my boss blew up at me out of nowhere

A reader writes:

My shock at work started yesterday, when the VP of admin (my immediate superior, and the owner’s spouse) sent an email to one of our contractors referring to me as her assistant. I wouldn’t have even said anything about it, only she mentioned it to me herself, and said “I didn’t know how else to refer to you.”

Thinking that she needed clarification or confirmation about my job title, I said that in future correspondences, I would prefer to be referred to by my job title, which is Office Manager. She thanked me for my input and for letting me know about my preference, and I thought the matter done, congratulating myself for having a boss open to feedback.

This morning, she called me into her office and said that what I did was insubordination, and that I could not speak to her like that, because she was the owner of the company. She said that I did not deserve the title of Office Manager, as I was only doing half the duties of the position. (I am still in the 60-day probationary period for the position.) She said that I didn’t even have a car (which was NOT one of the requirements for the position, and I was even upfront about that fact, and she said herself that it would not be a problem). She said that there was no room in the company with someone with an ego problem, and if I couldn’t get an attitude adjustment over the weekend, then I could just not show up to work next week. She then asked me to leave work early, because she “can’t concentrate on work thinking that she would say something that would offend me.”

My question is this: Was I insubordinate in asking her to call me by the job title I was hired for? Was she right in asking me to leave the office early because I was impeding her job performance? Is there any possibility of salvaging my work relationship with her without becoming a total doormat?

There were other red flags before this — they advertised an $18 hourly rate for the position, but said that because I was inexperienced with the software they were using at work, they were only comfortable offering me $16. I agreed to the decrease in pay, because they said that they would increase it after 30 days depending on how quickly I picked up the software (which I put in writing in my job acceptance email). I was supposed to have an informal job evaluation today, but she sent me home and said that we would have a formal job evaluation next week instead, should I decide to come back. I no longer feel confident asking for the two dollars, even though I’ve mastered the software, and I also no longer feel like I have any job security. There is no one at the company who will advocate for me, because nobody wants to go up against the owner’s wife.

Well, she sounds horrid and a bit insane.

No, it’s not insubordination to be asked to be called by a particular title. It’s certainly possible to make that request in an obnoxious or snotty way, but the request itself isn’t inherently insubordinate. And even if you did ask it in a particularly obnoxious or snotty way (I have no reason to think you did; I’m just speaking hypothetically here), her response to it was silly. In that case, a good manager would say, “Hey, your tone there really took me aback; what’s going on?” or “The title issue aside, you need to communicate more professionally” or whatever; she wouldn’t berate you the way it sounds like you were berated. Berating you was bizarre, unwarranted, and indicative of someone who doesn’t know how to relate to others professionally or exercise authority in an effective way.

And speaking hypothetically again, there’s not anything wrong with a manager saying to someone, “Why don’t you take the next few days off and think about whether this is the right job for you?” if they genuinely mean it. But saying that you need to leave early because she “can’t concentrate on working thinking that she might say something that would offend you” is ridiculous. It makes the situation overly personal and it once again shows that she doesn’t know how to exercise authority appropriately — because as your manager, she could simply get aligned with you on what is and isn’t reasonable, expect you to adhere to those standards, and not spend the rest of her day trembling in fear that she might offend you.

So she sounds completely inept at managing (and at using reason and logic), and you’re right to think that you don’t have any job security because when a loon like this is running around with authority, you have to assume that they could lash out at any moment.

As an aside, for whatever it’s worth, I don’t actually think the pay issue is a red flag. They offered you the salary they wanted to offer, and you accepted it — that’s not a red flag. If they’d then backed out of their agreement to increase it once you learned their software, that would be a problem … but simply offering you a lower-than-advertised salary isn’t problematic in and of itself; you always have the option to decline it or try to negotiate for more.

But that’s irrelevant; the point to focus on here is that you can’t securely work in an office where someone who behaves like this has any authority over you. I’d start looking for another job — preferably at an office where the owner isn’t married to an employee.

{ 154 comments… read them below }

  1. SJ

    I second looking for another job. IMO, either your boss is a nutbar, or she’s setting you up to a) deny you the raise, and keep you in line with fear and intimidation, the threat of being fired ever hanging over your head, or b) fire you (probably right before your benefits kick in). It also probably doesn’t make YOU feel good to stay in a place where people/your boss treat(s) you like that.

    1. Jessa

      This. The only other thing I can think of is since the OP said the manager was married to the owner, is there any way to actually talk to the owner about this? Either the owner knows the wife is a total flake (in which case this comes with the job) or will be very surprised at how the spouse is handling in the owner’s absence.

      I’ve worked for places where the owner got really annoyed when they found out how family members were treating the staff.

      1. Sourire

        I’m not sure I’d recommend that in OP’s situation for a couple of reasons. OP has already been accused of insubordination, so going over the wife’s head to the husband could actually add more fuel to that fire. Further, OP has only been there a month, so any feedback she (I hope I picked the correct gender pronoun) provides at this point may not have the same kind of weight (if any) that it would coming from a valued employee that has proven themselves, regardless of how legitimate the issue OP brings up is. And while the owner may be open and receptive to feedback, there is just as likely a chance that any negative remarks about his wife could put the OP’s job in even more jeopardy than it sounds like it already may be.

        The issue with the wife is definitely something I would mention as part of an exit interview or once I have another firm offer in hand, but I am not sure if OP really owes anything to this company at all at this point, and certainly doesn’t owe them enough to risk being out of a job because of constructive criticism.

        1. Jamie

          The issue with the wife is definitely something I would mention as part of an exit interview

          I’m not sure I would. Unless I had a huge gut feeling that it could help – I’d assume someone married to her would know even better than I what she can be like.

          I’d just focus on leaving with as little drama as possible and breathe the biggest sigh of relief once out the door.

          1. EM

            This. I left my last job because of my boss, and I left my exit interview form completely blank. Didn’t even fill in my name. I think that said more.

        2. SJ

          I bet you two things:
          1) the OP is female, and
          2) if the OP were male, the wife would almost certainly not have spoken to him like that and sent him home.

          If the OP finds a new job in short order and doesn’t plan on using them as a reference (maybe leaves them off her resume entirely), then yes, I agree she should mention it when she leaves. Otherwise, who knows, they may be so volatile it’s not worth mentioning for the long-term effects.

        3. AMG

          I don’t think OP should say anything to the spouse. His wife (also assuming the pronoun here) will Freak Out. Just leave.

    2. Rana

      Agreed. Her behavior towards you is classic gaslighting, in which she makes you doubt your own behavior and reactions, even though they are reasonable in both cases. The longer you stay, the worse it will probably get.

    3. Josh S

      AAM’s Magic 8-ball says…
      [shake, shake, shake]
      Your boss is a jerk.
      Start looking for a new job.

