my manager is incredibly irritating and I’m ready to snap

This post was originally published on September 12, 2007, just four months after I started Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m working at my first full-time job, and I’ve been here for just over a year. The company is pretty small, only about 20 people, but still much larger than my last job where there was about six of us. We were all very close, and any issues were usually dealt with quickly and in a friendly manner. Smaller things were ignored – we figured that everybody did something that irritated other people, and we all learned to let the small things go.

At my new job, I’m having some issues with my manager and I don’t know what to do. I feel like they are small things, but there are so many of them that I find I am stewing over them constantly when I am at work, making me snap at others, and I am brooding over them at home, making me a bore to my family and friends. Things like:

* He constantly checks his email when he and I have meetings in his office.

* He often talks for 20 minutes about his personal life in meetings and then wants to race through the work issues I need to discuss because he has another meeting to get to.

* Not giving me enough information about tasks, and ignoring requests from me for the missing information, which results in me stuck halfway through a project.

* A lack of energy in projects not his own – anything he wants has to happen immediately, anything I request happens when he feels like it, after two or three reminders, or when the General Manager asks for an update.

* A lack of willingness to understand what other people do, and very bad listening skills; he constantly cuts people off and interrupts them.

* Not keeping any company stationery in his own office and when he wants an envelope, etc. he walks over to my desk and goes through my pile of envelopes without even asking me, while I’m sitting at the desk (rather than go to the stationery cupboard).

* Having a “sense of fun” and a “relaxed atmosphere in the office” which equates to him doing and saying things I dislike and find completely inappropriate for a work environment. On one memorable occasion, I returned from two weeks away to find a colleague who sits right outside his door would flinch every time I screwed up a piece of paper. When I asked what was going on, she said the manager was now in the habit of screwing up paper and throwing it at her. This has now stopped, but I am stunned that he thought it was acceptable in the first place!

My problem is that I don’t know what to do about this. Other people in the office have approached me about these issues and feel the same way. The manager is a nice guy and I’m sure would feel awful that we feel this way about him, but it is really affecting my enjoyment at work and my ability to do my work in some cases. There are no performance reviews where I can anonymously let him know how I feel, and I know it would be excruciating to say this to his face, so what should I do? The work is actually very boring, and there is no possibility of advancement, so I’m looking for another job anyway. Should I just deal with it until I can go?

Sometimes when you’re frustrated at work about legitimate issues, smaller things start to take on a life of their own and irritate you in a way that they wouldn’t in a different context. I think that might be going on here.

You have a job you’re bored in and a manager you don’t like or find supportive. You’re looking for another job, but meanwhile, you’re letting yourself get upset about some things that are the sort of thing you’re likely to find in any job. My advice is to step back and separate the substantive issues from the ones that are just irritating you because, well, you’re irritated.

Let’s take these one by one:

He constantly checks his email when he and I have meetings in his office.This is annoying, I agree. But he’s also your boss and it’s his prerogative to do it. The most you can do is to say something like, “Should I come back at another time?” But in the end, this is one you should just try to ignore; you’re going to encounter it from many future bosses, I’m sorry to say. (For the record, I don’t advocate it, but I do know there have been times when I have a million things going on and I need to glance at my email in a meeting. I would never do it in, say, someone’s performance review meeting or just to distract myself, but there are times when I think the boss is entitled to do it.)

He often talks for 20 minutes about his personal life in meetings and then wants to race through the work issues I need to discuss because he has another meeting to get to. Talking about his personal life when you need to be talking about work is not good. Try to head this off as soon as you sit down for the meeting, by announcing at the outset that you have a long list of issues to get through. If that doesn’t work, respond politely to whatever off-topic remark he makes and then bring it right back to what you need to talk about. For example: “That sounds like you had a great weekend. Well, what I wanted to ask you about was ….” Approach it as if the onus is on you to get the time you need from him. Not necessarily fair, but it’ll be more effective.

Not giving me enough information about tasks, and ignoring requests from me for the missing information, which results in me stuck halfway through a project. Be aggressive here too. Do what it takes to get the info you need from him, or find other ways of getting it. Sometimes it can work to be very specific about your need, saying something like, “I need to talk with you about this by tomorrow afternoon or I won’t be able to complete it by the deadline.” If this doesn’t work, consider having a big-picture conversation with him, asking him how he would prefer you handle such situations.

