I stepped down from a promotion and now my boss hates me

A reader writes:

I’ve been at my current job for two years and really enjoyed working here until the last six months. In a nutshell, I was given an account management position when the old acct manager quit, and was left doing a two-person job by myself until I finally announced I was not prepared for this and wanted to step down. It was decided I would still be doing most of the account manager duties, but that my supervisor would be the “face” of the company when dealing with clients. It’s still a lot more work than I was used to, but I find it manageable and even enjoyable most of the time. 

At the time I stepped down, my boss was very sympathetic and supportive. Now, however, she seems to be going out of her way to make me feel like an idiot. Whenever I ask a question in a meeting or make some sort of comment, her reply is always impatient and often sarcastic. This is something I have much difficulty dealing with; I can take it once in a while, but not multiple times every single day, and I’m at the point where I just can’t keep my mouth shut. Whenever she makes some rude or sarcastic remark, I find myself firing right back at her, even in front of others (including my direct supervisor). I’m just not sure what I did to inspire her attitude toward me, or what I can do to make it better. I’m not sure what she expects of me. Any insight would be much appreciated.

You can read my answer to this question over at the Fast Track blog by Intuit QuickBase today. Three other career experts weigh in on the answer as well.

{ 28 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie*

    I’m confused – so the boss who is now being snippy and sarcastic isn’t the direct supervisor who got the extra work when you declined?

    Either way – totally agree that a conversation needs to be had sooner rather than later. If someone speaks to you in an unprofessional way in front of others it’s awful…but it reflects badly on them only, not you. The second you fire back people just chalk it up to two people who can be civil and you’re painted with the same brush. Whatever happens I would immediately stop engaging in the nastiness. Let her hang herself with that.

    1. fposte*

      If they’re the same person, that could certainly help explain the stress–she’s caught in the same bind the OP was.

  2. Wilton Businessman*

    “You know what, this is a hard job and I don’t want the pressure of it so here is more work for you and I want you to be happy about it.”
    Um, no. That’s going to be a stressful situation in the best of cases.

    I agree you’re going to have to take the high-road and try to repair the relationship. After all, you have to work together. But you also need to prepare to be marginalized, especially if they _do_ need someone in that role.

    1. Lisa*

      Maybe this boss is being told its now her job and they won’t be hiring anyone else, so you stepping down has essentially doubled her work (client facing involves more prep than most people think, esp if you are not the one doing the work that you are presenting). I have a feeling the boss may have told to assume these duties without any compensation too. Boss is blaming you, because she can’t be snippy to the company / her boss.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Ok, Wilton and Lisa – why should the OP be the one to do her own job PLUS the other one, and not the manager? And do you think the OP should be happy not getting the former person’s paycheck on top of her own?

        It’s up to the manager to figure out how this work gets done – and not by dumping it on someone who is already doing one job.

        I think the OP should try to mend this fence with her manager, but not if it means she needs to takes on this in addition to her own work.

        1. Jamie*

          She said she was “given a position” though. It sounds like she was promoted to a job with different/more responsibilities rather than just having the responsibility and work dumped her with no recognition or even acknowledgement – which does happen far too often.

          1. Lisa*

            Yeah OP sounds like she got promoted. The manager sounds like it got dumped on her when OP resigned a portion of the work. With OP still doing a lot of it though, it means that the manager is doing the rest. Prob with no compensation, while OP may have been able to keep her promotion benefits by keeping the behind the scenes , the manager is prob resenting that she isn’t allowed to hire someone else to take on the parts that OP gave up.

            1. Jamie*

              This is the crux of it and I really hope the OP chimes back in with more details. Because there really is a huge difference between balking at extra work which was just dumped on you and is more than a good performer can reasonably manage and basically reneging on a promotion you negotiated and accepted because you changed your mind on the work load. And of course there are a million variations in between those two extremes.

              And this is a pet peeve of mine – but I’ve seen time and again people have to cover other workloads and vacated positions being absorbed by current staff and yes, sometimes it’s not done well and someone ends up with more work than can be reasonably managed…that should be corrected – but that is NOT the same as doing two jobs. Or the job of two people. Always less mission critical stuff is shelved.

              My position is a weird amalgam and in many companies would be done by three people. By no means does that mean I work 120 hours per week and do what would be required of three separate people. If we had two more people things would be done differently…for us me keeping the balls in the air is enough, but it’s with the clear understanding on all sides that none of it is getting a full 40 per week.

              When jobs gets absorbed you try to keep the important stuff on top and sometimes it seems more manageable than it turns out to me – at that point there should be discussions of more staff.

  3. Jamie*

    In a nutshell, I was given an account management position when the old acct manager quit, and was left doing a two-person job by myself until I finally announced I was not prepared for this and wanted to step down.

    Just for clarity – it sounds as if you were given an entirely new position when the other manager left – not just assuming responsibilities with no change in title/pay. Are you saying you were given that position but still expected to do your old job as well? If so, perhaps a discussion of how to restructure the responsibilities would have been a better course of action than stepping down – but since you did end up restructuring was the increase in salary adjusted as well (if there was one?)

    While there is no excuse for rudeness at work, I can see it being a bone of contention if you accepted a promotion based on certain duties and then those were restructured but you still had the benefits of the promotion.

    With the exception of the inexcusable rudeness (on both sides) I don’t think we have enough information.

