hiring people to work for a difficult boss

A reader writes:

I am an office manager in a small (we are talking 5-7 employees) business, and have been for the last 4 years. When I was hired, it was with the understanding that I would be leaving and starting my “career” as soon as I graduated from my master’s degree program (totally unrelated to anything I am doing here). My boss has been more than understanding about this, and we have been really open about it. My graduation is in May, and I plan to phase myself out of this job (ie: hire a replacement and train them) by September. My idea is to hire an admin assistant to help me out with the overwhelming work load while I am still here, and then they would naturally progress into taking my position when the time comes. I would be able to train them etc.

The problem is, my boss has a really difficult personality. Prior to my starting this job, no office manager had ever lasted more than a year, and so far every admin I have hired (over the last year or so) has either quit or been fired due to personality conflicts. They report that he is demanding, has over-the-top expectations, and a lack of professional work behavior (he often walks around just bothering people and saying “GET TO WORK,” despite them being clearly hard at work, and nothing is EVER good enough). My fear is that I am going to hire someone, spend a ton of time training them and then they quit because he is difficult to work for. This pattern has occurred more than once. I don’t want to find myself having to stay at this job (mostly out of guilt) longer than planned because of this issue.

My question to you is, when interviewing for the job position, do I screen for thicker-skinned people or do I just find someone who can do the job and hope that they don’t end up feeling the same way? Do I offer them some kind of warning, or do I just pretend everything is easygoing? Also, before you ask… I have tried to talk to my boss about this, but he says that people are too sensitive and he doesn’t want to lower his expectations. Ugh.

Be straightforward with your candidates. By doing that, you’ll be doing a favor to both the candidates and your boss. Candidates can self-select out if they think they’d be miserable, and hopefully your boss won’t end up with someone who quits after a few months.

Ideally, you’d find a way to talk about your boss’s more difficult traits that’s honest without being disrespectful to him. For instance, you might say, “There are plusses and minuses to this job. Bob’s working style isn’t for everyone. He has very high standards, and he can be demanding — some people say too demanding. He doesn’t give a lot of praise, and if you take this kind of thing personally, it might not be for you.” Ideally you’d also follow that up with what’s good about Bob (assuming there is something) — but paint as full of a picture as you can. There really are people out there who can deal with this kind of thing (you did, after all), especially if they hear it up-front and know what they’d be signing up for.

At the same time, though, be aware that people often put on rosy-colored glasses and hear what they want to hear, especially when they want or need a job. So really pay attention to their reactions. Do they seem to really hear what you’re saying, or are they just rushing in to assure you that it won’t be a problem without having processed what you’ve said or thought it through? Do they seem put off? Pay attention to your gut on this.

Also:  Take a look at why you have a different relationship with your boss than others do.  (At least it sounds like you do; you don’t say you’ve been miserable, and you seem to have a pretty honest relationship with him.) So think about why you were able to last when others weren’t. Is it due to certain personality traits? If so, screen for those in your candidates. Is it due to some particular strategy you used with him? If so, be clear with candidates about what works and what doesn’t work. For instance, I used to work for someone who I had a great relationship with, even though lots of people disliked him. The difference was that I was always candid with him, didn’t get intimidated by him, and knew how to disagree with him without being argumentative, and as a result, we got along fine. The few other people who applied this formula also got along with him. Is there some formula like that that you can pass along?

You can be totally honest about that too — i.e., “I’ve watched other people not click well with him, but I’ve never had many problems. I think it’s because I did X, Y, and Z, so one thing to think about is how naturally that approach comes to you.”

Overall, truth in advertising is key here. You owe it to candidates not to mislead them, and you owe it to your boss to try to find someone who will be a good fit.

But beyond that, what you don’t owe is sticking around longer than you’ve planned because your new hire doesn’t work out. Make your own plans and stick to them, and be up-front when you’re hiring, and you’ll have met your obligations to everyone.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 59 comments… read them below }

  1. lexy*

    So true. I was once interviewing for an exec asst. position with an “absent minded professor” type. The staff’s candid but respectful description of him helped me realize I wouldn’t be a good fit for a job that looked great on paper and for which I was very well qualified. Take Alison’s advice.