Sometimes people, particularly people early in their careers, assume that the responsibility for making sure they have what they need to do the job is their boss’s. But in fact, it’s yours. A good boss will check in with you and proactively ask what you might need to move things along, but you can’t let your own success rely on having a good boss; they are few and far between.

A lack of energy in projects not his own – anything he wants has to happen immediately, anything I request happens when he feels like it, after two or three reminders, or when the General Manager asks for an update. I don’t know enough details here, but you’re going to have a lot of bosses who want their requests dealt with immediately, while yours have to wait. It’s the nature of hierarchy. It’s not necessarily evidence of unfairness or bad work habits — some bosses genuinely are always triaging work, and other projects may rightfully take priority. As the boss, they’re obligated to make those calls, so this is one of those things to try to accustom yourself to. (I feel like I’m killing your spirit here with all this “get used to it” advice. Sorry!) That said, it’s entirely possible he’s disorganized and unmotivated; I just don’t know enough to say. So keep in mind that this is legitimate in some cases and evaluate his behavior against that backdrop.

A lack of willingness to understand what other people do and he constantly cuts people off and interrupts them. Some managers interrupt because they just need the upshot and not all the details they’re being given. Some managers interrupt because they’re rude and self-important. I don’t know which yours is, but either way, the best way to handle this is going to be to “manage up” — consider it your job to find a way to get across to him the info he needs to know in order for you to do your job effectively.

Not keeping any company stationery in his own office and when he wants an envelope, etc. he walks over to my desk and goes through my pile of envelopes without even asking me, while I’m sitting at the desk (rather than go to the stationery cupboard). This is one of those that I think wouldn’t much bother you if you weren’t already aggravated. Try to ignore this … or give him his own personal supply of stationery and envelopes to use.

Having a “sense of fun” and a “relaxed atmosphere in the office” which equates to him doing things like throwing crumpled paper at people. This is weird, without question, but it sounds like your manager is more socially awkward than anything else. (This made me think of Michael from “The Office,” in fact.) This is another one where I’d advise just seeing it as a quirk but not letting yourself take it too seriously.

Ugh, now I’ve completely crushed your spirit and told you to suck it up and deal. But here’s the silver lining: If you can figure out how to work around whatever issues this manager may have and get what you need to do well, you’re going to have set yourself up with a really valuable skill that will serve you well in future jobs. Plus you’ll have learned it way earlier than most people. So for the remainder of your time there, see this as an awesome opportunity to hone some very useful professional skills. (And suddenly your job isn’t boring but rather a fascinating course in managing your manager!) Really, in a lot of ways, first jobs are more about learning these kinds of workplace survival skills than they are about anything else.

I hope this wasn’t too discouraging. Let us know how it goes.

* * * * *

Sixteen days after this was originally published, I received this update from the letter-writer:

“I’m not sure whether some of the strategies are working, or whether it’s just a general change, but my relationship with my boss is really going well at the moment. There is a much better communication level and he has more realisation of exactly what I am spending my time on, so he values it more. I’m really loving coming to work at the moment.

{ 73 comments… read them below }

  1. Thomas*

    It’s very unfortunate when you have somebody like this in the office especially when it’s your boss. Also it completely got overshadowed for me by the comment in the update.

    1. fposte*

      The random late comments (this one was four years after the original post) are so often from people in serious distress–they worry me.

        1. fposte*

          I’m usually pretty much an ogre myself. But with some of these comments, they seem so desperate to unburden on the first relevant Google hit they find without regard to date, and I tend to think it’s because they don’t have any nearer support.

          (Mind you, some year-late comments are just random, but random is less worrisome.)

          1. Ruffingit*

            I agree and I always think the people who comment so late are desperately seeking an outlet too. It is worrisome.

      1. Anonymous*

        I think I must be just sleep deprived because I don’t understand what this comment is referring to. Can someone enlighten me? I feel like I’m trying to solve a lateral logic problem with my brain set to fuzzy.

        1. Kerry*

          It took me a while too – I think the poster above is referring to the unrelated and distressing comment someone made in the update to the original post, linked above, here.

