temp worker’s new account manager is a jerk

A reader writes:

I work for a temp agency and a new account manger took over there. The first call he made to me I thought was disrespectful and unprofessional.

Without going into the whole conversation, he was angry that I did not respond to his email, which I had and told him that I had (I forwarded a copy of the sent email after the call ended). He told me “I pay your bills,” which I thought was disrespectful. I pay my bills after working every week for 40 hours for his client. The only thing he does is approve the hours I have worked, he doesn’t even sign my paycheck.

He then told me that he wanted my time card in every Monday morning and “DO I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT?” which I thought was combative. I mean, why would I have a problem sending him my time card?

The tone and manner in which he spoke to me has me baffled. He doesn’t know me or even know what I do for his client and I thought he was way out of line.

He wants to have a face to face and in that meeting, I would like to very calmly tell him how uncomfortable I was and that the tone and manner in which he spoke to me is unacceptable. Any suggestions?

Wow. This guy sounds like an ass.

If I were in your shoes, I would say something like the following, calmly and professionally: “I appreciate the chance to get to talk to you face-to-face. I’ve always had a very good experience with XYZ Agency, which has always treated me in a professional and supportive manner and made me feel me feel valued. In light of that experience, and the fact that I’ve always been reliable and responsive, your tone the other day surprised me. I might have misinterpreted, but are there any concerns about my work that would have caused that?”

Obviously, even if there were concerns about your work, it doesn’t justify him behaving that way. But this is a good question to ask to frame the conversation. And if he does somehow come up with any concerns, say, “I really appreciate you telling me that, and I’m always appreciative of feedback. I’d ask, however, that we both talk to each other with respect, even if there’s a problem to be discussed. I’ve always found XYZ Agency to be great at doing that, and it’s one of the things that made me choose this agency to work for.” (This last part is a good way to diplomatically suggest that he may be unaligned with how his employer does things, and to emphasize that you are choosing to work there and have options.)

Now, some bullies react poorly when someone stands up to them. But some back down pretty fast when someone shows they won’t stand for rudeness. You won’t know which kind you’re dealing with until you try, but if he continues being a jerk at this point, you’ll need to decide how much you want to continue working for this agency if you’re going to have to deal with him.

You might also consider going over his head and talking to someone else there — if I were his manager, I’d sure as hell want to know that he was alienating people for no reason. But that approach carries the risks that (a) his manager won’t care and he’ll hear about it and be even worse to you or (b) his manager will care, but not enough to stop him from subtly screwing you over in regard to future work assignments. So for that, you need to really know what your bottom line is — are you willing to risk those things, or would you rather play it safe even if it means accepting this kind of treatment?

{ 25 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    This advice will likely get you labeled as a problem child. and temp agencies will not hesitate to can you. Two options: 1. Let it slide since it sounds like it's the first time and you probably don't have to deal with this douche regularly. Or 2. Tell the person you report to at the client if you have a good relationship. Just a basic summary will do. Don't go too in depth or they'll think you're a whiner. If the key is that the complaint to the temp agency needs to come from the client. it's much harder to replace a client than 1 pain in the a** temp.

  2. TheLabRat*

    Sounds like typical temp agency stuff to me. This kind of behavior has pretty much been par for the course at ever agency I've ever applied with.

    I'm intrigued by the idea of briefly mentioning the situation to your contact at the client worksite. I can see what anon means by the rest of their tersely worded post (and in my experience that is 100% true), but I never would have thought of that approach and am curious how much good it would do.

  3. Anonymous*

    I can't think of any good reason to air dirty laundry with the client. That sounds like disaster in the making. If I were in management at the temp company, I would make sure that your days were numbered if you pulled that stunt.

  4. Jason*

    Bringing the client into it is really kind of a bad idea, in my book. I've had my staff attempt to address issues with the agency through me; while I'm not a jerk and generally have called up the agency to ask them what the heck is going on (they might be on agency payroll, but they're MY staff, darnit!), I don't think it looks very good.