  2. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

    I took a job once, where in the interview the hiring manager went into detail about the problems I would face–one of which was a yelling, screaming VP. My manager promised she would run interference as best she could, but that I could expect to be screamed at from time to time.

    She also informed me that this VP would reward good workers with high salaries, so that was the trade off.

    I went into that job with my eyes wide open.

    1. Vicki*

      Why are the screamers still in the workplace?
      My bet is that a screaming employee (“individual contributor”) would be fired or sent to anger-management training. So why do screaming VPs get to stay when they are probably responsible for a lot of turnover in the workforce?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Either (a) inept management above them or (b) the calculation (correct or not) that the value they bring is more than the cost that comes with them.

        1. Anonymous*

          Very true. Sometimes the talent/benefit/business-sense/etc of the screaming VP far outweighs the screaming part.

          1. Anonymous*

            I doubt it.

            I’m sure there is a non-screaming version of the same VP out there looking for a job right now.

  3. Charles*

    To me anyway, one big red flag is that the OP states that she might feel guilty if someone doesn’t work out. For Pete’s sake – why? Loyalty is a nice trait; but, in this case, it sounds like the boss already controls the OP to some degree beyond the normal boss-subordinate relationship. That’s why she gets along so well with him. With others he yells to get his way; with her, he guilt trips her!?

    I agree that the OP should try to figure out why she gets along with him when others don’t; but for different reasons than AAM states – it should be so the OP will be able to have her own smooth transition to her chosen career and leave any guilt at his office. His not being able to relate to others is both his and her problem while she is still manager; but once she is gone it is HIS problem alone.

    1. Kelly O*

      I have to respectfully disagree with this opinion.

      Being conscientious of your work, wanting your company to succeed, and not wanting to leave your boss and coworkers in a lurch does not mean you have an unhealthy relationship, or that the boss has undue control over you.

      When the OP talks about feeling guilty about leaving and knowing that the person may not work out, I think she may mean something similar to what I feel sometimes – you worked really hard to get something in a good place, and knowing that it’s going to devolve when you go is disheartening, to put it mildly. It’s not that you walk around feeling guilty about it, but it’s certainly not the way you want to leave.

      I think we all want to leave our companies better than we found them, and leave them in the hands of someone capable who can continue to progress with what we’ve already accomplished.

      As far as dealing with the behavior – we all have different personalities and deal with difficult people in our own way. Perhaps the OP has simply been able to defuse the situation, maybe her skin is a little thicker than your average person’s, maybe she was purely determined to make this work – who knows? It certainly does not mean there is an issue with her because she’s been able to handle something others could not. (From a purely personal perspective, it makes me respect the OP a bit more, and hope she has better luck in the Boss Lotto in her next position.)

      1. Nichole*

        What tipped me off that this isn’t unnecessarily unhealthy (Charles’ assessment definitely came to mind at first) is that the OP talked to the boss about being so difficult. That’s a hard conversation to have, so I got more of the idea that they respect each other than that the boss successfully positioned the OP under his thumb. This boss obviously trusts the OP…and just about nobody else. Figuring out why he trusts you will help you find a good replacement and get that replacement prepared. This will be a great “how I play well with others” interview soundbite.

      2. Charles*

        Thanks for “respectfully” disagreeing. (hey take note folks – Kelly O shows how to disagree with someone without resorting to name calling, etc. – thanks)

        You’re quite right in that it could be what you describe too. I am probably also “projecting” my experiences with previous bosses who I got along with well (that is one of the perks of being in my position as a trainer. Bosses often recognize that they need to be nice to me or their staff doesn’t get trained); but, were absolute ogres to their staff except for those who had some sort of over-loyalty to them.

        But, I think the OP has misplaced loyalty – that’s also part of what makes me think the way I do. What I see going on seems to be beyond your description of being a conscientious employee.

        Yes, it is somewhat common for managers to hire and train their replacements; but, not to the extent that the OP seems to be doing, especially for someone who has only been there for just 4 years.