          1. Anonymous*

            Oh wow, thanks! I didn’t even notice that the update had a link! I kept wondering what was wrong with the update! :)

  2. tesyaa*

    “Stationery” appears to be spelled incorrectly several times. The difference between “stationery” and “stationary” was stressed repeatedly when I was in grade school. I don’t know why it was so important to remember, but I’ll never forget. Also “principle” and “principal” :)

    1. Zelos*

      I believe Alison keeps her email submissions as is–errors and all–unless they impede with reader understanding.

        1. tesyaa*

          FYI, I’m never sure whether to point these out. I don’t want to be nitpicky about what people write on the Internet, but some people might want to be corrected.

          1. fposte*

            In general, Alison’s okay with an error being pointed out in *her* text, but not in the OP’s–the OP doesn’t have a chance to change it, and it might discourage people from writing in

          2. A Bug!*

            It depends on the context. If it’s relevant to the content of the letter, then it’s absolutely fine. If it’s a person you know would appreciate the correction, then sure. If it’s a highly professional or academic setting, or if it’s an actual publication like an online news agency or something, where a spelling error might be a major embarrassment to the publishing entity, then yes.

            Most other contexts, I think I would just leave it, unless it’s a pretty extreme example and the actual meaning of the message is in danger of being lost.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I correct spelling and grammar stuff in reader letters when I spot it. But stationary/stationery has always been my one constant grammatical downfall. I don’t know why, and it’s quite embarrassing. Thanks for the catch, and I’ve corrected it.

        1. KJR*

          Think of it this way — StationAry ” – Anchor,” StationEry “Envelope.” Works great for me!!

            1. Kate*

              And the ‘a’ in stationary is like the ‘a’ in ‘car’ stopped at a red light! My second grade teacher cemented the ‘paper’ and ‘car’ distinction in our young minds with an interpretive dance, as was her approach to many grammatical and spelling related rules!

        2. HR Lady*

          OMG I think I didn’t even know there was a difference! (And I’m normally a very good speller.) Yet another thing I’ve learned from reading AAM!

    2. Bea W*

      Wow. I was in the high level English classes, and have a college degree. How have I not heard his about stationery and stationary? I never noticed the different spellings!

      I feel kind of dumb now.

      1. BN*

        I have a master’s degree and if I hadn’t read the comments on this post, I would have assumed the LW spelled it wrong. I feel very dumb right now, haha.

    3. Anonymous*

      Incidentally, the difference between “stationary” and “stationery” was a puzzle in the classic computer game, “Nord and Bert Couldn’t Make Heads or Tales of It.”

  3. Anon*

    Why is it that so many managers (the one in the letter; not AAM) find it normal to have such appallingly low standards as far as their managerial duties go? Needing to flag down the boss when they’re evading your follow-up questions to unclear directions is definitely not the employee’s responsibility; that’s the manager refusing to manage. And throwing crumpled paper balls at your subordinates goes beyond “minor annoyance.” In my book, that’s called bullying.

    I’m sorry for the harsh tone, but this really hits close to home. I’ve been in a similar position to OP, and have tried to be more aggressive with getting details (this is assuming I couldn’t figure it out on my own, of course), and all that got me was more avoidance. This is particularly frustrating being new to a job, when that extra guidance is essential. If my boss won’t give me the time of day that’s on them, not me, and there’s only so much I can do as their subordinate to make them do their job so that I can do mine.

    That said, I am glad things got better for the OP, and hope they’re doing well now.

    1. S*

      I totally understand since I was in a very similar situation. When a manager refuses to manage and train his new employee, after the new employee makes repeated attempts to get trained…it’s very frustrating to say the least!!
      I was very unhappy and ended up crying when I drove home after work! I stayed for two months hoping for things to get better, but nothing changed! So I resigned!

    2. HR CoolFish*

      It’s much less likely the boss is evading and very likely they are distracted by (perceived) greater priorities. This is a very common experience and if we want success the onus is on us to follow-up.

      What I have found to work in these situations, and similarly with meetings going off topic, is to draft a quick agenda, email to the boss, and bring into the meeting.

      The paper throwing was bad but was quickly corrected. I do not see bullying as it’s intent.

      1. Anon at 2:33*

        I’ve seen both scenarios play out: the manager being too busy, and the manager just trying to dodge my question. More egregious versions of the latter takes the form of saying, “Hey, I wonder if anyone emailed me!” after I’ve waited for them to, seemingly, mull over the question, and then, if there haven’t been any new messages, decide that they need to leave their office to refill their coffee that very moment, or get water, or run upstairs to get that package, or decide that they’re too tired to give me an answer. (I would normally cut a little slack with that last one, but not when there’s a history of them being unable to give me a straight answer – if any – to my questions.)

