having a bad boss can make you sick, superstars can struggle to bond with their teams, and more

Over at Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several big work-related stories in the news right now: having a bad boss can make you sick, why some superstars struggle to bond with their teams, and more. You can read it here.

{ 44 comments… read them below }

  1. NoPantsFridays*

    That’s interesting about the vacation. Now that we’re approaching the end of the year, I know a lot of people who have massive amounts of unused vacation that can’t roll over or be paid out. My dad gets 6 weeks of vacation per year, and he has so much vacation left he could take until the end of the year off…except he can’t, because he has a massive workload. I knew someone who took the entire month of December off last year and still didn’t use all of his annual vacation.

    I’m glad my boss is very reasonable about vacation time and takes time himself! I have 6 days left this year which I’ll have no problem using. I wish I could roll it over but my company’s policy is use it or lose it.

    1. Mister Pickle*

      I’m one of those people. I’ve got 19 days to use by the end of the year – use or lose. I’d gladly roll it over, but it’s not an option. And so I’m taking most of December off. Which is, frankly, okay by me, but my mgmt isn’t crazy about it. They were, however, okay with it earlier in the year, when I was always available when they needed me.

    2. Jennifer*

      My mother is forbidden from using vacation for 4 months of the year (January-April) for business reasons. Which is normally fine, but now they’ve forbidden her from using vacation in May and June as well, because shockingly, June is the end of their fiscal/rollover year and everyone needs to use or lose vacation time then. She took half of June off this year and was told “never again,” apparently. So she has to burn all of hers within the first six months of the year. It’s been a pain, especially since they threw down this decree in August and then she started harassing me to go on vacation with her and fall isn’t the best time for ME to go. Ugh.

  2. Cath in Canada*

    One of my former jobs triggered the onset of anxiety and panic attacks – luckily not too severe compared to what some people have to deal with, but still horrible. It wasn’t my direct supervisor so much as the overall company culture. I met some great people there and learned a lot, but I was immensely relieved to leave for a healthier environment. The anxiety started easing a few weeks into the new job, and stopped entirely after about a year. There were still crunch times close to big deadlines, but it felt so much more manageable.

    1. Cube Diva*

      My experience is a lot like yours! My last job (boss) was a micromanager, to the point that I started going to therapy a few times a month. I’d feel my shoulders tighten and my breathing get short the moment I saw her car pull into the parking lot– worried about what she’d find that was wrong the moment she walked in. I’ve always had slight issues with anxiety, but nothing that ever impacted my day-to-day life, until then.

      I’ve been at my current job for a year, and I think I’m finally getting over the major stuff. It takes a while, even with a great new job and new boss!

    2. Allison*

      Mmm, been there, had two panic attacks over a particular ongoing project at my first job, which I got in trouble for having, since it was bad for morale and scared the new person on our team. Combination of micromanagement and crazy expectations made me eventually dread going to work each day, and I was really relieved to get recruited to a much more relaxed environment. That said, I still sometimes have flashbacks, and start holding myself to the expectations of my first job, and I need to walk away for a bit and calm down or I’ll have a complete breakdown.

    3. Csarndt*

      I quit a job midsummer without a backup because the anxiety and stress of being unemployed and short of funds was less than the anxiety and stress of showing up to work every day. My heart arrhythmia is almost nonexistent, my autoimmune problems are nearly nonexistent, my chronic pain condition is nearly resolved, I sleep at night, and I have only one regret…I didn’t do it sooner.

      1. Vicki*

        I know that feeling. When I was laid off from LastJob, my first thought was relief. My second was that they were shooting themselves in the foot. My third was more relief.

      2. Suzanne*

        Been there. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, anxious, and would drive to work with a pit in my stomach. It finally came down to me needing intense therapy or quit the job. Career suicide, yes, and I’ve never recovered financially, but at least I’m not curled up in a fetal position in a corner somewhere.

    4. Natascha*

      I thought I was alone. I had a nervous breakdown at my last job. It was fine for a year until I got a new boss. I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks (have been managing it since I was in grade school) and she thought it was a great thing to make fun of me for….which naturally, only made the anxiety/panic attacks worse. I eventually spiralled into depression where I’d cry every morning and afternoon on the train and used to wish I’d go to sleep and never wake up so I didn’t have to go back. Eventually snapped and had a nervous breakdown and left the next week. Now been unemployed for a year since….and I’m starting to regret quitting, but my father keeps telling me to remember why I had to leave that place.