        Here’s what I mean by misplaced loyalty (and perhaps “misplace loyalty” isn’t the right phrase). Yes, it is nice that she is willing to find someone to take over her spot, train them, etc. But, I also think that she is doing the boss no favors by “handholding” like this. The OP will not and should not be there forever. The boss will need to learn how to deal with others or he can go on thinking that “good help is hard to find” and never be happy and forever have a high turn-over rate.

        Which makes me think of one last piece of advice for the OP; May to Sept is a long time, relatively speaking. Be careful that you don’t get “stuck” in this role.

        What if, during those 4 months the new person quits? Are you planning to start from a new 4-month period for another new hire? And, what if that person doesn’t work out? Start yet another? What if you don’t find a job by Sept? What if the new hire then sees that you aren’t leaving soon and doesn’t want to wait for you to go before she is promoted and leaves? What if the new hire decides to stay as an admin and not be promoted? (I am assuming that you are hiring someone and telling them the plans – if you are hiring without telling them the plans then what?)

        I like Joey’s idea of creating a written report (yep, keep it to one page) to show what his bad manners are costing the company.

        1. Anonymous*

          That’s what I was thinking of in terms of the timing. If people keep quitting, is she going to continue being there forever or at least until the boss decides to move on.

          On another note, I find it quite odd that the OP had discussed with the boss that she was only going to stay until she got her MA because the degree has nothing to do with the job. I have a job that has nothing to do with my MA, and while now I have built a bridge to a career path for my MA, I’m still working at the non-MA job. But I have never said to my boss that at such-and-such time will I quit because I will be wanting to move on with the MA. He’s smart and he’ll have to realize that will come about when the job market opens up more and the economy gets better. I still continue to do well. But in regards to the OP, I would think that the boss would hire knowing someone was going to stay awhile without a definite quitting time.

      3. Anonymous*

        I think we all want to leave our companies better than we found them, and leave them in the hands of someone capable who can continue to progress with what we’ve already accomplished.

        That seems a strange attitude to adopt. I wish to leave a company richer than when I joined it, and what happens after I depart is not a concern or interest of mine.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think we all want to leave our companies better than we found them, and leave them in the hands of someone capable who can continue to progress with what we’ve already accomplished.

          That describes my own attitude. For instance, I found it really upsetting to see systems that I put in place to keep things running smoothly fall apart after I left. You want to think that your work changes things for the better, and that it has a longer lifecycle than your own tenure. That’s certainly the attitude of people I want to hire.

          1. Anonymous*

            For instance, I found it really upsetting to see systems that I put in place to keep things running smoothly fall apart after I left

            Must have been a really robust system, then.

              1. Anonymous*

                Systems require people to run them.

                Of course – and don’t people recognise good systems and work to maintain them, while replacing the less good? There is, after all, a market place for them.

              2. Kimberlee*

                As someone who is simultaneously creating new systems for future people in my position while likely destroying systems others have put into place, I can def agree with this. Even the best systems need institutional knowledge, passed down, in order to be implemented properly.

                In my position, the person before me quit without notice after about 6 months (of slowing imploding), and the person before him quit without notice after one day, and before that the turnover was highly variable, with people occasionally lasting years but mostly lasting about 6 months. In positions like this, systems are super important but it can also be super difficult to make sure the next person even knows they exist.

        2. The gold digger*

          I was thrilled when I returned to Chile 5 years after I finished my Peace Corps stint and found that not only was the store I worked with still in business, but they had adopted and maintained some of the changes I had suggested. I wanted them to succeed! I cared about that project.

          Even when I was laid off from a corporate job a few years ago, I stayed late trying to finish all the projects I’d started. I did not particularly want to benefit the people who had gotten rid of me, but I didn’t want to leave my work undone and I didn’t want the people I had worked with every day – the customer service reps at the factories – to suffer. I had ideas that could make their jobs easier and I wanted to implement them.

          I think a lot of people take pride in their work and want to know that they made a lasting difference.

        3. Anonymous*

          Wouldn’t we bring our skill sets to the table for a new job? And the company would want to know how your skill sets will help them. I think you have been jaded in your work experience to say that if all you can think of is money. You probably just see everything as a job rather than a career.

