update: can I fix how my boss treats people?

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer wondering how to fix the crappy way her boss treated others? Here’s the update.

A few months after my letter was posted, I attended a regional meeting with my boss. During a presentation from a colleague about an initiative he is trying to launch, my boss stood up, told him why he’s wrong, and explained how he thought it should be handled. He should have been shut down right away by the meeting facilitator, but unfortunately was allowed to go on long enough to completely mortify me and make everyone else uncomfortable. Later in the day, he publicly called me out for not sharing some information with the group in a very abrasive, demeaning way (what he didn’t know what I had already shared this information with colleagues at a previous meeting). I had several people come up to me after and tell me things like, “That was awful” and “You didn’t deserve that.” I felt bad and anxious and just…sad all weekend from it.

But! There is a silver lining. Seeing my colleagues’ reactions to him in real time made me realize that he’s so much worse than I wanted to admit and that I DON’T deserve this. Everyone who commented on my letter was right. He isn’t going to change. He’s damaging my professional reputation. I’m not dealing with it as well as I thought. So, my husband and I sat down and talked about where we would be willing to move to and what salary we would be willing to move for, and I’ve started a serious job hunt. I had been casually looking all year but made a lot of excuses—I’m not 100% qualified, there’s a recession coming and I have job security now, what if a new job is just as bad—but I feel motivated and excited to dedicate myself to finding a new job. I’m happy to say that I’ve had three interviews this month, and I’m waiting to hear about three other positions that I think would be a great fit for me.

Two weeks after that meeting, we had an organization-wide event, and apparently some people submitted written comments mentioning the very things I wrote about in my letter. I think the comments have found their way to a few board members. I’ve also heard more grumbling from our members about the way he treats people, so maybe some action will finally be taken, but I don’t plan on sticking around long enough to find out.

I can’t thank you or the commenters enough for all the kind advice and words of encouragement. It was so helpful to know that I’m not alone in experiencing a boss like this, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

{ 26 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Good luck with your job search! I hope your terrible boss faces some consequences for his bad behavior too.

  2. Zona the Great*

    Holy lord. I have been to one event like you described and witnessed a blow-hard get told to “shut the hell up” by a random stranger in the audience. It was pure gold. He literally stopped talking on a dime and sat down. I wonder how that would’ve played out here. I love when natural consequences happen naturally. I’m so frustrated on your behalf for having to deal with it.

  3. OhBehave*

    It’s too bad that OP was so beaten down by this jerk that they didn’t correct him in the moment. Now that everyone has seen his true colors, something will happen to him.

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I’m not OP, but I’d be too embarrassed to answer right there. Besides, how would he react? Would he fire OP on the spot for having “an attitude”?

      1. Tzeitel*

        I think OP meant that some of the colleagues should have stepped up instead of told her how they felt after the fact.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I an understand that, but I’m not letting my boss (or anyone for that matter) treat me that way. I’d call him out on it in the moment – I’m sure nobody has ever done that which is why he thinks it’s okay.

  4. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    Your boss clearly never learnt that you correct in private and praise in public. I’m glad people saw him for the garbage he is. Hope you get a better job at a better place soon.

  5. Mama Bear*

    Sometimes it is enough in the short term to know you aren’t out of line in what you are thinking/feeling. I’m glad you are looking for a new job but also glad he publicly put his worst foot forward so that people see what you are dealing with. Good luck to you in your job hunt!

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Another fave: “may you constantly feel like you have to sneeze but be unable to do so.”

  6. Fikly*

    You can never change the behavior of people you have no power over.

    And often you cannot change the behavior of people you do have power over.

  7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m sorry to hear that you’re fighting the cycle that haunts a lot of us when it comes to leaving a toxic situation. The whole “Devil you know vs devil you don’t” is an awful trick our minds plays on us.

    I’m glad you’re finding peace and understanding that it’s not in your head, that’s a huge brick off your back. Best of luck finding something new and I hope you stop talking yourself out of your options soon!

  8. Bookworm*

    I missed the original letter but am sorry you’ve been having such an experience. Been in somewhat similar situations (not to this degree!) so I am sympathetic. Good luck and hope you find something soon!!

  9. SebbyGrrl*

    Kudos on taking the actions that offer the best chance at a better outcome and getting that you can’t do anything that will alter his behavior.

    Here’s the thing, you may encounter people in the workplace that are as bad or worse.

    But you have started the right work on how you cope, deal, experience others’ bad behavior.

    I’m 53, been working since I was 14. My only regret is that despite the power imbalance that I didn’t push back more (I completely understand the feeling that you can’t because you need the job).

    Watch the Office (again) or Dead Like Me, find ridiculous pranks and gags or gafs you can get away with, I really wish I hadn’t taken ‘the high road’ and pushed back in the ways that ARE available to ‘the powerless’ have some fun so you’re not just accepting the crap.

  10. MissDisplaced*

    Aw Man that’s a really tough situation. I’m so happy you did realize it’s worse… and that it’s beyond normal. Perhaps the board will do something, but at least you’re not waiting around to find out.

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