      1. Purple Dragon*

        Natascha – she made fun of you for suffering from anxiety and panic attacks ? It sounds like something out of a mean-girls high school movie – I’m absolutely gobsmacked that someone would do this in a professional environment !

        If you’re in the US wouldn’t that be covered by your FLMA laws ? (I think that’s the acronym). I don’t know much about them so could be completely wrong.

        Did you ever report her ? I hope you’re recovered now – and your Dad’s right – your health (mental and physical) is more important. I’m really sorry you had to tolerate such a person.

        1. Natascha*

          I’m outside the United States, but in the end, I was just so relieved to be out of there that I decided not to push it any further and just concentrate on recovering from how much the place affected me.

          Right now, I’m sitting here in tears because I can’t get another job. I didn’t think it would take this long and I’m so stressed and scared and freaked out.

    5. Ethyl*

      ::nod nod:: I’m in therapy now finally dealing with the abusive sexist bully I worked for prior to returning to grad school. It’s astonishing how deeply into your brain that stuff can get.

  3. Bend & Snap*

    I’ve posted this here before, but my last company had a really generous vacation policy. However, my boss discouraged us from taking it and wouldn’t approve it if he didn’t feel we required it–like if we had tickets somewhere, okay, but if we just wanted days off to do stuff at home, no go. Of course, he took every drop of his, often consecutive weeks at a time in exotic locales. I reported this in my exit interview (spring) and they paid out all my unused vacation from the previous year because I had tried to take it on 8 different occasions and my boss wouldn’t approve it. It ended up being 11 days paid out.

    The company culture was definitely one that encouraged vacation but my team culture wasn’t. I hear from former colleagues that this changed after I left.

    1. puddin*

      Quite frankly not sure I would not have lied about having ‘tickets’. Not sure your boss didn’t either… ;)

    2. A.*

      I’ll never understand managers like this. Vacation days aren’t some gift or privilege; they are benefits you’ve earned and a part of your compensation package.

      1. Allison*

        Not to mention vital to people’s physical and mental well-being. Everyone needs time to rest, recharge, and clear their minds. And if your department is so busy that you can’t ever do without a single person for a week, it’s probably time to hire some additional staff.

      2. OhNo*

        Exactly! I can certainly understand bosses saying “not now” to vacation time when it’s super busy or there’s just too much to do. But when they ALWAYS say that, regardless of work load, it does nothing but make your employees resent you.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          And quit…case in point. I have less vacation in my current role but I actually use more than I did at the last place.

  4. Malissa*

    The way around being an ostracized superstar is to be the only one who does what you do at your job. Then nobody realizes (maybe not even yourself) that what you are doing is that far above average. I left my last position after 7 years of growing and developing it into something I really enjoyed. My replacement has wondered how I got everything done that I did.

    1. Anon.*

      Contracting/freelancing is another option. It helps with diffusing a toxic environment (I hope to never again have to work with a horrible boss and the minions who are willing to forego any sense of ethics or morals to do the boss’s bidding), since you don’t have to truly part of it, and you also are expected to perform above average at the task at hand. I hate to say it but…but being that I am Anon….but being smart, an effective performer, and pretty, and not being terribly touchy-feely is not a winning combination. The things that did me no favors in the full-time world, do me well in the freelance/contract world.

      1. Clever Name*

        Yes! I feel exactly the same way! I hate even talking about it anonymously because people are all, “Wah, it must be so hard to be smart AND attractive”.

        One of my coworkers insists on having a meeting to rehash the same topic for the millionth time. It’s apparently a topic that many at my company are having a hard time grasping that I figured out within a year of doing the work. I’m having a really hard time not getting incredibly frustrated by this. I finally called my boss and asked why we are having the meeting and was it an external processing thing, in which case I would just suck it up and deal with it.

    2. James M*

      The flip side is that your boss won’t understand that you’re a 9-5 miracle worker. And that’s not great for morale. Personally, I’d rather find a job where I’m not the superstar.

  5. Sandrine (France)*

    Oh boy.

    I feel so, so close to number 2.