  4. Joey*

    Yet another question that can be answered with a “put your emotions aside and calmly raise your issues with the person.” If seems so obvious, but its amazing how many issues that one solution solves and how many people don’t realize it.

      1. Josh S*

        We really should make one of those:

        *shake* *shake*
        “You have a bad boss, deal with it or quit.”
        “Yes, it’s legal.”
        “Have a calm, direct discussion with the object of your angst.”
        “You’re a manager, so manage!”

        Right after we print those “Chocolate Teapots Inc” t-shirts. (With names on the back — either Wakeen or Shavon.)

        1. Jessa*

          I dunno about having the team leader’s names on them (I suppose I could be part of team Shavon) But I would TOTALLY buy chocolate teapot company merchandise if someone were to design it for Alison and do an Etsy store or something similar to raise money for Alison to pay for the blog with. Especially since Alison said it costs over $100 a month just to host our questions and her amazingly FREE help.

          1. Josh S*

            I like the idea, though I also suspect that Alison’s blog and related writings keep her quite gainfully employed without the need for reader philanthropy.

            But certainly, if she’d like to add another revenue stream to this whole milieu, I wouldn’t be opposed. You’re quite right that we get a great deal by reading all the excellent advice on here, for FREE. (Thanks AAM!)

  5. Linda*

    Oh boy can I relate to this. I had delegated the management of a relationship and project to one of my direct reports then had it come back to me because it wasn’t being handled well. I was quite angry and frustrated because I now had more work on my plate, and I had to “fall on my sword” and apologize to the client for how poorly the relationship had been managed. I didn’t take it out on the direct report, but I can’t deny that the temptation was there. (The person did get a ding during evaluations, though, since this type of work falls within the designated responsibilities.)

    First, stop engaging with your boss in this unproductive fashion. Realize that your boss is human and may need a bit of time to internally de-stress from the situation; that’s no excuse for acting rudely, but it is a possible explanation for the situation. After you’ve done your best to de-escalate the situation by not reacting to comments and letting a bit of time pass, try to sit down and talk out a better working relationship. Or go ahead and look for a a new position, if you prefer not to try to work it out.

  6. anonymous this time*

    I can sympathize with the boss. I am customer facing and analytical. When we have meetings I get a whole bunch of suggestions on what to do more w/ the clients, however, do you think any of those people would have those difficult talks with the clients?

    It sounds like you just don’t want to do the customer facing stuff. At my job, whenever we hire for AMs we get a glut of applicants that want to do the backoffice stuff, very few people want to deal w/ clients. So it can be hard to manage someone like that – you end up playing telephone between a client and someone in the office and just don’t get why they can’t pick up the phone and call them themselves!

  7. The IT Manager*

    There’s no excuse for being sarcastic, snippy, and rude and that needs to be addressed (as others have described), but look at it from your supervisor’s point of view. (I assume that your supervisor and boss are the same person.) She just got stuck with extra work because you couldn’t handle it. She might be overwhelmed, overworked, and stressed out now, and she has no one to pass it off to. And it is sort of your fault that the original plan for handling it didn’t work out although, my assumption is that the original plan (which sounds like replacing two experienced people with one inexperienced one) was highly flawed.

    Long story short, try to be sympathetic when you speak to her about the rudeness.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      The OP said she’s doing 2 peoples’ work, so why should she have so much sympathy for her boss?

      1. The IT Manager*

        The OP was doing the work of two people. Now she has off loaded some of that (don’t know how much) to her boss. Now her boss is doing the work of more than one person.

        1. badmovielover*

          The OP clearly stated this:

          ” It was decided I would still be doing most of the account manager duties, but that my supervisor would be the “face” of the company when dealing with clients. It’s still a lot more work than I was used to, but I find it manageable and even enjoyable most of the time. “

  8. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

    Rule #1. Steer clear of making assumptions about why she seems frustrated. As Alison says, ask her and take it from there.

    Rule #2. If you find out that you are the reason why she is upset (either in part or whole) take ownership of your actions/the role you played and work towards a solution.

    Rule #3. Everyone interprets things in different ways. What may have seemed like the best solution to your increased workload may have been the total opposite of how she perceived it.

  9. Lanya*

    If your supervisor is being rude to you, do not be rude back, as tempting as it may be. Always take the high road and nobody will ever be able to call you out on your behavior.

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        But you can prevent the spread of fire with fire. Just something to think about.

  10. Anonymous*

    I have run into this, and found that the best solution is to ask right then, in the moment: “It sounds as if you don’t approve of how I’m handling x. Is there a problem?”

    The boss who did that to me always backed down when I did that. When I tried to talk to her about it offline (in the ‘let’s get coffee and chat’ mode) it was completely unproductive. She denied being sarcastic, called me oversensitive, etc.

    So rather than try to get in her head and understand the sudden shift, I just took it one sarcastic crack at a time. I think, unofficially (because I can’t confirm it with the source), that she was venting a lot of unrelated anxiety at me and once I directly asked her those questions it would snap her out of it.

    I’ve gotten the best appraisals of my life from this manager, so I think it’s a decent working theory.

  11. badmovielover*

    Nobody should have to put up with disrespectful behavior, even from a boss. You don’t need to be sarcastic, but you do need to be firm with these types of managers, who often abuse their position of power.

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