my boss sucks and there’s nothing I can do

A reader writes:

I work at a large company in marketing. I relocated for this job, but we’ve been remote during my entire year and a half tenure here. I don’t have any social connections here, but I took this job because it was a great opportunity for growth and I really liked the hiring manager and the rest of the team. Four months into my role, my boss moved to a different team, and I got a new manager from another department.

Initially I gave my new manager, “Josh,” the benefit of the doubt and assumed his shortfalls were due to the steep learning curve of the role. He seemed to constantly forget conversations we’d had or things that were discussed in meetings and would rely on me to remind him of things daily. He also repeated ideas I presented to him as his own. At first I assumed he was overwhelmed with his new role. But after a few months, I saw patterns emerge and realized that this was not a temporary problem.

Josh also treats me like his personal assistant. He IM’s me constantly throughout the day, wanting me to remind him of what was discussed in meetings he was in, asking me to find emails that were sent to him because he can’t bother looking in his inbox, you name it.

Then there’s the mansplaining. He lectures me on topics that I know more about than he does and questions my decisions and opinions even when he knows nothing about the matter. He turns down my ideas and makes suggestions that are straight up wrong and impossible to execute within our business. He has continued to take credit for my ideas and other women’s ideas in meetings and in front of senior leadership.

Although he has a lot to say about every project, when it comes to doing the actual work, he disappears, leaving me to figure everything out by myself. He usually makes an appearance towards the end of a project, adding something or demanding a last-minute change so his involvement is visible and he can claim credit.

I’ve had many discussions with him where I politely addressed his behavior. Each time he is very apologetic and says he will make changes. But those changes last for about a week before he reverts back. I’ve also talked with the head of our team, who fully acknowledged the problems and said she has also noticed these patterns. She assured me that she would give Josh feedback and asked me to reduce his involvement in my work, which is not really doable when the guy is my boss.

I’m drained and exhausted. I tried to bring this up again with the head of our team, but she was not open to discussing it again. I feel like I don’t have anyone to go to for help or support. Our projects are interesting and fun, but I am not excited by the work anymore. I dread logging in each day and feel like I am always defensive and annoyed with my interactions with him.

Since I don’t know anyone in this area, all I do is obsess over work and it’s bleeding into the little personal life I do have. I recently decided to start looking for other jobs, but I know finding one will take some time. How do I stop dreading work every day in the meantime? Is there anything I can do to make things more bearable and to hate my boss a little less?

This might sound counterintuitive, but sometimes accepting that a work situation isn’t going to change can make it more bearable.

Before you accept that, it’s common to feel internal pressure to do something — to talk to your boss again or talk to his boss, find the right wording, land on a new approach. Something is wrong, and so there must be something you can do to solve it.

But there can be real liberation in deciding that you don’t need to do any of that because the reality is simply that your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.

You’ve already tried all the sensible approaches. You’ve talked to Josh himself — repeatedly, it sounds like. (And good for you for doing that, because a lot of people wouldn’t have the stomach for raising these sorts of issues with their boss, let alone more than once.) But he promises to change and then he doesn’t. You’ve also talked to his boss, and even though she agreed there are problems, she’s told you she’s not going to discuss it again, which closed that door in a pretty final way. For whatever reason, she’s decided that she’s going to live with Josh’s behavior the way it is now and won’t intervene further. (In fairness, it’s possible that she is working on Josh’s issues behind the scenes, but then she should have said something to you like, “I know about the problems and am working on them, although I won’t be able to fix things overnight.” Instead she shut you down.)

Since you’ve done both of those things, there’s not a lot left to try, and it makes sense that you’re feeling stuck.

Since you can’t change Josh and you can’t make his boss be more interested in changing Josh … what if you just accepted that Josh sucks and isn’t going to change, and then planned accordingly? For example, assume he’s going to IM you for reminders throughout the day (and maybe turn off or just ignore IMs for a few hours if that’s acceptable in your office) and see it as an annoying but unavoidable part of the job. Expect that he’s going to lecture you on topics you know well and he knows nothing about, and internally roll your eyes. Or, hell, if your dynamic with him allows for it, respond with, “Josh, I’m our internal expert on this! Of course I know how to do X and Y.”

