information. Think “teapots are for serving tea” in stead of “we want our teapots to have Spongebob pictures on them.”

    Then he wanted me to prove that the information he wanted is not in the document. How do you prove something does not exist? My boss sucked.

    #2 Your boss is insane.

    #3 Same boss was always changing his mind. Or he would give me a job to do, which I would do the same way we’ve always done it before. And when I’m done, he would look at it and put on this preachy “oh you poor dumb bastard” smile and tell me that actually, I have to use this other method that he introduced (without telling anyone) and that somehow this shows that I’m just not motivated, and I have to take ownership of my work, and he doesn’t want to micromanage, blah blah. Sometimes I wished he would just get angry and scream at me so that I could tell him to go and do certain things to himself.

    Anyway, so far new boss seems better. Time will tell

    Reply
  52. Grabapple McGee

    #2 and #3 – do you work for my former boss? LOL

    I love Alison’s response for #2. Answering that way puts it all back on her and calls her out on her crazy, but in a gentle way. Do it!

    As for #3 – document, document, document. CYA is your only weapon with a boss like this. Get instructions via email if you can. When you meet, take detailed notes. And NEVER throw any of them away. Keep them filed because one day you will have to pull them out and say, “Well, on May 16, 2017, we agreed on XYZ. I have it noted right here.” It still may not matter, but it will at least keep you from losing your mind in all the back and forth that comes with a boss like that.

    And for both of you….. start looking for a new job. If you are like me, you’ll walk out the door shouting FREEEEEEEEDOM! in pure Braveheart style :)

    Reply
  53. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

    I feel like YBSAIGTC is Alison’s equivalent of DTMFA. Doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well, though.

    Reply
  54. T.T. Pot

    Regarding #2: In my current workplace, nobody EVER asks if you’re feeling better after you’ve been out sick. It’s like it never happened. I’ve been working for more than 30 years and I have never encountered this before. Is this usual?
    (I also think #2’s boss is a bit off the rails).

    Reply

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