  2. JR

    I feel like the stalker ex from the last post should work with this lady. And then it should then be filmed for a reality show because, wow, I would watch that. I feel for the op though. What an awful boss.

    1. :D

      What a great idea for a reality show… we can call it That Company, and everyone nominates their worst coworkers and bosses, and form two teams… each team develops a start up together and they compete in challenges.

      Last one standing wins.

      Like The Office meets The Apprentice meets Gladiator.

        1. Marie

          Oh, me too! And I have the perfect, manipulative, suck-up, bullying, narcissistic, former co-worker to star in the first season! Just think, removing all of those “worst co-workers and bosses” from their/our workplaces to be in a reality show would provide such a nice respite. At least we could just watch the drama once a week instead of living it everyday.

          1. Anon for this

            I have the perfect former micromanaging boss, who would hold up her entire team to make sure that everything was perfect before doing something. Or, she could hand out a challenge, giving the instructions out and then COMPLETELY CHANGING THEM when it was time to hand in the project. Or one of my neurotic coworkers who thought everything was killing her — dust coming in from an open window, the microwave in the kitchen (just its presence…it didn’t need to be on), the “radiation” from the computer screen, the “chemicals” from the bathroom soap….

      1. Risa

        Fox has a new show about to air called Does Someone Have to Go?. Coworkers get to vote someone off the island…. I’ve been debating whether to DVR it or not.

      2. Chinook

        Can I plan the episode with the mandatory potluck/talent show? We can have manualists playing Twinkle Twinkle, nail clipping for distance and guess that lunchroom smell.

  3. theotherjennifer

    I would like to know how your immediate superior doesn’t know what your title is… weird, IMO. Although I’ve not had this exact ‘psycho boss’ experience, a friend has and she is miserable – having to deal with the owner’s wife is a huge problem. I agree, start looking. I don’t think it’s going to get better from here, unfortunately.

    1. Kara

      I’ve had similar problems in previous positions. I honestly don’t think the “family owned” atmosphere is conducive to good management. I’ve seen too many situations where owners wives were horrible managers, and lost the company good employees while favoring bad employees because they happened to be other family members. I advise against working for these types of companies.

      1. GA

        Family owned companies have pros and cons. I’m currently working for a company which is family run and it’s run well. I did work for one previously and it was at times a bit crazy because it was a husband and wife. Those situations are just nuts!

        1. SevenSixOne

          I’m not the OP, but I could have been six months ago. I was working for a Dragon Boss who used a lot of the same type of intimidation and bait-and-switch tactics the OP describes… then fired me three days before I would have been eligible for benefits for a ridiculously minor offense.

          Dragon Boss’ nastiness thrashed my confidence and had me convinced I was worthless (the day before I got fired, she even said “it’s not up to me to decide whether you’re a bad person… but you’ve clearly made some bad choices.” WHAT.)

          OP, get out while you can.

          1. Excruiter

            Yes, this. I had the same issue with an ex boss. Get out before the psycho fires you. I haven’t been able to get a decent job because of the firing in my background. I’m stuck now in a position with no future and poor pay just because this was the only company that didn’t drop all contact once they heard I had been fired.

      2. Sara

        Based on a few posts I’ve read over time on here where the owner’s wives are just absolutely cookoo……I wonder why this is????

        On the other hand, I’ve been temping off and on for a company where the president/co-pres are husband and wife….and she’s actually pretty awesome. patient, great communicator, just really great. so I don’t think it can never work out, I think it boils down to the individual couples and the dynamic.

        1. Kara

          Agreed. I also think it has to do with the situation. The owner’s wife may have a degree in management, actually know how to work as a supervisor, and make great hiring decisions. On the other hand, in smaller businesses the owner’s wife may just be there because they can’t afford to hire someone full-time. The craziness begins out of jealousy, in my opinion, when employees are hired on who have actual knowledge, skills, and abilities that threaten her role in the company. I’ve seen that happen to a couple of clients, one in particular who is on the verge of divorce because his wife doesn’t have the desire or ability to run her admin position in the company, but won’t let him hire someone else, and his business is stagnating because of it. Crazy. If the wives (or husbands, in some cases) don’t have the education, knowledge, ability, or desire to work with their spouse, they shouldn’t be involved in the company.

        2. Jane Doe

          I think in family businesses where the owner’s spouse is crazy, it’s because they lack actual specific business skills (like management, finance, etc.) but they want the prestige that accompanies being on the management team. They may also see it as their “right”, as part of the family that owns the business, to be involved in things whether or not they have the skills or should have the authority.

        3. Tiff

          I think it depends on why the wife is in the office. I worked for a few doctors in the past, and it seemed like they installed their wives as office manager (or some other made up title) just to keep them busy during the day and out of the malls.

          1. Your Mileage May Vary

            My dentist from my hometown had his wife as his office manager. But in their case, it was pretty obvious she wanted to be there every day to “protect” him from the wiles of his females patients and employees. I have no idea how the hygienists could stand to work there. It was pretty tense just being in the waiting room as a patient.

        4. Anon for this

          Let’s not limit this to just the wives. Sons, daughters, other relatives can also be cuckoo / entitled. I know a business where the owner/dad has repeatedly hired and fired his two sons. We never know which son is going to show up to a meeting because one might be on the outs, the other might be in rehab…

      3. Nathalie

        So. Totally. Agree. I have been there, done that, and strongly advise running in the opposite direction!

    2. S. Martin

      I’d wager half my former bosses wouldn’t have gotten my job title right without checking it somewhere, though most of them would (a) have been close and (b) been able to find it quickly enough. I did have one direct supervisor who didn’t even know I reported to him, and another period at that same company where I didn’t *have* a direct supervisor. The result of two badly done reorgs.

      1. Jamie

        In smaller businesses where it’s not really title driven it’s not uncommon at all.

    3. -X-

      “I would like to know how your immediate superior doesn’t know what your title is… weird, IMO.”

      Doesn’t seem weird to me. Job titles are not that important in a lot of situations, and I can think of many mangers not knowing subordinates titles. And more to the point, someone might be a person’s assistant in fact and also have a job title that doesn’t use those same words. Or be office manager and someone’s assistant but only have a title that is one of those two.

  4. AMG

    I’m sorry you found yourself in this position. Begin an aggressive job search and run far, far away. What a coocoo clock.

  5. Natalie

    Ugh, sucky.

    Definitely start looking for another job. Working for mean, irrational people is really difficult and, in my experience, takes a real toll on a person. Better to get out now.

  6. Michael

    I think I’d have fun with your boss. It would likely end up in me being fired but people like that are special. Someone like that is a nightmare to work with so you might as well have fun until you find a new place. Raising attention to her objections in a professional manner such as “if you don’t feel I qualify for this position that’s your prerogative but may I ask why you hired me?” and so on keeping stoic the whole time.