    But I don’t think it’s just a bad boss. I think if the environment is bad for you in general, you can become sick from it. And sometimes, it takes a while to see this, which makes it all the more bizarre o_O .

  6. Elizabeth*

    Sometimes, you don’t even know that a bad boss is creating health problems for you. When my previous manager was terminated, my doctor noted it, because my blood pressure dropped almost 20 points top & bottom due to reduced stress. I even actually liked the guy as a person; he just was a really poor manager whose lack of management skills created a lot of problems for me.

  7. some1*

    My issue with vacation time at a couple former places was not having a defined back-up to do my tasks when I was out, so I basically had to ask someone that knew how to do it or train someone before my time off. It felt like I had to ask 5 different people if I could take a vacation day.

  8. AnonyMiss*

    What made me wonder was if people are banking vacation time for a final payout… if there is still a kind of distrust/concern on whether our jobs are as permanent as we’d like to think they are, and therefore people are banking their PTO/vacation, so that when they get laid off, it gives an extra bit of cushion, even if a modest one.

    1. fposte*

      I was curious how common that practice is, since it’s not mandatory in most states. I haven’t dug into the background of this study, which suggests it’s about 88% of their responders. Additionally, there’s a lot of interesting information in it about different PTO practices and their reasons: http://www.worldatwork.org/waw/adimLink?id=38913

    2. fposte*

      Now that I’m link-hunting, here’s another interesting overview of leave in private industry, with some informative contrasts between 2012 and 1992: http://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-2/paid-leave-in-private-industry-over-the-past-20-years.htm

      Interestingly, *access* to sick leave has gone up (meaning more people have it) and access to vacation has gone slightly down; however, the average number of vacation days allotted has has gone up and the average number of sick days has gone down.

  9. AnonAlces*

    I feel like the “superstars struggling to bond” is something I have a lot of trouble with, too. I wouldn’t rate myself a superstar, but I recently learned, via a team exercise, that my skills are comparable to folks who are more senior in the role. I’m also exceptionally good at troubleshooting and I finish work very quickly. And yes, it does create a distance, for all that I try to be “benevolent high achiever,” offering assistance and being generally outgoing. There is always this sense in which I have to make myself seem less… whatever, or get this weird side-eye.

    I’ve honestly considered writing Alison about this issue myself, as it’s something that troubles me. Interesting to see it addressed here.

  10. Former Professional Computer Geek*

    I had a really bad boss. He’d publicly compliment me on my work, then go back to his office and send scathing emails about my incompetence, which he’d then print out and put in my file. He’d set me up with impossible goals, like taking away projects from other groups, and then send more scathing email about my failure to comply with his demands (all while the managers of the other groups were screaming at him to stop). My responses to the emails and reviews taking me to task for not doing the impossible kept disappearing from my file.

    I’d had that job for 10+ years and loved it until he became my manager. After a year I got seriously ill, and was in and out of the hospital for the next two years. The boss took it personally. He took me off almost all of my projects saying, “I can’t depend on you when I don’t know when you’ll be in the hospital.” He stepped up the impossible goals. He clearly wanted me gone, but I was struggling so hard to get healthy that I couldn’t job hunt. I will never forget the time I was in the hospital, so seriously ill I was in isolation, and he called me up to not only demand to know why I hadn’t filled out short-term-disability paperwork (to cover the hospital stay, as I’d used up all my PTO with a previous hospital stay), but to tell me what I needed to be working on the minute I got out of the hospital. My doctor came into the room to find me crying hysterically and begged me to quit the job then and there. (Foolishly, I didn’t.)

    Eventually he got his wish and fired me. I haven’t been in the hospital since!