        While the line isn’t always that clear, there’s definitely a distinction between being busy and running away. They needed to be able to manage their time so that some of their schedule is actually dedicated to training new employees and answering possible questions from subordinates.

        I’m not saying that they need to always be available, but they surely do have some command over their schedule, and consistently choosing to put employee’s needs as a bottom-rung priority (below coffee breaks) says more than just, “I’m too busy.”

        1. Ruffingit*

          I agree. I worked for someone once who owned the company and refused to hire a manager to handle the day-to-day management situations. So the owner was functioning as owner, manager, office manager, sales rep, etc. It was really ridiculous and trying to get anything done was a big nightmare. You couldn’t go to other people who could help you without the go ahead from the manager otherwise you were accused of “unauthorized use of a co-worker’s time.” I am not joking. It was insane. I was glad to leave that job because there was no management whatsoever and trying to get anything organized or done never happened because the owner was too busy and refused to let go of enough control to hire someone and let them manage.

      2. Ethyl*

        Learning how to run a meeting and stick to an agenda was an invaluable skill I learned at one job from a boss who will forever be my role model in that. He ALWAYS had a written agenda, was great at keeping people on task. When he felt the conversation slipping he would say “ok are we all ready to move onto item #3? Ok great,” and just move on. It’s not rude, it’s just sticking to the agenda!

        1. Kelly O*

          I wish there were some sort of remedial manager school you could send people to, and teach them this exact thing.

          If you’re going to have a meeting, then call it a meeting, set an agenda and a timeframe, and stick to it.

          If you want to have a brainstorming session, then call it a brainstorming session, create an agenda, and stick to it.

          My biggest peeve is the meeting scheduled for one hour that ALWAYS goes over because there is no formal written agenda, and people wind up talking about whatever they want with little in the way of pushing things to more appropriate one-on-one meetings or other avenues that don’t just waste the time of everyone else. (Meaning, you should not be paying your mechanic to sit and listen to your customer service manager go on about uniforms, or your IT guy should not have to listen for fifteen minutes to a discussion of staffing issues in the warehouse.)

          1. HR CoolFish*

            Yes!
            A few years ago the big company I was with was looking to set up a Corp Safety Committee. The 1st attempt was an open invite with a weak facilitator and no agenda. It failed so badly it took another 18 months for the next attempt.

            I headed the following attempt with an agenda and keeping people on track. It was a much better result.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            I have come upon a trick that has changed our meetings.

            I’ve decreed most of our meetings as “opt in” which means that if a meeting leader wants people to show up, she has to produce a meeting that people want to go to and participate in.

            Critical element: ending. on. time.

            I coach leaders about trust. People have to trust that a meeting run by Penelope starts at 10am on the dot and ends at 10:25 on the dot and then they say to themselves, “okay I can block out that 25 minutes”.

            Treating meeting participants like customers has been transforming.

      3. Lily*

        I agree that the boss is more likely to be concentrating on higher priorities. Unfortunately, if you postpone decisions long enough, you run out of time and the decision makes itself.

    3. Anonymous*

      A lot of people don’t become managers because they want to be managers. They become managers because they are good at the job they would be managing, or because it is the only available avenue for a promotion. Many fields (and companies) don’t really promote you for being an expert in your field past a certain, relatively early point in your career. So you either become management, stagnate your wage, or open your own company.

      People who become managers via these methods sometimes don’t think there’s anything new to learn to become management. Sometimes they don’t really recognize they need a different skill set beyond their technical expertise. Sometimes they just don’t care. Sometimes they recognize that they are missing some skills, but don’t know how to fix that or lack the budget for any kind of training.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Yup, +1 to all of that. I’ve worked in different fields from food service to professional jobs across different states and I’ve found that there are very few people who know how to effectively manage. It’s a skill that can be taught in some ways, but not in others. You have to have some innate skills that many managers just don’t seem to possess.