    But then again that’s me.

    1. Chinook

      Michael, do you like stabbing large pointy objects at sleeping bears as well?

      1. Jamie

        Ow! That made me laugh so unexpectedly I banged my arm on my desk and hurt myself where I had my blood drawn today! (Seriously drawn 7:30 am this am and still hurts – helluva bruise, too. wtf?)

        I needed that, though, sadly it was my first laugh of the day.

      2. Michael

        I’m no one’s doormat. If someone wants to condescend and generally treat me like shit I have no problem showing them exactly how they’re acting. If someone in a position of power then decides to let me go then all the better. I don’t need their bullshit and am simply biding my time for something else anyway. It just frees up my schedule to job hunt better and interview whenever.

        1. TheSnarkyB

          Michael, you sound like my boyfriend. God, I love him but he out-Snarks this Snarky B (and he’s a bigger B).
          It’s awesome for our common sense of humor, when things go south he is SO antagonistic.

  7. KayDay

    Wow, this person sounds terrible to work for. If anyone would be unable to “concentrate on work thinking that she would say something that would offend [someone]”, it should be you.

    There are two things I do not think are particularly weird, however. Assuming you didn’t have one of the key requirements for the position, it’s not weird that they hired you at a slightly lower salary. Ideally, they would have advertised a range, but they may not have anticipated it.

    It’s also not that weird that she referred to you as her assistant in this situation. Basically, I think she meant it as, “I am referring you to my colleague, Jane, because she is the person who is assisting me in this matter.” Just put your actual title in your email signature, and it shouldn’t be a problem. But also, what you said is not insubordination at all.

    But, yeah, everything described in the second paragraph makes this person seem like a terrible manager.

  8. Lily in NYC

    I think this woman might not be irrational, but looking for ways to deny you the extra $2 during your review. Now she has the perfect “reason” (in her mind). If I’m correct, I think someone like that is even more terrible to work for than someone who is simply a jerk. You will never be able to maintain sanity working there; run, run, run.

    1. some1

      This. I have run across people like this in my professional and personal life who look for stuff to complain about after all parties thought the issue was resolved.

      I think she realized she has to pay you $2 more an hour (or have a hard discussion about why not), and rather than doing that she backpedaled and decided she was all bent out of shape about the title correction.

    2. Kara

      I had this happen to me a few years ago. I graduated from massage school, but had not taken my licensing exam to be an LMT. I started working for a ‘family owned’ chiropractic clinic, and my boss told me that he’d pay me a certain rate while I was unlicensed (like a paid externship – you’re allowed to work under a chiropractor in my state even if you do not hold a massage license) and then after I passed my boards he would consider me a ‘professional of my field’ and would give me a pay raise. Well, I took the written exam a few months later, and had my practical schedule a couple weeks out – and then they fired me. They conveniently waited until they took a vacation and needed me to open the office for a substitute chiropractor, and then as soon as they got back they decided that it just wasn’t working out. Shocker. The chiropractor’s wife was the ‘ general manager,’ his sister was the ‘front end manager’ (mind you, there were four people total in this office, including me), and I think they either didn’t want to pay me more, or were threatened by me actually succeeding in building a business for myself. Or both. Either way, nightmare scenario.

  9. Jamie

    I work for a family business so the owners of my company all have familial relationships with each other – but no one behaves like this.

    I guess that was my don’t throw all family businesses out with the bathwater PSA.

    Seriously crazy and you can’ salvage that because you can’t reason with irrational people. If I could get back all the years I spent trying I’d be a much younger woman today.

    It sounds like something flipped her switch, and nothing you’ve described can account for that. Polish up the resume and get back out there…this is a toxic situation.

    1. EM

      My mom has worked for a family business for over 20 years. The business actually weathered the owners getting divorced. It’s not always bad.

  10. Jennifer

    This is pretty timely because a relative of mine–well, last week her bosses rounded up the entire staff and yelled at them and said they all sucked and threatened to fire people/encouraged them to “walk out the door, it’s right there.” What brought this on? Someone had an article on toxic offices on her desk and they spotted it. Their office manager is….well, that person runs hot and cold and can be difficult to deal with, but the bosses absolutely love them and it is a “put up with them or leave” situation there, the OM can do nothing wrong. And the bosses aren’t exactly good with social graces either, so that isn’t a problem for them. These folks actually want anyone who deals with the public to say the bare minimum possible and not to be very friendly.

    I didn’t think that place sounded terribly bad until…well, that day. My relative has been there for ages (and realistically speaking, is too old to leave) and is very loyal and was totally devastated. And then the bosses were all, “And everybody better come in with a good attitude tomorrow!” I can’t imagine how anyone could.

    1. Yup

      I once (very briefly) worked for a company that loved using threatening and combative tactics. A favorite was to yell at staff in meetings that we were all doing XYZ wrong and if we didn’t get our acts together, “there’s the door.” After a few months, I’d had enough and turned in my resignation. Instead of showing me the door, as so often threatened, the division head came running down the hall with a 15% raise as a counteroffer. Thus underlining and further punctuating for me that they were (a) full of hot air, and (b) totally out of their gourds. It was a great lesson in spotting and handling bombastic psychos.

      1. Michael

        “Let them eat cake” mentalities quickly dissolve once the proletariat walks.

      2. Anonymous Accountant

        My 1st job out of college was like this. My immediate boss, the division controller, loved to have staff meetings and scream and then say “there’s the door”. I surived 14 months before landing a great new position where the partners treated you like a professional and what a change!

        OP- start looking now. Expand your network and start job searching.

  11. Christine

    I’m a little confused with the description of how this occurred: The supervisor TOLD the OP about the email to the contractor? At first, I was envisioning this all taking place over email, but it sounds like it was a face-to-face conversation.

    Anyway – yikes!! Sounds like the supervisor has self-confidence issues. She must’ve thought over the conversation overnight and got herself upset to the point of behaving unreasonably. And, to not be able to concentrate on your work because of it? I don’t know how new the VP is with managing people, but she doesn’t sound fit for the role if she’s going to get that bent out of shape over what to me sounded like a reasonable suggestion regarding her job title. Okay, even if the OP was snotty about it–which I doubt–the reaction is still inappropriate. I wish I had advice on how to deal with that except maybe come in to work and have a professional sit-down with the supervisor (I know today is Monday, so maybe there’s an update?)

    BTW – I can definitely vouch for how rough it can be to work where the owner and another employee are spouses. It was my very first “grown-up” job, and it was 2 years of chronic misery.

    1. S.L. Albert

      The OP might have been cc’ed on the e-mail, and thus have seen the e-mail without having input to it. Or it could have been a face to face conversation – “Hey, I told such and such to contact you as my assistant, so if you get a random email from Mr. Such, that’s why.”