      4. The OP!*

        Thank you both Kelly & Charles… I really appreciated reading your comments. I think I do have a very honest and somewhat causal relationship with my boss, which makes it easier for me to tell him when I am having issues, but also causes some guilt because I will feel badly leaving this company if I don’t find someone who will be able to work with him in the same way I have (despite the stress it causes!). I truly want the best for the company and it would be hard knowing I left it in a poor situation. I agree Kelly, I hope to leave it in a much better, efficient state than when I found it, and this is the main issue for me. Thank you both for your support!

    2. Andrea*

      Yeah, I just came here to say the same thing. It sounds like this boss is maybe in the OP’s head a little bit, so I’m glad she’s getting away–seems like that will be healthiest for the OP. The best she can do is try to hire a good replacement who will come into this job with eyes open. But she can’t do anything more than that. Frankly, the boss sounds awful–I have pretty much no tolerance at all for any yelling/shouting/screaming, and I don’t believe that’s something that people should have to deal with in a professional setting (unless that setting is a day care or something). Either way, OP, move on. Congrats on finishing your degree, and good luck with your job search–seems like you will have lots of good examples for the “tell me how you have dealt with difficult people” interview questions. Try not to waste your time and energy worrying about things that are not your problems.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree with Kelly that we don’t have cause to assume there’s anything unhealthy about the OP (other than an overly developed sense of responsibility, in regard to feeling guilty about leaving, which loads of people have). Some people simply are able to get along with difficult bosses (like my own example in my answer). It’s not always because they kow-tow and subvert their own needs; I certainly didn’t with my own difficult boss. Some people just happen to “get” the formula for dealing with a particular difficult personality in ways that others might not.

  4. Anonymous*

    It really is great that the OP feels loyal and feels some kind of obligation. But in reality, the OP isn’t the problem, the difficult boss is. I am not sure the OP really needs to bring the difficult personality traits up to the boss, as in my experience, it doesn’t really have an effect on that person. The boss may eventually figure it out, or may just continue treating people this way. Either way, not the OP’s problem. I commend them for sticking it out this long, and for feeling this loyal.

  5. Joey*

    I just don’t understand how VPs can get away with this crap. I’ve got one who can’t keep a secretary even though we warn candidates they’ll be personally insulted, cussed at for things they may not have control over, and embarrassed in front of everyone. So I made a little deal with his newest secretary and the VP since he’s fully aware he’s the issue. If he cusses or screams we’ll let her transfer to a vacant position without loss of pay or the VP will write her a glowing letter of recommendation and let her go on interviews on the clock if she wants to leave.

    So here’s how I showed him he’s the problem. I gave him a one pager that showed his turnover stats compared to the rest of the company and put a dollar figure on the cost of turnover for his position that included all recruitment costs, training costs, cost of having people cover while the position was vacant and a summary of the qualifications of the people he’s fired. Granted he couldn’t promise he’d never be an ass but at least he realizes hes costing the company a lot and now agrees he can do things to cut those costs.

    1. Lesley*

      What a fabulous idea! A few difficult people I’ve worked with tend to write off people having trouble with them as “their problem, not mine.” But showing it in terms of dollars and cents? That’s something they can relate to and respond to!

  6. Nodumbunny*

    I recently did a version of this – hired someone who was supposed to report to me, when I knew I was on my way out and she would soon be reporting to my supervisor. I was on my way out because I couldn’t take the supervisor’s management style and the stress was killing me. I was as candid as possible while being respectful and the candidate came in I hope with her eyes open. I resigned shortly after she started, which I felt terrible about, but she seems to be thriving from what I’ve heard, which is awesome. Here was the hitch for me, though, the supervisor was mad and considered it a conspiracy that I had been candid with the new employee and had given her, at her request, tips on how to please the supervisor. Of course that, in a nutshell, was the problem with that supervisor – everything was the lowly “staff”, many of whom had decades of experience in our field, against the supervisor and the boss. It sounds like the OP has a candid relationship with the boss, so maybe be very up front that you’re going to try to find someone who can succeed with him.