And when he takes credit for your ideas in front of others, try calmly reasserting the credit for yourself. Matter-of-fact phrases like, “Yep, when I brought this proposal to Josh, I suggested …” and “My idea on this was to do …” can make it clear the ideas being discussed were originally yours. You can do something similar when he takes credit for other women’s ideas too — “That was originally Maya’s thought, and I think her point about X is so smart because …”

Ideally, switching your mind-set to “Josh sucks and isn’t going to change” would mean you’re not aggravated every time he does a Josh-like thing, because you expect it of him, plan for it, and know it’s going to keep happening. That might sound like giving up, but I’d argue that since you’ve tried the other available avenues without success, this approach is just fully committing to seeing the reality of the job and proceeding accordingly.

Josh will still be annoying; there’s no way to change that. But he might be less exhausting when you’re not constantly trying to figure out a way to change things. You’ll almost certainly end up obsessing over the situation less; it’s hard to obsess over changing a problem when you’ve accepted that it won’t change. And then you can transfer that energy into finding a new, Josh-free job.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 117 comments… read them below }

  1. RandomLawyer*

    I mean, there is something you can do: find another job. 18 months won’t make you look flighty if you decide to change positions.

  2. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    Thats a great answer.
    If there is an exit interview hopefully more then Josh and supervisor are present. Also put a review on Glassdoor explaining this is what happens at this company.

    1. Essentially Cheesy*

      And in my experience, I had to wait for my old sucky boss to retire. I recognize many of his behaviors in this letter. The issue is that he kept on extending his retirement date .. he was 73 when he retired. That was 7 long extra years. However I am maxxed out on some benefits and my pay is very very good at this point, so there was a trade off.

      I don’t expect this to work for everyone but I also didn’t expect old boss to try to work forever.

    2. John Smith*

      Oh I could write books on mine, believe me – I could easily keep Alison occupied for months with the shenanigans managers get up to at our place.

      OP has my sympathies, I know exactly the situation she is in.

  3. Casey*

    I had a Josh as my project lead. First of all, oh my god I am SO sorry and I hope you’re doing something outside of work that makes you feel happy and relaxed. As a temporary solution, what worked for me is mentally treating him like a sitcom character and just sort of … expecting that obnoxious behavior? Think Michael Scott, if you’ve seen The Office. The ability to mentally reframe it as “wow, we’re apparently back to the Mansplaining My Expertise gag on this episode” let me disengage from the emotional response I was having.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        This is what I did whenever my husband’s father was being a jerk (which was most of the time.) I said (in my head), “Keep talking old man I’m taking notes for my blog.”

        1. Overit*

          I tell people that in my retirement, I will weite a murder mystery series set in all of my workplaces. I had one boss pauae ans aak, “So… who dies in each book?” To which I replied, “Whoever annoys me the most.” It thereafer became a runing joke between us about who was going to be the victim at any given time. It was a great stress release valve.

        2. Jojo*

          I used to tell a jerky sexist boss that I was keeping notes for a sexual harassment lawsuit. He knew I wouldn’t actually sue the company (his business partner was a close family friend) so it was always just a “joke,” but it made me feel better to say, “It’s going in the journal, Tim!” when he said things like, “You’re the only girl her, go get my lunch.”

    1. kbeers0su*

      I agree with this. It’s like continuing to go to the same restaurant where the food is always bad but being surprised that it’s bad every time.

      OP also noted that they relocated and don’t have much going on outside of work. If you can’t change what happens at work, lessen the impact by filling more of your time with things you can control (and people you like) so the burden/impact of this ridiculous boss situation is lower. Get some good hobbies. Find community events to go to. Have something that you look forward to, so you can reinforce that “mentally clocking out” thing and focus your energy on positive things.

      1. Nicotena*

        Honestly if the job is 100% remote for the foreseeable, perhaps OP could inquire about the possibility moving back, if they haven’t found community in the new location.

    2. Hills to Die On*

      I don’t recommend this for everyone but I played BINGO. I made my own bingo card – shared it with nobody and kept it on my personal device completely separate from work. Every time I got a Bingo, I got myself a present. I had to change it to make it harder, but by the end, I was delighted when the behavior came around. Bingo – I finally get to buy that cute pair of earrings! Bingo – new boots! It made me happy. For some reason, it helped to solidify in my mind that this isn’t my monkeys, isn’t my circus, and I am leaving so who cares anyway. You get to decide what goes on your resume and take credit for your own ideas!