  4. Jen*

    The e-mail checking KILLS me. Especially if it’s a scheduled meeting. I’ve had bosses do this during performance reviews and during presentations. Ever since the popularity of the iPhone it’s gotten worse. I’ve had one boss who simply could not sit for 5 minutes or longer and not check her phone at least twice. It was an addiction of hers. And if you said “I’m sorry, are you waiting for some info? I can come back” she’d say “oh no! No, I’m sorry, that was rude, let’s continue with this.” and then you’d see her fingers inching towards her phone and she’d check it again.

    I’ll agree that there are situations where this is totally understandable. I’ve gone into meetings and had someone say “I’m waiting for word on something so I’ll have to keep eye on the phone and e-mail, just so you know” but for the most part I think it’s just a tic/addiction for most people at work and it’s really disrespectful.

    Fortunately this is also a pet peeve of my current VP and because of that, it has trickled down to the rest of the department and no one does it now.

    1. Sharm*

      This happened to me during an interview, and that was the kiss of death for the company (that was the last straw after a horrible and awkward interview — on the employer’s part, not me!). If you can’t set aside your phone for something like an interview, I don’t think I want to work for you.

      1. Ruffingit*

        There is no excuse for bringing a phone to an interview. Block out the time, leave the phone in your desk. Unless someone is on call for something major like a parent who is currently in surgery (at which point they should probably be at the hospital, not at work) then I can’t see doing this to a person who is interviewing with your company. You were right to let that be a huge red flag.

        1. Sharm*

          He also LITERALLY opened up a newspaper and started reading it in the middle of one of my answers to his questions. It was unreal.

          1. Poe*

            This happened to me once, too! It was an interview fresh out of university, I was struggling to get a job, and I had to choke back tears in the interview…not that he noticed, he was literally giggling at the comics. What is wrong with people?!

    2. HR CoolFish*

      I hate this too but it’s so common now. Remember the “crackberry” craze 10 years (or so) ago?

    3. Ruffingit*

      I truly believe it is an addiction at this point for some people. Putting the phone away (not just down on the desk, but out of sight and off) is like asking them to cut off an arm. It’s sad that people seem unable to give 100% attention to the person right in front of them for 30 minutes or less.

      1. Steve G*

        I don’t get it either. People in my office do it as well, as none of us get very urgent or exceedingly interesting emails. And personally, I like the feeling of going back to my desk after some time away and finding a bunch of emails to go through, no need to open each one as it comes.

      2. Windchime*

        I have a coworker that I also go to dinner with sometimes, and s/he also does this. It’s like a compulsion. S/he will put it down, but then when the light blinks (indicating that an email has come in), s/he picks up the phone and checks. Every time.

  5. Jubilance*

    I can relate to so much of this email – I’m going through a lot of this with my current manager and it’s so hard to not be irritated & unhappy . I’m glad it worked out well for the OP, I fear I won’t have the same happy ending though.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, that still hasn’t gotten any better? I’m sorry to hear that. Hopefully you’ll get your own happy ending, even if it’s not your manager reforming.

      1. Jubilance*

        Still the same issues. I’m getting advice to talk to my manager about my feedback, but he gets defensive and he retaliates so that isn’t an option, at least until after reviews are done, which is at least March. I’m trying to hold out but who knows if I can make it.

        Thanks for the support fposte :-)

  6. Regarding interruptions...*

    Interruptions are very annoying to those of us who wait our turn to speak, but some people simply have a different sense of how conversations flow. For them, interrupting = being engaged. There are many studies of this, particularly with cross-culture communications. Many include advice regarding how to communicate with an interrupter if you are not one, and vice versa. Look them up and try their advice.

    1. Poe*

      Ooh, thank you for this perspective! I am an interrupter and used to work for an interrupter, and it worked really well for us. My new boss is very much NOT an interrupter, and some of the stuff that came up when I followed your search advice will help me communicate better with him.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      And, when you’re not an interrupter and you’re speaking to someone who doesn’t even pause to breathe, there’s very little hope of ever saying anything. It’s not work related, but there is one friend who I HAVE to interrupt, just so I can let her know that now isn’t a good time to talk. But even then, it takes 5-15 minutes to finish the call (since I’m also not a hanger-upper).

      I’ll have to look up that advice!

      1. Susan*

        Is your friend my mom? Love her to death but I can never get a word in edgewise. I think if I called her to tell her I broke my leg I’d be lucky if I got to mention it before she was ready to hang up.