  12. Dave

    The big unanswered question is, how did the OP ask her boss for the title clarification? Did she click “reply all” and include the 3rd party in the e-mail? Was it a face-to-face in earshot of any other employees?

    Unless it was done with couth, it could have (rightly) been taken as insubordination.

    On the other hand, if it was a personal conversation in private, or an e-mail that was just to her, then wording may have been what mattered.

    I would not have quibbled such a thing within my probationary period, unless it was a very important piece of the job (i.e. marketing VP). Office manager is very important, but the title itself is not necessarily essential to the job itself. Probationary means, unless it’s harassment or something completely uncalled for, you keep mum and learn the ropes.

    Sorry to take such an antagonistic tack with this response. I just figure there’s a detail or two that would really open the story up.

    1. fposte

      Sounds to me like the boss actually asked the OP for the title clarification, not the other way around. Therefore it’s all the weirder for the boss to get hissy merely as a result of actually getting an answer.

    2. W.W.A.

      Some managers think that asking for simple clarification on a task is insubordination. Bad managers feel threatened by EVERYTHING.

    3. angry writer

      THIS is what I want to know. Did the OP “correct” the boss in front of the contractor in the group email, infuriating the boss and sending her/him into a narcissistic rage?

      Of course the boss sounds like an ass, but I’m wondering if the OP cluelessly insulted her/him in front of a client.

      1. Cassie

        It sounds like the OP saw the email (maybe she was cc’d) but didn’t say anything. The boss was the one who brought it up (in person? later?) to the OP.

  13. A Nonny Mouse

    Wow. If I didn’t know better, I’d think we were working for the same person. I will say this: after only 9 months, I reached the point where I could no longer tolerate this kind of blow up and found a new position. When I start getting ulcers because of the bipolar-type blowups, it’s time to find a new job.

    Please think long and hard about whether you really want this position, because with someone like her, it’s probably only going to get worse, not better.

    1. Windchime

      Ulcers, ugh! Years ago, a close friend had a job at a small, family-owned trucking company. My friend did the Accounts Receivables and the owners had no problem with her; however,they would scream at other employees from the office next door. It was so stressfull for my friend that her hair started falling out. That’s when she decided to move on.

      1. Long Time Admin

        Our company is a family run company, and was very poorly managed for many years. One of my recent co-workers was a middle aged woman, and her hair was thinning on top. She was laid off in one of our “adjustments”. I talked to a friend of hers about a month later, and she told me that “Myrtle’s” hair was growing back, even though she had the stress of unemployment.

        It’s really hard dealing with that kind of dysfunction in the workplace. Everyone suffers from the stress.

    2. Kay

      Seconded. I once had an INCREDIBLY toxic job with poor management (the three other full time staff would literally go into the director’s office, which had a glass window in the door, to talk about me and make fun of me while I was stuck running everything — you could hear them through the office wall). I couldn’t afford to quit, because then I would have needed to pay back the cost of my training week, but when they let me go four months in I actually started cheering and dancing for joy on the train platform waiting to go home. Never. Again. Some things aren’t worth it.

      1. Lindsay J

        When I got fired from my last job I was actually laughing with the other managers (direct manager needed witnesses to fire me and walk me out) when I was walking out of the meeting from being fired.

        Part of it was shock because I was completely blindsided by the firing. Part of it was that it was a cruddy workplace – I had just been joking with the one manager the night before wondering what I could do to get fired on the spot (it was 3:30 AM, I had been there since 7AM, and we both just wanted to go home). My boss was also a jerk who gave me the silent treatment for three days one day because I dared to find him to speak to him in person after he had hung up on me to tell him that I wasn’t somebody that he could treat that way. We decided I was the one making out well on the deal because I got to go home and sleep and enjoy my spring break when they were putting in 20 hour days for the next week and a half.

        It was the type of situation where I liked my job and my coworkers well enough that I wouldn’t have sought out a new job on my own. But getting fired was the kick in the rear end I needed to find a better situation for myself.

  14. Anonymous

    Sounds like mean girl bullying to me. You’ll never get it right there, leave.

  15. Jennifer

    RUN! I’d begin job searching immediately. Luckily you’re very new at the job so you don’t even have to worry too much about any possibly issues with references, because I can almost guarantee one from this woman would be negative/harmful to you.

    1. Anonymous

      For the OP, how should she explain in interviews the reasons she is job searching shortly after taking a new position?

      1. Jennifer

        Alison would probably have a better answer to this, because it is a tricky issue. Hopefully the OP doesn’t have a history of short stints or job hopping, which could definitely cause a problem. If this is the first time they would have such a short length of employment, I think OP could get away with citing fit and/or culture (I wouldn’t be negative or give specifics), as long as he/she notes that this time in their job search they are going to be very careful when choosing their next position to avoid any such problems.

        1. Anonymous

          Sorry. When I posted my question, I thought I’d clicked the “Reply” at the top of the column.

          Very interested to read AAM’s advice on how the OP can explain in an interview and hopefully help others who are stuck in similar bad situations.

          1. Me

            If it were me in this situation, I’d simply say that the job title and responsibilities of the actual position were not as described (and what I wanted) when I interviewed and accepted the position.

          2. fposte

            She hasn’t even been there two months. I wouldn’t include it on my resume unless I really needed to claim a skill from it.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Agreed. It doesn’t belong on her resume. If she took it after a period of unemployment, she can just pretend it didn’t happen. It’s harder if she left a previous job for this one.

      2. Lindsay J

        If she has only been there one month I would just leave it off my resume and applications entirely (unless they are applications for government jobs etc where they are going to do a thorough background check and will ding you for lying about your employment). In my thoughts it’s better to extend your length of unemployment by one month than have to explain this situation in an interview.

  16. Annie the Mouse

    Time for a major level job search. I went through something almost identical – my boss gave me a raise, and then had second thoughts. He started a pretty relentless crusade to get me to leave. I don’t think the boss’s blowup was motivated by anything but trying to avoid the raise.

  17. Joey

    There are tons of people like this. These are the folks that take dissent, suggestions, or constructive criticism as a personal attack. They want “yes” people. They want to be the smart person in the room and from my experiences its rooted in feelings of inadequacy.

  18. JDQ

    EW. Start looking for a new job, if you’re still on probation this is only the tip of the cray-cray iceberg. Beware what lies beneath. I had a boss like this for two years: the line about how she cannot be spoken to like that because she owned the company rang some bells for me.

    This boss would scream, rant, swear, throw things, and call me at all hours of the night (sometimes for more yelling, but the worst was actually her ‘ideas’– they’d strike her, and instead of waiting till, you know, dawn to tell me, she’d call me up at 3am). I was accused of insubordination when I didn’t pick up the phone, or when I didn’t instantly recall three weeks later what her brilliant ideas had been in perfect clarity. I was also ordered to get my ‘priorities’ in line when I took unpaid leave when my grandmother fell sick in another city and eventually died– I’d said I’d check in, but apparently twice a day wasn’t enough, and I needed to ‘reassess my commitment to her’.