    As for being labeled a problem child, even in today's poor work environment, there is absolutely zero excuse to treat anyone without a basic level of respect and dignity.

    Those same agencies that label people "problem children" for refusing to be treated like second class citizens are the same ones who are likely not handling their clients with the poise and precision necessary to retain an account.

    If I'm the OP, I'd approach the manager of that agency's office first (or the district manager) to address that issue first. If there's no resolution, line something up, then give the agency a week's notice and let them explain to the client why their temp employee just bailed.

  5. Jason*

    To clarify my last comment just a touch – you might end up burning a bridge with the agency, but if you ALSO bring it to the client at that point and advise them that you're unable to continue in the position because of the agency's behavior, you can really put the squeeze on them there. Probably burn that bridge too, but that's the breaks with temp jobs sometimes.

  6. Mike*

    I just love how simply wanting to be treated like a human being carries the risk of being labeled a "whiner" or a "problem" of some sort. It's as if the unemployment rate is actually a measure of how subhuman employees are.

    As for the situation at hand, there are one of two things going on – either the manager is always a jerk, or this is highly unusual behavior. AaM's advice is great here because if it's the former it doesn't matter what you do and if it's the latter you're going to start building a real professional relationship.

    Best of luck, and please keep us updated!

  7. DRD*

    I manage a temp agency and this is definately not the norm in my company. Without decent candidates I dont make money and the client is left unhappy. If I were you i would be questioning whether this company is right for you. I would be more than happy to discuss further with you the opportunities available with my company if we are in your local area. Please dont brush us all with the same stroke as there are decent companies out there that would really appreciate what a good job you are doing for their clients. Sounds like your account manager needs to look at a new career.

  8. Anonymous*

    Having been in an account manager role at a temp agency, I would definitely advise starting with a conversation as AAM outlined. However, if that did not resolve things, I would recommend one of two things. Either find out who this person's superior is within the agency, or if you have a good relationship with the client's team, bring it to them. In my experience, what my client wanted was what they got – so if they complained to the regional overseeing my account, I was obliged to make changes. When my temps' issues were falling on deaf ears when I brought it up to agency management, I'd send them to the client's HR rep and let her complain. Coming from me it didn't mean anything, but once she said something, they were all over it.

    I hated working for an agency – the employees were so crucial to the business but were treated like cattle. There was no thought of doing right by your people – it was always about the money. Not that it shouldn't be about profit and bottom line, but there's a balance to it that just didn't exist. My job got eliminated and in retrospect, while being out of work for nearly a year was difficult, I still feel lucky to be out of there!

  9. Charles*

    Here's some more advice on talking to the client (not a route that I would suggest BTW as it could make you look bad). Ask them if there is another agency that they also work with. I know that when I was a manager hiring a lot of folks from temp agencies I made sure that I did not bring everyone from ONE agency – I used at least three agencies.

    By asking for another agency that they work with you could simply try to transfer there and remain with your same job. This way you have not presented the client with a problem that really isn't their direct problem; you have, in fact, found a solution to your own problem.

    If you do this – do NOT tell your former agency what you have done. As temping as that might be that could bring the client into a mess they don't want to be in.

  10. Joey*

    Alright, i'm the first anon. Let me explain a bit. If you complain to the temp agency their goal is going to be to get rid of the problem without the client being involved. It's much easier for them to cast the temp as the problem. And it's much easier for them to get rid of the complainer than to actually fix the problem. If you can get the client on board they will cast the account manager as the problem. And as a previous poster said clients get what they want.

  11. Agent Friday*

    I work for a staffing company. This type of behavior is totally unacceptable. A recruiter who treats any of our employees (whether they are star employees or less than stellar) in such a manner would not last.

    It sounds to me like this recruiter has a bug up his butt about something and the OP is his outlet.