        I also think it’s unfortunately bled into my communication; I have a hard time figuring out how not to talk over people.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Holy crap, I just googled that too and learned a ton of things about my and my husband’s communication style differences. (A Jew married to a midwesterner, if that tells you anything.)

    4. Mints*

      Oh interesting! I’m an interrupter, and sometimes I catch myself interrupting friends who are kind of like AS I WAS SAYING,
      But you’re right, I’m just excited and trying to be engaged.

    5. Clever Name*

      Thanks for mentioning this. I’m an interrupter, and I constantly have to remind myself to not blurt out what I want to say and actually listen to what the other person is saying and then respond when there is a pause. Some people seem not to mind, but it’s really something I try and stay on top of at work. I have no idea how successful I am at doing so. :/

    6. Ruffingit*

      Most people listen with an intent to reply, they don’t listen with the intent to understand. That makes a big difference in the whole interruption/not interrupting thing. If you really want to understand what someone is saying/feeling/thinking, then you listen without interruption because it’s not important for you to reply, you’re trying to really hear them.

      I’m not a fan of interruptions at all and it annoys me when someone does it principally because I think the world lacks enough people who will just listen.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I am both an interrupter and an intense listener. Folks are so used to the other person not listening, they will go on and on about something when really I have gotten it all in the first sentence.

        There’s a lot going on. So I will interrupt with a summary of the point being made, “Okay, so you want to investigate new teapot handle suppliers because the current one isn’t making deliverables? Excellent, have at it.”

        I will also interrupt with clarifying questions to move somebody along, but I am always listening.

      2. Lily*

        I listen to understand and I interrupt when I get lost. It may be polite to just continue to listen but I don’t think it helps communication.

        1. Ruffingit*

          There are clearly times where interrupting is appropriate. You and Wakeen have given two good examples of when it’s OK to do so. I’m more addressing people who interrupt for no good reason and would do well to actually listen to what someone has to say fully. Again, there are times where it’s OK not to do that, but overall I find it so much better when people listen and don’t interrupt.

  7. Anonymous*

    I would love to be able to hear from the OP now that she has six years more experience. The OP sounds just like me in my twenties. I would not go back to that age for all the money in the world!

  8. Nonprofit Office Manager*

    Oh man. I could write a short novel on the topic of irritating bosses. Here’s my $0.02:

    * From the very beginning, make yourself as valuable as you can to your boss. He or she will be more inclined to change his/her irritating behavior if they are afraid of losing you. If you are mediocre, your assessment of the situation won’t hold much weight and a boss will have little incentive to change.

    * Prioritize your concerns. If my boss regularly does 10 irritating things, I’ll pick 3 things to focus on in terms of seeking a solution. I try hard to mentally let the rest go (with varying degrees of success).

    * As AAM said, as much as possible, definitely try to circumvent the lousy behavior (e.g., be extremely forthright about getting what you need in order to perform your job). Also, don’t underestimate playing psychological tricks on yourself! For example, my boss likes me do a small particular task that for a variety of reasons I feel she should do herself. These days, though, I try to volunteer to perform the task before she has a chance to ask. Even though I’m still doing the work for her, I find that proactively offering to do it myself, rather than being asked, alleviates 90% of the annoyance!

    * While I encourage self-reflection and LOVE the concept of “managing up”, at the end of the day, it’s OK to say (to yourself) “You know, I *could* choose to continue putting up with X, but I don’t want to anymore. I’m outta here!” Of course, if you come to this conclusion every six months, increased introspection is in order. But generally, voting with your feet can be an incredibly powerful, transformative even, experience. Just make sure that it comes from a place of pursuing what you DO want as opposed to just stomping off in a huff.

    1. Mints*

      I agree especially with your second point. It’s difficult to separate what’s actually bad management and what’s just me being annoyed. So I try to imagine how I would react if it was OldBoss (who I liked) doing Thing That Annoys Me. Sometimes I realize I’m being petty, and sometimes I realize it’s really bad management. It’s helpful to to think about good management as I job hunt.

      Also, related to the paper throwing thing, I think it’s okay to show (annoyed face, body language) that you don’t appreciate that humor, as long as you’re still reasonably friendly otherwise.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I am pretty irritating. My direct report staff alternately puts up with me or takes care of me, depending on the irritating thing I am doing at the moment.