    None of us were getting paid on time and she constantly used the company’s troubles to justify longer hours, inability to pay our suppliers (but we were to keep using them and handle their increasingly accusatory phone calls, just not tell her about them). We once had a weekend event at our office and the water was shut off, with 25 people in the building– when I called her, she told me it wasn’t her problem, and to solve it myself. She took the ‘treat me like a ceo’ so far that she had our receptionist greet her at the entrance with her slippers, then follow her to her office lugging her shoes, laptop and purse, to set up her computer for her on a daily basis (she also expected this in reverse at the end of the day, so the receptionist couldn’t leave till she did, even if her hours were up. When the receptionists husband was overheard commenting on this one day when his wife had been working several hours unpaid, he was banned from picking up his wife ever again because the boss felt ‘threatened’. And we were all given a lecture on ’emotional intelligence’).

    By the end of my tenure, I was being told I was worthless, unmotivated, lazy, untalented, and the reason her company was losing money on an almost daily basis, while working 14 hour days and never taking a true weekend.

    I was 23.

    SO the point: it is going to get worse. These people don’t just hit you with the crazy up front– if they did they’d never convince anyone to work for them. It comes out in scary little hints until you start thinking it’s normal. Get out while you can.

    1. Jamie

      Who ARE these people and why do they have jobs??

      You lost me at idea calls at 3:00 am. I truly don’t know what my reaction would be to that.

      I pride myself on being a professional…but call me at 3:00 am because the mood strikes and all bets are off.

      1. Michael

        The higher up the ladder you go the more likely you’re working for a sociopath. (quasi-“well”-known) Fact.

      2. Elizabeth

        My husband had a boss who didn’t like to sleep. He thought it was to much like dieing. Said boss also had been used to working in a much larger city where the traffic meant that he had to leave work at 4am to be at work at 7am.

        So, he would sleep for a couple hours & go in at 4am, which was now a 5 minute drive. And if anything in the network was the least bit off (not down), or if getting to Google was slow, he would call my husband and insist that it be fixed immediately.

        1. Jamie

          Tell me your husband started looking for a new job when this happened?

          I have a hard enough time training users on the definition of “emergency” during normal work hours. I.e. something is bottlenecked or down and you cannot do your work, call me on my day off immediately. If you want to know if I can change the font in the sig tags – send me an email – do NOT call me on my day off. That kind of thing.

          In the wee hours? Something needs to be broken.

    2. A Nonny Mouse

      So much of my former boss is encompassed here. Unpaid overtime (a result of classifying me as nonexempt when I’m actually exempt), being required to stay until she leaves, last-minute late nights with no dinner provided or dinner breaks allowed, calls at all hours, being screamed at for not remembering something off the top of my head, being told not to bother her with things but getting yelled at when she’s not in the loop…

      What you said about the crazy coming out in scary little bits until you think it’s normal – it’s honestly a form of abuse. These kind of people slowly whittle away your confidence and self-awareness until you think the way they treat you is normal. It’s when I started seeing that cycle that I decided enough was enough. Thankfully by the end of my notice period, I was there for just shy of a year, with all my other jobs being upwards of two years (and I’m pretty early on in my career out of school) so I can explain it away as a “fit” issue, but even if I couldn’t, it’s the best decision I ever made for myself.

      What’s even worse is that it’s becoming more and more common to treat employees this way because supervisors know they CAN – since most of us can’t afford to just quit, and it’s not like hiring is super awesome these days.

      1. Natalie

        “What you said about the crazy coming out in scary little bits until you think it’s normal – it’s honestly a form of abuse.”

        Yes, indeed. Even though there’s no factual basis, I’m fond of the metaphor of the frog in a pot of water sitting still as the water gets hotter and hotter until they die.

        1. JDQ

          THIS. I’d only had one job before this one out of Uni, I was young and inexperienced and didn’t handle it as professionally as I should of at first (ie I answered her calls, and let her yell at me till I was spending every lunch break crying in the bathroom). By the end I’d started to wise up, maybe just out of exasperation but also from reading this blog and locating my lady-balls :)

          The thing to remember is you can’t change these people– you can however change how you respond. So when she’d call on weekends or in the wee hours, or shout at me, I’d calmly tell we could discuss it calmly in person the next day. Once or twice she actually would haul me in to cry at ME and accuse ME of shaming her, but by then, I was over it. I found a new job (when I quit she also told me I would fail, as the new company clearly only wanted me for her contacts), and left. I still see her around, and several years later she tries to hug me and act like she was this great mentor who gave me my start.

          Maybe my start in how to deal with wackadoodles. But she did teach me about what was appropriate, boundaries, and what my own personal line was when the juice stopped being worth the squeeze. You don’t have to enable these people by working for them, after all!

      1. A Nonny Mouse

        Funny you should mention that, I called her Prada when speaking about her to others, so that no one would know who I was talking about. I never gave her real name to anyone who asked where I worked, I just said I work for a woman named Prada.

      2. JDQ

        Funny you should ask . . . it was a running office joke that if she ever watched that movie or read that book we were all doomed.

  19. Mike C.

    Holy crap, I used to work for a place like this!!

    First of all, ask for those two dollars. That’s what the job advertised and you’ve mastered the software. Which is a load of bullshit, given that you were able to master it during your initial weeks there, but we’ll leave that aside for now.

    Secondly, you’re working for a *crazy* person. Not crazy as in “suffers from a mental illness” because I’m no doctor, but *crazy* as in “doesn’t pay attention to what’s going on, and acts forcefully, erratically and irrationally”. I used to work for a family business like this, and it was hell.

    I lost a ton of self respect for myself because of being constantly yelled at, blamed for things that weren’t my fault and so on. That lost me time in finding a new job, and I’m sure cost me a few opportunities. DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU.

    Stand up for yourself, remain professional and always know that they are the crazy ones, not you. Some days are going to be worse than others, but know that as the honeymoon period of your job is ending, you’re going to see a lot more happen. Keep your resume sharp! You’re going to need it sooner than you suspect.

    Best of luck!

  20. Me

    I was in a situation similar to this as an intern. My manager was the SVP of a small company of 5 people and was a tyrant. He was also past due retirement at the tender age of 75. I remember trembling everytime he called me into his office because half the time it was to tell me how much I sucked. A few times he threatedned to send me home/fire for being so insubordinate. One day I finally started standing up for myself after him calling me stupid and 2 weeks later he didn’t need an intern anymore. I ended up landing a great job soon after though.
    Looking back I wasn’t doing a bad job, he was just not a good manager. Had I known then what I know now, I would not have stayed as long as I did.