    Definitely contact your staffing company and ask to speak with his manager. Perhpas the manager can better explain why there seems to be a problem. However, be prepared to hear that the client company may not be 100% satisfied with your work. Even so, this does not justify the poor behavior of the recruiter. I would not go to the client company with this. Both of you most likely signed an agreement with the staffing company prevented them from hiring you unless they pay a fee.

    There are great staffing companies out there as well as bad ones. Please don't assume that we are all in the "bad" category.

  12. Anonymous*

    A lot of really good responses have been given, and I wanted to chime in as someone who has temped extensively and would go right back to it, if the need arose.

    MY approach would NOT be to go to the client with it, UNLESS you are confident that the client can and will transfer you to another agency. You have to be really careful with that sort of things. Not a course of action I would take.

    What I WOULD do:
    -go over the person's head and complain. Yes, they can label you a problem child, but there are so many agencies –GOOD ones–out there, that I doubt you'd end up in a "you'll never work in this town again!" scenario. I have fired two agencies, and I will most likely NEVER go back and work for them.

    -look for other agencies. If you're in a decently-sized metro area, you're likely to find many suitable alternatives. It sucks, but sometimes you just have to move on.

    Good luck to you!

  13. Ashleigh*

    If confronting the agent about his poor behaviour doesn't work, I would suggest asking to be transferred to a different agent within the company if possible.

    If not, I would make it very clear to this agent that you will not tolerate this behaviour from him, as you have done nothing (I'm assuming) to engender it. If it continues, go up the managerial chain all the way to the president of the company if need be.

    If all else fails, you may need to take your business (because that is what you are providing them) elsewhere.

    Good luck! I definitely know what it is like to have to deal with people who are jerks for no reason. Keep in mind that he must have a miserable life to have to take his unhappiness out on a perfect stranger and pity him.

  14. Anonymous*

    Why are you all looking to get the OP fired?

    I'd move on, until there's a second time.

    People get one free bite at the apple for some pretty bad stuff. And although "being rude, demanding, and untrusting towards an employee" is obnoxious, it sure as hell isn't unethical, unheard or, or illegal. As "first bites" go, it's pretty minimal.

    If you react to a first offense as if it's the same as an ongoing offense, you'll be branded as the problem, as a diva, and as a complainer.

  15. Anonymous*

    (still the same anon)

    And also, you may BE a complainer. It's not uncommon for employees to see "managerial change" as a bad thing. Yes, it sucks to have to prove yourself again to a new person, but that's just the lot of an employee. Chin up already.

    Look at your post: "Combative," "out of line," "unacceptable," "disrespectful," "unprofessional." newflash: you can demand not to be harassed or assaulted, but you don't get to set "your personal line" for managerial behavior. It needs to be *objective*.

    I'm guessing you weren't always a temp. But in temp land those types of adjectives (when raised by a temp) had better refer to some VERY abusive and horrible behavior, and it doesn't seem that you have that here.

  16. Anonymous*

    Wow, I was totally baffled to read the last two comments from the same anon. Not sure what you had against the OP, but it sounded as if you knew her/him personally and purposefully attacking her/him. I thought the OP's question was totally valid and it's very possible that it did happen the way it was described. That's why I was wondering why you sounded the way you did.

  17. Mike*

    @ Anon 2:06/2:11

    It doesn't matter how common such behavior is or the fact that it hasn't been made illegal. It's unethical because the manager is abusing her/his authority to goal of intimidating and belittling this employee.

    You need to understand that no one has the right to do this to another person, and no one should ever have to put up with such treatment. This isn't Glengarry Glen Ross, this is real life.

  18. TylerD*

    To the advice that Charles proposed of asking for a transfer. I would do your research before going this route. I used to work for a staffing company and our contract had specific language that stated if we provided a temp to a client the client could not hire or transfer them without paying a fee. It was kind of like non-compete language, basically stating that if we provide you X employee you agree not to hire on directly or thru another temp agency without paying X fees. Now I am not sure if that language is actually enforceable, but I would do some research before you go that route.