  7. Unknown Genius*

    AAM, I once worked with a very very difficult mgr , she would criticize your work in front of everyone (an office of 15). I finally succumbed and professionally resigned. She assured if I ever needed reference to use her, in fact she found me one or two days Quickbooks positions since I left the company. I am not sure what she says when reference calls but I don’t trust her. Can I use the emails she sent finding part-time gigs for me as reference to show I was a good employee?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I was going to say the same thing as A Bug — have a professional-sounding friend call and check the reference. I wouldn’t use the emails — that’ll come across as odd and raise more questions than it answers. For what it’s worth, though, I bet she’s giving you a good reference, judging by her work to find you jobs since you left.

  8. Anonymous*

    I was once offered a job in the arts with someone who was considered VERY VERY difficult. One assistant quit by leaving their keys on the desk during lunch and never coming back. They’d lost three assistants in one year. But it could have been a great career booster.

    I turned it down because the pay was in the $20,000 range. I was really grateful that the other assistants were honest with me. For a reasonable sum I would have taken the job on for a year, but no more. But if I’d thought it would have been easy or even a 9-5 job (it was more like 60 hours a week) I might have stupidly made a go for it and everyone would have ended up unhappy.

  9. Cruella*

    What’s wrong with expecting the best from your employees? That’s how I’ve viewed all my “demanding” bosses over the years. He wasn’t there to be my friend or hold my hand. He was the boss. As long as I perform to his high standards, there was never any problem.

    I’ve always wondered how the “Miranda Priestly” types were always so hated and loved at the same time. Those who work for them despise them, yet they continue to work for them.

    I guess there are some trade offs

    1. Anonymous*

      There’s a wide range of behaviors that fall under “demanding” though. I worked for a boss that had huge mood swings, to the point that he often acted like an abusive spouse. He literally would scream at me until he was red in the face one minute, and then buy excessively large floral arrangements to apologize to me the next. I generally got along well with this boss, mostly because I was very diligent and hard working so it was rare that he found something he wanted to critique with me, but even I had days where I was the target of his ire. The thing was, his critiques were not rational or helping me to become a better employee. Generally he yelled because something else was pissing him off, and instead of dealing with that, he’d take out his anger on one of his employees. So we might get yelled at because he had a fight with his wife, or because a vendor screwed up an order on him (nothing we were handling) or because he was mad that the deli screwed up his breakfast order.

      We put up with this behavior because while it was disruptive and demeaning at the time, we knew that it was rarely truly personal, and the rest of the time he was incredibly generous. (He actually let me switch to a PT/weekend schedule for a few months so that I could take advantage of an opportunity to gain experience in my field, and he also regularly took the time to teach me skills in his field.) But when he was on a rampage, everyone walked around on eggshells and tried to hide, and it was definitely not easy for anyone to deal with. My breaking point came one day when he got mad because my manager wasn’t in the office and I was stuck telling him I couldn’t do something because it was actually illegal for us to do. After he laid into me over the phone, I gathered up my belongings and walked to his desk. I looked him right in the eye and said calmly “Thank you very much for the opportunity to work here. It’s been a great experience, but now I must move on.” and then walked out the door. The absolutely perfect thing was that, bc of the connections I’d made earlier from the other job I’d been allowed to take, I actually landed a job THAT VERY AFTERNOON in my field, lol! So I was out of work for all of 30 minutes, and I was now working in the industry I wanted to be in! Talk about happy endings! :)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        There are absolutely a wide range of behaviors that fall under demanding, and your story is a good example of one end (the really bad end) of the spectrum. It’s also important, to note though, that there are bosses who are considered demanding who are not abusive or demeaning but who are tough, demanding, direct and have high expectations. Not everyone likes the latter, but they’re a very different category from the former.

    2. Mike C.*

      This isn’t about high expectations. It’s about bosses who think it’s ok to treat their subordinates as less than human. In normal adult situations when someone does this we can usually leave, but when someone depends on a paycheck to live one cannot quickly find a way out.

    3. jmkenrick*

      I think it depends on how they express themselves. For example, I don’t like being yelled at. And I don’t yell. I simply don’t ever feel it’s appropriate in a work situation – and it makes it difficult for me to respect the person doing the yelling.