  21. Ann O'Nemity

    Wait, let me get this straight. First, the OP and their supervisor have a calm discussion about this issue and the OP thinks it is settled. Then, the next morning the supervisor is completely irate and irrational over the same issue? Who wants to bet that the supervisor talked to her husband (the owner) and came back with a completely different attitude? That would explain the 360.

    1. Original Dan

      It was a 180 (turn around).

      A 360 is a complete circle and would put you back where you started…

      Sorry to nitpic; it’s a pet peeve of mine :-/

      1. Lora

        It sort of depends on how many witnesses there are.

        My current boss is quite pleasant to me when in the presence of anyone who could report him to HR for being a d-bag. Almost angelic, supportive, respectful, etc.

        Get both of us in a room alone, and it’s “how can you be so stupid and lazy and incompetent? do you know how to do ANYTHING? Tsk…And don’t you EVER talk or send an email to ANYONE in this company without MY PERMISSION!”

        Bullies are pretty good at picking their targets.

  22. East Side Tori

    So, this is slightly off-topic, but all the talk of yelling and tantrum-throwing bosses has made me pensive. I have an interview on Thursday, and I’m wondering how to ask the question “Is yelling a thing here?” without actually saying those words exactly. This is a deal breaker for me. Any ideas?

    Also, OP, so sorry this is happening to you. I’d like to echo what another commenter said: it sounds like your boss went home and mulled this thing over, eventually working it up in her mind to something it totally wasn’t. All of a sudden, a simple clarification of your title becomes insubordination. And “you don’t even have a car” doesn’t sound so much like an argument that you aren’t qualified for the job but more of just a really douchey insult.

    1. Michael

      Ask just that, imo. You may twist it in a funny wrapper by sharing a story about it but basically say those exact words.

    2. Rana

      Maybe ask something along the lines regarding the feel of the work environment? Or something like “I work best in an environment where the mood is calm and everyone’s focused on the job at hand (or whatever environment is best for you) – is that the kind of environment I’m likely to experience here?”

      I’d like to think that yelling would be an unusual and weird thing such that you wouldn’t need to ask, but enough letters to AAM have made me doubt that assumption too.

      1. KellyK

        I like that. Asking about the mood of the work environment is a good way to get some info without inadvertently insulting them by even asking.

        I would also be on the alert for the common euphemisms about working with jerks–things like “demanding” or “high-pressure” are the ones that come to my mind. I’m sure there are more.

        1. Jamie

          “Strong sense of urgency.”

          By itself a lovely and descriptive phrase – I fully respect urgency.

          However, in the wild it seems to mean “lack of planning will require you to jump as if you’ve been stung by a bee to complete things with no warning that were due yesterday.”

      2. Cassie

        I think one of the managers in our office who has a tendency to yell would not classify herself as a yeller. She is clueless about how she behaves. There are others (faculty members) who know they are jerks – one allegedly has a goal of making every student cry at least once during office hours. I don’t know if that’s true or not (another prof told me this) but I do know that faculty member is very prone to yelling and making cutting remarks.

        1. Anonymous

          At most places faculty can do almost whatever they want. One at the place I work told one of his female grad students, after she got pregnant, “women shouldn’t do science”.

      3. Lindsay J

        I feel like, though, even if there is a lot of yelling that goes on that many companies won’t disclose that in an interview. Lots of places like to paint a rosy picture of happy workers, great work-life balance, etc, during the recruiting and interview process when it winds up being far from the truth of what happens when you’re actually in the job.

        1. East Side Tori

          Lindsay, that’s what I’m worried about. I think if I use the Jedi-interview-mind-tricks suggested by Yup below I might be able to suss things out.

    3. Yup

      “What’s your personal style of communication?” Then, after they’ve answered, “And how does your style fit within the company’s overall communication style?” You’re looking for themes and broad strokes here — the kind of phrasing they use, whether answers are confident and direct versus weasel words, do they seem to be self-aware in how they answer, etc. Lunatics won’t come right out and say, “I scream at people until they cry, so be ready.” Not will amazing communicators describe themselves as such. But just listen to the descriptions for consideration later, especially noting whether there’s any disconnect between what they say and how they’re acting in the interview. (i.e., someone who describes themselves as direct and candid but won’t give you a straight answer to simple question elsewhere, or someone who describes themself as a great listener but doesn’t let you get a word in edgewise)

      1. KellyK

        Ooh, good idea. Someone who describes themselves as “a strong personality who communicates directly and tells it like it is” may well be a yeller. They might also just be blunt and no-nonsense, which is why I like the idea of comparing their self-description to how they act in the interview.

      2. East Side Tori

        Wow, Yup, you are like some kind of interview magician. I have asked the “communication style” question before, but never really thought about reading between the lines, as you suggest. This was probably a by-product of just needing a job. Now that I already have a job and am just looking for a new job, I am much more aware of paying attention to fit. I really like the organizational culture of where I am now, people are very cordial and issues are resolved maturely and promptly, so I’m looking for that type of environment in any potential new jobs.

        1. Long Time Admin

          Tori, check them out at glassdoor. If you know anyone who works there, call them and chat about the office culture. During the interview, ask to use the restroom and if anyone is in there, chat them up a bit about what it’s like to work here.

          I had a boss who was described by the HR guy as “a bit difficult” and didn’t take this as the great big gigantic reddest-red-ever flag it was. Within 3 days I knew she was a psycho, and that I’d be happier going back to temping until I could find another permanent job.

          If you can find out beforehand, you’re much better off.

          1. EnnVeeEl

            I accepted a job where the manager was described as “difficult” too. Within a week I knew he was nuts and I’d made a horrible mistake.

            “Difficult” is code for “biggest jerk ever.”

  23. EnnVeeEl

    Oh fun. The manager that yells and intimidates staff over their “performance,” and as a result of the yelling, intimidation and unprofessional environment ENSURE they will have performance issues because few people can let stuff like this roll off their backs and just work.

    I would like to hear AAM’s advice on how to spin looking for a new job so soon after accepting one. Because I tried this in the past, and had someone question if I had any issues, and it scared me and I backed off, staying in a bad situation when I shouldn’t have.

    I also have to agree with working at “family businesses.” Never again.

  24. SerfinUSA

    I’ve worked for a variety of family-run businesses, all with their own special twist on workplace don’ts. The last one took the cake though. The owner didn’t seem to know the difference between servants and employees, and employees with healthy boundaries were not in favor.

    I left at the end of a screaming match with me threatening to have her deported for a variety of illegal acts. Ugh.

    I think OP is on this same train. Better to get off sooner than later.