    Personally I would take your issue over your account managers head, if you get someone important to list you may get what you want. Staffing is a high turnover business and if your account manager's boss sees him as a bad investment he could get cut loose almost as fast as a temp.

  19. Anonymous*

    Mike, I desperately wish you were right about "this isn't Glengarry Glen Ross" … but for a lot of us, it is, and it has been for a while.

  20. Anonymous*

    Anon 2:06 here…

    Mike, are you sure you and I are living in the same real life?

    I mean sure: from a subjective ethical perspective everyone has the "right" to be treated with perfect respect. But in the real life perspective, we have no such thing.

    The employee/employer relationship–especially for a temp–inherently involves a significant power differential. Employees are expected to provide a higher level of respect to their superiors, than they are entitled to automatically receive.

    People *should* (and do) treat their employees with greater than minimum respect. I listen to my employee's suggestions; avoid rude or offensive behavior; and try to behave as I would like them to do.

    But when push comes to shove, there are some things that I will not tolerate from an employee, and which I reserve exclusively to myself. I have more leeway than they do; that's part of why I pay them to work here.

    An employee who tells me that they were upset by something I said and who wants to understand what's going on, doesn't bother me. However, I'm not paying people to judge or lecture me. Unless my behavior is objectively WAY over the line, the use of words as found in that post would make it clear it is not a good fit.

    And mind you, that's even more the case in an ENTIRELY NEW relationship, as happened here. An employee who enters a new relationship with a boss, and who doesn't seem willing to cut the boss some slack, is not going to stay an employee.

    Should the boss cut the new employee some slack, as well? yup. but when push comes to shove, the one with the money and power makes the call.

  21. Anonymous*

    Anon 1.40pm: I sure am glad I'm not working for you. And hopefully you don't have anyone working for you since you sound like a total jerk.

  22. Ask a Manager*

    Anonymous at 1:40 — I agree with you that there are some things a boss can say that an employee can't. But the way that this manager was talking is unacceptable for anyone, at any level — telling an employee "I pay your bills" and the whole "DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT" — it's the behavior of a jerk and a tyrant, not of a competent manager who's being assertive in a normal way.

    Plenty of good employees won't put up with being talked to that way, and putting him on notice as to that fact is a reasonable way to respond.

  23. Anonymous*

    I agree that treating employees, or anyone for that matter, disrespectfully is unacceptable and shouldnt happen. However, while taking the moral high ground feels fantastic, that road often does not lead to a paycheck.

    It would be fantastic to be able to tell a manager, or company, that their treatment of their employees is unacceptable and they better shape up or youre going to find employment somewhere else (no matter how diplomatically you want to phrase it, thats the bottom line if you have that discussion). In fact, Ive done that sort of thing in the past, quit a job out of principle, but Ive found that being unemployed isnt much consolation for standing up for your rights.

    In a perfect world this sort of behavior wouldnt happen, but thats not the world we live in. Stand up for yourself, but be cognizant of the potential ramifications. You have to decide if your moral outrage is worth a potential unemployment check, if it is, go for it.

  24. Anonymous*

    Thank you all for your responses.

    I "was" going to cover the subjects that made me uncomfortable in the face to face, however, after reading the responses before the meeting I decided to see how it would go. As it turned out, there has been no face to face and I have not heard from him since.

    I have also decided to let it go "this one time". I certainly do not agree with his style, however, he can fire me with no cause and I will be unable to get back in the same door with another temp agency for 12 months. I like the company I'm with, I'm VERY good at what I do and I'm well liked and respected by my mangers and peers.

    This is not a position "anyone" should be in. I have always believed in respecting the people that work for you, without them, you have no business.

    Thank you all again.

  25. llskinnermaybe*

    I am impressed, I have to say. Really rarely do I see a blog thats both informative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the matter is something that not many people are talking intelligently a

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