      The stationery comment cracked me up. I can’t keep a pair of scissors to save my life. If I need to cut something, you’ll hear me banging around my desk for a minute or so and then, “oh help, can somebody scissor me!” and then, I don’t know if they draw straws or what, somebody comes with a pair of scissors and cuts the thing I am holding out. Then I say the same thing every time, “Thank you, I don’t know where my scissors got to, ” and think to myself, I should get another pair of scissors and then forget about it a second later because what I needed scissored has already been scissored and I don’t remember I can’t find scissors until two weeks later when I need to cut something.

      I do have like five staplers. I don’t think I’ve stapled anything in a year, but if the need comes up, I’m good to fly on my own.

      I never, ever remember vacation or days off. My people are great. Gwen requests vacation, I approve it, then Gwen reminds me a week before, then the day before that she will be off. All in writing. I say things like, “oh, thanks for reminding me, have a great time!” and then the next morning a couple hours in, I’ll be like, “hey, is Gwen in today?” and someone will say gently “Gwen’s out, she’ll be back in on Friday” and I’ll say, “Oh yeah, that’s right. I hope she is having a good time.”

      Rinse and repeat the next day.

      If you do Myers Briggs, I will tell you that I am an ENFP with 20 N and *zero* S and that explains all that. I walk into walls so my staff puts up bumpers. (metaphorically atm)

      Of course we are all irritating, some more than others. Part of the magic in building a relationship, a family or direct report team is putting together people who can smile at or at least tolerate that irritating thing the other person is doing.

      Also, if you know you are irritating don’t also be obnoxious. Irritating + gracious goes over a lot better than irritating + obnoxious.

  9. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    Hmmm, I see I replied to Non Profit Manager’s excellent post and then didn’t refer to it at all. Before I got distracted (isn’t that irritating?), I meant to address this point:

    * From the very beginning, make yourself as valuable as you can to your boss. He or she will be more inclined to change his/her irritating behavior if they are afraid of losing you. If you are mediocre, your assessment of the situation won’t hold much weight and a boss will have little incentive to change.

    Yep. I’m a fan of managing up also. The boss doesn’t have to be afraid of losing you, it could just be that once your opinion is shown to be valuable, feedback is taken on board.

  10. FRRibs*

    To lay off the serious sauce for a moment…the first read-through I went glaze eyed and head scratching trying to figure out what screwing paper means. I had this image of throwing daggars fabricated by corkscrewing sheets of paper.

    (An aside to the aside…we used to diagram sentences until we could do it in our sleep back in grammar school. I smile every time I drop one of these ridiculous sentences that diagram like snowflakes on acid.)

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yeah, I was a bit confused by that one too. I wonder if it is a regional saying, and we’re from the wrong region. I would have said crumpled up paper.

  11. Jessica*

    Although I found AAM’s advice valuable, I think it’s pretty clear that the OP’s boss has no respect for her (through no fault of her own) and it’s not just the OP getting annoyed by a bunch of little things. Feeling like you don’t matter as a person/employee is a pretty big deal. It sounds like maybe she eventually “earned” his respect but I think every human being deserves a certain baseline of respect (i.e. not having wadded up paper thrown at them).

  12. Working Girl*

    I agree with AAM advice, thank you for the pointers. I think we can all relate to some of these things. Since the boss is an email checker, then send him email updates as he will read these and then when you meet he will have prior knowledge so you can lead into a reply without having to explain first which hopefully will shorten the meeting. Sounds like the boss has some social issues he needs to deal with so just keep leading him back as AAM suggests. Sounds like the boss forgets that his employees are there to work and get paid first and foremost.

  13. Mary*

    I totally feel the OP’s pain. I have the same type of manager, who never wants to manage anyone or anything. When I try to get my information I normally write him e-mails. He hardly ever responds and normally with something vague. Most of the time he tries to walk to my desk and tell me the answer, which is also incomplete and doesn’t give me any of the information I need. I have to ask a thousand questions in order to get some of my projects started. I can hardly complete anything on time, because he is never on time with his answers, but keeps asking me what’s taking so long. It’s so frustrating. Not only this, but he is socially awkward, never says good morning or hi or anything. He also stares at me often and comes and stands close to me without saying a word. Whenever I turn to ask him what he needs, he just smiles creepy and says “nothing, just checking in”. It makes me feel so uncomfortable as he just stands there and stares at my back or something. I don’t understand why socially awkward people are put in management positions. It’s sad to see.

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