      I can handle direct and unapolgetic, but not people getting angry or snapping. I don’t mind the high standards – but yelling would be a dealbreaker for me.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Me too. And not only because I don’t care to be around yelling, but also because yelling tends to be the sign of a bad manager who doesn’t know how to get things done in other ways.

      2. Joey*

        Ooh, you’re going to seriously limit your options if you won’t put up with bad managers. While its great to have that luxury I don’t think many do. I treat it the same way as I treat a temper tantrum from my toddlers. At first they used to get my juices flowing, but once I accepted that was their outlet for frustration I just wait for it to pass and refrain from engaging until it passes. Do you lose respect, sure. But only for their ability to control that part of themselves. You can still respect them for being incredible at other aspects of their job.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Totally agree that you can still respect other aspects that they bring, but I’d still decline to work with them. Which is indeed a luxury that I didn’t have at the start of my career. I paid my dues with a number of awful bosses earlier on.

        2. jmkenrick*

          Maybe I’m naive, but I can’t imagine yelling in the workplace is that common. It’s not something that would even be considered at my current company or my previous company.

          Is it generally considered to be an industry-related behavior?

          Also, as an aside, I think you can be a bad boss without yelling.

          1. Joey*

            I dont know if youre lucky or just inexperienced, but there are a lot of asshole bosses out there that will speak to you in a completely unprofessional way. But I think there’s more of a willingness to fire bad managers when they are more easily replaced. Although you can argue that a manager who is harder to replace will probably do more damage because they’re so integral to the business. But as Alison stated it all comes down to weighing the ROI.

            And no, it’s in every industry.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’ve worked with yellers (again, early in my career; wouldn’t do it now). They actually weren’t the worst bosses I’ve encountered. Bad, but far from the worst. (But then I think that in a lot of ways, wimpy bosses are worse than jerky bosses. I know how to deal with jerks. Wimps are hopeless.)

          3. J.B.*

            Sadly, dysfunction and yelling is all too common. Imagine how much more work would get done if bosses treated employees like grownups and fired the ones who didn’t show up!

          4. Anonymous*

            It’s prevalent. You’re probably just lucky. I have had not-so-nice bosses since I was a teenager.

    4. Charles*

      Cruella, yes, you’re right in that a demanding boss is often someone who simply has high expectations and holds her staff to them. But, unfortunately, “demanding boss” has also become sort of code for “being a jerk and getting away with it because she is the boss.”

      The problem is that we often don’t know, without being in the situation ourselves, as to what exactly is meant by “demanding.”

  10. Jennifer*

    Oh man, I really, truly feel for this question-asker. Reading it, it seemed like an exact description of what a former colleague of mine might have needed to ask (if she was in a law office, I would be utterly convinced it was her). I absolutely think being up front about his management style is the best idea. I truly wish someone had been with me, as I ended up taking the job having no idea the whole office hated the boss (for many good reasons) and quit 3 months later (which I’ve since learned had been a pattern and continues to be).

    A job search might take longer with the honesty approach, as a lot of candidates will(should) be weeded out, but at least there won’t be time AND money wasted training someone who will turn around and quit.

  11. anth*

    Can these job candidates have a short interview with the big boss too? Since the boss knows that OP is planning to leave, he should know that this person will eventually report directly to him….

  12. Anonymous*

    I have had interviews where the hiring managers have been pretty upfront about personal challenges like this, and I always think getting the information upfront helps both parties find a good fit. I had one interview where the candor helped me recognize that I would be frustrated by that particular manager’s method of prioritizing work, and I had another where I felt it might be frustrating at times, but nothing I couldn’t deal with. Then there was the one interview where the boss called the hiring manager right in the middle of our interview to demand that he come to the boss’ office to explain something right THEN. I left that interview with a much stronger understanding of their politics than I think they intended me to get!