    1. AP

      I worked for a tiny company once where the owner was a middle-aged divorced man. When I started there he had a girlfriend who was very helpful when it came to running his life, but they broke up after awhile and it really feel on the staff to pick up the slack. Some of it was understandable to a degree – renewing his license and car registration (it was technically a company car), showing him how to change his voting registration to a different address, etc.

      It soon got to a point where I think we were too helpful and the blurry line between business and personal just completely disappeared – we would joke that when his underwear was dirty it instantly became “company underwear” and it was now our problem that we needed to fix.

      1. Lindsay J

        I worked for a family owned business where I wound up reorganizing their home office (not where we worked out of, literally a room in their home where they did stuff mostly not related to work), going through their receipts to identify non-work related purchases made on their company credit card, setting up itunes and their iPod, ripping cds to their computer, setting up one of those electronic pen things for their kids, doing their kids’ homework, fixing and wiping personal computers for them, and a myriad of other stuff.

        1. annie

          Yep, pretty common with family businesses. I’ve purchased holiday gifts for their children, booked personal travel, proofed kid’s term papers, researched a tutor for a kid, drove boss home from a minor surgery, dealt with personal mail for their summer home, etc.

          This might have been understandable if I was a personal assistant, or any kind of assistant, but that was far from what my job actually was.

  25. W.W.A.

    I spent about 4 years in a job with a boss who acted like this on a regular basis. Completely irrational, insultingly personal, etc. It was a horrible experience and I wish I had left after 60 days instead of staying 4 years and eventually developing ulcers and severe skin problems because of the stress. I would STRONGLY advice the OP to start looking for another job now.

    1. Ruffingit

      Not judging WWA because I’ve stayed too long in some jobs myself, but I’m wondering why you did stay?

      Sorry about the health problems, been there too with stress-induced issues. It’s rough. :(

      1. Long Time Admin

        There are a lot of reasons people stay in bad jobs.

        Needs the insurance
        Poor economy, and lack of decent jobs
        Has family in the area that needs them
        Has financial obligations that need to be taken care of
        General insecurity
        Hope that things will get better

        I’m sure the list goes on and on. We’ve had a lot of layoffs at my company and some of my former co-workers were plunged into difficult circumstances that led to losing their homes, taking their special-needs kids out of programs that were helping them, medical needs that could no longer be attended to, and personal debt.

        1. Ruffingit

          I know there are a lot of reasons. Been there, done that myself. I was curious about WMA’s specific reasons. Wondered if they matched my own for having done it. :)

  26. Anonicorn

    I have read through all the “bad boss” experiences posted so far, and each one I kept nodding my head and thinking, “that could have been my old boss.”

    Alison, when things like this do happen (even though they shouldn’t), what is the best way an employee can respond at that moment, considering we don’t want to be fired but we also don’t want to leave ourselves open to further abuse?

  27. OP

    Alison, thanks so much for choosing my question to answer. I’ve been going over the conversation over and over again, wondering if I had in fact done something that could be deemed insubordinate, and it’s like a weight’s been lifted off of my shoulders because of your rational and well-written answer. Your advice has always come through for me, whether it’s for impressing at interviews, polishing up my cover letter, or freelancing (which is what I was doing before taking this job). Your advice was exactly what I needed to hear.

    I’ve read through the comments, and you guys, thanks for quieting my paranoia that asking to be called by my job title was some kind of heinous and unforgivable offense that could lead to me being let go. Your comments were enlightening and thoughtful, and I’m quite grateful for them.

    I wanted to get a few things clear:

    1. I did not confront her in front of other people. I didn’t reply to her in the email thread asking to be called by my job title. I did it in her office, away from the rest of the staff, and spoke calmly and politely. I probably wouldn’t even have mentioned it, only she had said “I wasn’t sure how to refer to you”, which is why I even approached her about it in the first place. I thought she was asking for clarification. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have given it another thought.

    2. I agreed to take the $2 cut in because they had reservations about me being able to pick up the software they used in the office, which is a major part of my duties. Although I could have negotiated for them to give me the $2, a thirty day period where they could evaluate my comfort and mastery of the program also seemed fair to me.

    3. She asked me in the first couple of weeks what my communication style was, and how I liked receiving feedback. I said that when I’m being evaluated, I prefer a straightforward approach as opposed to someone pussyfooting to spare my feelings. She said that that worked for her, because she liked giving advice and criticism in a frank way. She also said that some people had told her that she had a tendency to shout when giving them criticism. I didn’t think that was a problem, because a) she seemed kind of soft-spoken and easygoing, and b) as a person who doesn’t like to rock the boat, I swore to double and triple check everything I did in the office so that she’d never have the opportunity to do so. She was also regularly asked for feedback about how she was conducting my training, and she said to let her know if there was anything that bothered or confused me about office procedures. If she hadn’t said anything like this, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable approaching her about the job title confusion in the first place.

    Well, it’s Monday now, and I’ve decided to leave the position. I brought in my letter of resignation this morning, where I said that upon reflection, I didn’t feel like the position was a good fit for my skills and qualifications, and that I was leaving to pursue other avenues of growth. I wished the company all the best and thanked them for the opportunity.

    We didn’t have a formal performance review anymore, nor a proper exit interview even. She said that she was sorry that I felt that way, and wished me luck in whatever I decided to try in the future. It was very, very awkward, because I was waiting to see if she would bring up anything at all about what she said to me last Friday, but she never did.

    I was happy to get out of the office after, even if saying good-bye to the rest of the staff was kind of a bummer, because they’re all pretty cool guys and gals.

    But don’t worry about me, you guys. I’ve been training as a CNA for the past couple of months, and I finish the training program in two weeks. The organization that’s been training me also hires their students as caregivers and have a good relationship with a nearby hospice. The lady who’s been training me has already expressed that she’s interested in hiring me after I pass the certification exam. This is more in line with what I want to do in the future (palliative care), so I’m excited about it.

    I know that it isn’t a sure thing though, and I know I shouldn’t have quit without a 100% sure offer of another job, but the idea of working even just a couple of weeks more with this supervisor hovering over me and possibly criticizing me in the same bizarre, overly personal way is not my idea of a secure and professional workplace.

    Again, thank you AAM, and thank you, lovely commenters.

    1. CoffeeLover

      You did the right thing. The way she handled the situation was a huge red flag of what’s to come. Honestly, even her saying she has a tendency to raise her voice in criticism was a red flag. Yelling is NEVER ok in the office. Anything you say can and should be said in a calm voice. People that yell are completely unprofessional.

      My psychoanalysis of your old boss:
      She has some serious self-confidence issues. Being the wife of the owner means she subconsciously knows/thinks she didn’t earn her position, and she may view things as a challenge to her authority even when they’re not. I’ve dealt with owners wives before and many of them are like this. Power trip brought on by overcompensation.

    2. K Too

      You absolutely did the right thing. It would have got worse as time went on. I worked for a dysfunctional organization for 4 months and and was only 2 months in when I decided to start looking for another gig. Luckily a job came at the right time.