  11. Fast Paced Franny*

    I got that “Oh my this is sooo my situation” when reading about the “superstar” being singled out, because it is something I have recently experienced going to work for a Big Company. Prior to the move to the Big Company I was at a small firm where I wore many hats. I was always busy, always under pressure (which suited me), and always being challenged to learn something new, but I wanted to work with people in my field and I was running the show alone. I knew that at Big Company my duties were going to be more streamlined, but I was told the volume would be high and that I would be very busy. It never happened. The volume sometimes was high but I always completed my work in that same day. I like to have more on my plate than I can handle, but most days to keep busy I had to ask others what I could do for them. Many of my co-workers “chatted” throughout the day, took long lunches (to me an 1 hr lunch was rare at the small company), took coffee breaks, and simply put socializing at the forefront of their day. I simply was not used to that and to be honest it was not something I felt good about doing, I felt lazy and personally I would have rather been working. I was often told I needed to be “bubbly” and encouraged to share my life with everyone. I was of course cordial and never made any rude or obscene comments or had any outbursts or anything that would resemble what I would call unprofessional. If someone came to chat with me I entertained it, but will admit I rarely initiated the chatting. This behavior actually got me terminated. I wasn’t surprised when it happened but felt it was childish that because I didn’t fit into the “women’s club” (I hate to stereotype but this is how I felt and perceived it) it warranted me losing my job. I even asked point blank if there was anything wrong with my work and the answer was “no”. It was because of me and the fact that I didn’t want to become “besties” with my co-workers. The job did not “require” someone who was bubbly or had the spirit of a cheerleader even though when let go this why they said I was let go, it was simply a “want”. I was glad that it happened because I didn’t fit in there and never would. I am comfortable in my skin and know that I didn’t do anything “wrong” but that it was just not a good fit.

    However, now I am wondering how to figure out in my next job if the environment will be like that again, without putting it negatively. And advice on this?

      1. Maggie*

        Unfortunately, cultural fits are very important. Especially when you consider the increasing time we spend in the office as we climb the ladder. The advice is the same that Alison would give you: scrutinize the company when you interview; make sure it’s a good fit for YOU, and be very clear what your goals are.

        Keep in mind that politics aren’t just in DC, but in any Big Company and learning to charm will get you incredibly far. And that includes the Ladies Club (maybe more so in some companies). My personal advice to you is to not brush off how important it is to engage your coworkers. If you’re a true team player, and a solid-to-exceptional employee, there is nothing really stopping you.

    1. Clever Name*

      Sounds like the small company environment suited you. I’m a high performer in a small, fast paced company, and I really love it. Wearing many hats is great, and we’re now of a size where we have more than one person working in a particular area of expertise. The owner of my company is a woman and an engineer, and she totally gets that not all women are bubbly types.

  12. Brisvegan*

    My very worst boss contributed to a slew of employee illnesses. She was very manipulative and wanted to get rid of several long term staff to replace them with her friends (and had told her friends that the long term staff would be leaving when the long term staff was doing no such thing). She did all sorts of weird stuff, including silent treatments, weird rages over trivial stuff, misrepresenting people’s work in meetings and emails to try to discredit them, blaming her stuff-ups on everyone else etc.

    Over 6 months, I ended up with blood pressure up 20 points, on anti-depressants and was described as having PTSD symptoms. Another co-worker became suicidally depressed, to the point that his psychologist told him to leave the job immediately because it had become life threatening for him. A third, who was pregnant, ended up with very high blood pressure and was told by doctors to go on maternity leave early or she was risking her life and the life of her baby.

    Fortunately, my organisation is very decent and when this was drawn to the attention of the powers that be, the boss finished working for us soon after.

  13. Girasol*

    It seems funny to me that wellness programs remind us to eat right and take a nice walk over our lunch hour but they don’t tackle management-based stress. Think of the savings in ER visits alone!

    1. S from CO*

      I agree! Great observation.
      I didn’t realize the many ways that the awful boss affected my health. I wish insurance plans had an additional option of “Bad boss removal”!

  14. Lisa*

    Workplace PTSD makes me look unsure of myself at my new job. I’ve been here for 8 months, and still check in with my bosses to see if my actions are ok with them. I am so used to being overruled from my last job that I expect everything I do to be questioned like before, so I try to not look like an idiot to clients by getting permission first. But I am constantly looking at my boss to reassure me that I am ok to say this or that and to recommend something. I stay silent in meetings where my overall boss is in and let him talk. I have to fix this, and my direct boss has made it a point in my ‘things to work on’ pre-review discussion. He told me that I need to work on my confidence cause I do know how to do my job. He gets it because we worked at the same place before, but he has been out for 2 years so its easier for him. I was gaslighted big time by that place (women there got it worse), so I think my PTSD is worse than his so I think that is why its taking me so long to recover and realize my old boss was an ass and that I know what I am doing.

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