  13. Randa*

    I agree 100% with your advice about being upfront about the difficulties a new person may encounter with the boss. At my first post-college job, I had a boss that sounds eerily similar to the one described and I was hired on by his then-office manager. She made it seemed like working there was all rainbows and sunshine – she told me he was an easy going boss that had expectations but that it was easy to overcome. Come to find out that she had only been there for a few months herself and the guy was a tyrant – almost everyone else in the office had problems with him and he was the most demanding and ill person I’ve ever met. I only lasted a couple months before I flat out left to look for something else. Bottom line: be up front about what the new employee will REALLY encounter – if I had an inkling of an idea of what he was truly like, I would have just kept looking.

  14. The OP!*

    I really appreciate everyone’s feedback! I did in fact hire another person, with hopes that she would fill my shoes, and she in ended up deciding to quit as well. Back to the drawing board! I will be taking this new approach and being more upfront, in the most respectful way I can be. Thank you AAM!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      OP, you’re still planning to leave on your original timeline, right? I hope you’re not pushing back your leaving date because of this!

      1. The OP!*

        Absolutely… this makes me want to stick to the timeline even more. I am going to give it one more shot hiring someone, but I am not planning to stay any longer than I originally promised.

      2. The OP!*

        Interested in an update? I finally found someone who describes themselves as thick skinned and doesn’t need constant pats on the back. She turned out to be a malicious person, and I caught her throwing me under the bus 3 times in the 3 weeks we worked together. I had agreed to stay through the fall, and up until last Friday, my boss was talking about making this a smooth departure, and trying to reformulate our roles so that I could train the new girl for everything she would need to know. Then on Monday, he fired me. Out of the blue, with no warning. I am so angry because I had given him 4 a**-busting years of my life, and as much notice (over 6 months) as possible about my end date, and this is how things ended. My thoughts are that he panicked about my impending end date and just wanted to rip off the band-aid, but I am so angry and hurt. This truly is a blessing, I was being swallowed whole by this company and by this boss.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Wow. One more reason not to bend over backwards to accommodate someone who is not himself accommodating! It sounds like your attitude about it is exactly what it should be now, though.

  15. M-C*

    Good advice from everyone.

    I myself have worked for jerks and ran away, leaving them and the company that tolerated their abuse in the lurch. I don’t have the least qualm of conscience about it. But I’ve had a couple good experiences where I was warned about the difficult people and did well. I think it came down to specifics – HOW were they difficult? Then I could decide whether I could take their particular quirks or not. I won’t put up a with a real screamer, or a liar, but I’m fine with a nitpicking perfectionist :-). Also, I’m not perfect either, when attacked I talk back. This may or may not go over well. If you put me with a true perfectionist who’s more into figuring out solutions to problems than being venerated for his perfection, you can have a perfect relationship. It’s a matter of compatibility of faults.

    I’d repeat important pieces of advice here from others here: be honest, be specific, if you have advice about this person freely give it out. It’ll work better if everyone is aware up front.
    But also, you should put the boss on the spot some imho. Not so aggressively as giving him a sheet of how much he’s costing the company :-), not that it’s not an excellent method but you’re not in a position to do it. But I’d point out to him again that it’s hard for you to hire anyone because his behavior can be so difficult. And that you are leaving, no matter what, time is running out and he may well not be so lucky and find himself with a long string of people who loathe him and run away, working badly all the while. I’m sure it’s happened to him before :-). So if he’s rattled enough to listen, try to tell him what exactly other people find intolerable, and make some suggestions for improvement (I’d focus first on the micromanagement..). You can sweeten the pill by telling him with real affection about the things you like about him, and why and how you can tolerate him. Encourage him to emphasize the good parts, so he doesn’t feel like a total monster. I think it’s excellent advice from AAM to point out what parts of your personality allow you to put up with him, and encourage him to look for them in the future. You know, analyze the situation as a whole, with him, he may even have helpful insights. Maybe involve him more in the later interviewing stages, so that both adversaries can take each other’s measure honestly.

    With such a talk, you may even be able to improve things immediately. Think together of stress-relieving methods that will allow him to let people work instead of getting in the way? When you see him harassing someone, walk right up, grab him, and march him into his office out of harm’s way. He might be able to recognize the point where he should stop better :-). He sounds more clueless than evil from what you say, and you’re in the best possible position to give him immediate feedback, if you two can agree on this.

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