      CoffeeLover is correct that it’s all about self-confidence issues. Self-confidence and ego issues are largely the main cause of this type of behavior.

      Good luck with moving on to a better job that’s right for you!

    3. Rana

      Good for you – I’m glad you stood up for yourself. Good luck with your next job! :)

    4. Christine

      Sounds like you handled this with true professionalism…well done! I agree that there is an exception to every rule; in this case, the one about not leaving a job without having another opportunity firmed up. But I think in this case, this was the right decision. I’m not sure I would’ve lasted much longer there myself.

      Best of luck with the rest of your CNA program and the certification exam!

    5. Marie

      I’m so happy for you, OP. You sound like you have a fantastic outlook and have made a great decision. From the tone of your letter, I think you’ll be an asset to the field of palliative care. Bravo!

    6. Long Time Admin

      OP, congratulations! Getting out was good, but actually moving toward something you really want to do is GREAT! I’m very happy for you.

      I was accused of insubordination once, during my yearly performance appraisal. I didn’t know what the heck my boss was talking about, and he wouldn’t elaborate, so I just apologized and said I’d never do it again. It took many months before I thought of one incident that *might* have been that, but he never said anything to me at that time, or soon after. I found a much better job a short time later, so it didn’t matter much to me. But at least he never screamed at me (he just confused me to no end).

    7. Another Emily

      Thanks for updating us OP. I’m glad you could move on from a bad situation.

  28. Ruffingit

    OP,

    As a general rule, leaving without another firm offer in hand is not a good idea, but as with every rule, there are exceptions and I think your situation falls into the exception category.

    I have worked for three family owned businesses and all of them have had a river of insanity running through them. The first was really horrible, the second one step below that, and the third was tolerable, but not for a long period of time.

    The first one I was in was a husband/wife team where the husband was completely cowed by his wife and the wife literally threw tantrums (screaming, stomping her feet, etc.). It was quite a sight to see her do this. A 40+ year old woman throwing a toddler’s tantrum. I laugh about it now, but it was weird then. That was the tip of the iceberg. She verbally abused her husband regularly, she went through employees like water from a faucet, she was sued by clients…I could go.

    After a particularly heinous event involving myself and another employee who was also abused by her, I walked in and calmly tendered my resignation. I had nowhere else to go, but it didn’t matter. At that point, I could no longer tolerate the literal insanity of the workplace.

    That was in 2007 and I recovered from it, went on to do other things, got a grad degree, etc. So…you must do what is best for you. You left the place and I know what a relief it is to do that. It feels like a weight has lifted. I wish you the best in your new career!

  29. Marina

    I’m going to go against everyone else and say that running is not the only answer from a crazy boss. I had a Jekyll-and-Hyde boss once who’s best comment was probably “Don’t look at me like that when I’m yelling at you!” Buuut when she wasn’t yelling about unreasonable things, she was a really tremendous mentor and someone I genuinely enjoyed spending time with. It was stressful, but the pros outweighed the cons. Probably the most helpful thing was that everyone else in the office knew she was nuts, and we all relied on each other for reality checks during her bad days.

    It sounds like leaving was definitely the best option for you, especially since your future goals are in a different field. But bad bosses are out there in every field, and I think it’s worth knowing that running isn’t always the only solution.

    1. Ruffingit

      I agree that running should not be the default. Whether staying or going is the answer depends on a variety of factors. I know in my case with the woman I spoke of in my original posting, leaving was the only answer. She had severe ethical problems (hence being sued by clients) and such mental imbalance issues that running away was the only sane option for me.

      That isn’t always true. There are factors that may make it worth staying as you indicated Marina in your posting – your boss was an excellent mentor on her good days. That could make it worthwhile to stay depending on the person.

      In any case, you make a good point that there’s no default response. You have to weigh the options and it’s also a very individual thing in that some people can handle a lot of crazy and some can’t. Just depends.

    2. Cassie

      I agree that there are bad bosses everyone, but I think it’s because very few people do anything about it! People shouldn’t have to suffer through 75% bad times just to get the 25% good times. If they do, it won’t last long.

      I don’t think most people want to work under unnecessarily stressful situations. I wish owners and bosses would understand the big picture (assuming the crazy boss is not the person at the top of the food chain) – it’s not okay to have this type of behavior in the workplace. Even if the person was a superstar otherwise, the crazy boss is representing the company in a terrible light. If you were running the place, is that what you would want? If so, fine, that’s your choice. But if not, do something.

  30. EngineerGirl

    At least they paid you to learn the software.

    It’s good you are out before your confidence if destroyed.

  31. Cassie

    Glad to hear the OP got herself out of the situation. Someone who gets that upset over something so innocuous as the conversation the OP described is someone that I would not want to work with long-term.

    I’ve seen several articles recently that opined employees don’t leave because of their job duties, they leave because of their [bad] bosses. I think that’s true a lot of the time. I have been extremely fortunate to have nice bosses, but it bothers me to see coworkers having to deal with horrible bosses.

  32. Vicki

    1) OP’s crazy boss says “there [is] no room in the company with someone with an ego problem,” and OP needs an to “get an attitude adjustment”
    2) OP’s crazy boss has an obvious ego problem
    3) The best attitude adjustment I can see is that OP stops working for crazy boss.

    1. Natalie

      Something tells me the boss actually means “there’s only room for one person with an ego problem, and that’s me.” :)

  33. AF

    Nothing much to add, except I wish you the very best OP! This person is a nut! I wonder how many “assistants/Office Managers” they’ve gone through with her as the boss acting like this. And to not know what your title is is a bit weird.

  34. Chocolate Teapot

    It’s always nice to read an update when the OP has been able to move on from a horrible situation.

  35. Anonymous

    I worked for someone like that and it has scared me from ever working for a small company again.

  36. Anon

    I worked seven years for an irrational/emotional “manager” who I honestly believe was mentally ill. This post gives me Vietnam-level flashbacks. OP, please, please PLEASE take the advice to look for a new job. Compromising your own mental security and emotional well-being is not worth staying in a job where you have to work for/with someone like this. I guarantee it will just get worse from here. My strategy was to consider myself “above” getting upset over someone who was so clearly unbalanced and just concentrate on my work, but the reality is that you do have to be around this person 40 hours a week and it WILL affect you. Get out early!

    1. Jamie

      I had a boss who said that once. He said no one leaves a company over money – you’re quitting a manager not a company.

      I agreed that it was true much of the time, but sometimes good employees absolutely move on for more money or a different opportunity. If the company you’re with is paying you fair market for the position, but company X has a different position worth more money you can’t expect the current company to over pay, nor expect an employee to put loyalty ahead of their financial interests.

      It’s not always personal.

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