      1. Rayray*

        I like this idea. I’m not at all miserable in my job but I could definitely make a fun bingo game about my job

      2. T J Juckson*

        I love this! And as someone trying to get out, this is what I need to make the time until I do bearable. Now to make my own bingo card– thank you!

      3. Nicotena*

        I did something similar with vacation. As my job satisfaction plunged, I gave myself more and more trips (every long weekend, and then using all my leave), reminding myself that the money from the job I wasn’t fond of was allowing me to take these trips. If you are contemplating leaving with nothing lined up, it’s time to throw all your leave at this.

      4. 30 Years in the Biz*

        Super great idea! You might need a name for this game. Any suggestions? Bad Man Bingo? Bullshower Bingo?

      5. Stacy*

        This advice as given me more hope and optimism for dealing with my new boss thanks anything else I’ve heard. Gonna work on my bingo card tonight!

      6. Kella*

        Yes! I did this for a doctor’s appointment I was really nervous about. Best case scenario, nothing from your bingo card happens. Worst case is that it does happen, but everytime you see one of the behaviors on your card your brain gets a little zing of reward and excitement instead of increasing dread, and if all the bad things happen, you get some kind of prize for it all. Gamifying difficult situational stuff like this can really help deal with the emotional aspect of it when there’s nothing you can change in your behavior.

      7. TeapotNinja*

        My team mates and I did this with our boss. We didn’t create actual bingo cards, but we talked about a list of phrases we anticipated in every meeting. It was sometimes hard to keep a straight face when she blurted a full assortment of them in a single sentence. It definitely lifted our spirits.

    3. Sariel*

      I’ve also had bosses who were . . . frustrating. And, not been in a position where I could leave right away. I had a coworker recommend a book called “Don’t Shoot the Dog,” which is more about animal training but also human behavior. She had read it and was trying the tactics on our mutual Bad Boss and said it really helped. I read the book and started trying a few things and while it didn’t make the Bad Boss change by much, changing my own tactics did help.

      1. autumnal*

        I’m a dog trainer (used to be professional, now just my own) and love this book! The author addresses multiple situations, human and animal, with a range of solutions from doing nothing to shooting the offending party (roommate, dog, etc.). Well worth a read for many reasons. I’ll leave you with a story, just for amusement…

        My sister and I were at a dog training seminar and one of the trainers on a panel was Karen Pryor, the author of “Don’t Shoot the Dog.” And audience member (supposedly a professional dog trainer) was talking about a client’s dog and how all of the suggestions of these very experienced trainers wouldn’t work. Really annoying. As she droned on and on, my sister leaned over to me an in a slightly louder than planned whisper said in a deadpan voice, “Shoot the dog.” Everyone around us busted up laughing and of course Miss I’ll Show You was quite confused and miffed.

        So that’s a phrase between us now, when someone goes on about a problem and pretty much shuts down any reasonable attempt to help problem solve. “Shoot the dog, ” indeed.

    4. kiki*

      Yes, I started writing down the behavior and creating stories around it to reframe it as comical and less soul-destroying.

    5. Britt*

      Make it even more obvious by downloading a canned laugh track and playing it whenever he’s being obnoxious.

  4. Incognito*

    Don’t bring all your ideas to your boss. Present one or two, then in front of senior management, present another idea related to the first one.
    You could also bring half an idea so when he presents it to senior management, you can fill in the rest.
    If your boss is stealing credit for good ideas from you, don’t give him all your ideas. Keep some for yourself.
    As for the IM ideas, turn them off and dont answer until last hour you need to, and for Christmas give him a diary as a present.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      I was coming to say something similar, don’t give him your good ideas. Give him mediocre so it looks like your trying and save the good ones for when you are in front of the bosses! Say you came up with it on the fly!

    2. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. If you know someone steals your work, don’t give them everything. Granted, he’s your boss so this might be tricky, but IMO keep something that shows it was yours. CYA everywhere.

      I’ve had some terrible managers in the past. I focused on doing just what I needed to do, no more no less, tried to spend my out of work time focused on anything BUT work, and looked hard for a new job. The pandemic makes it difficult, but OP might find some volunteer opportunities like a park clean up as a way to meet new people/feel better.

      If he mansplains in a meeting, encourage your fellow female coworkers to call him on it together. “As Joanne was just saying…” Or “Per the PPT presentation Sherry presented last week to the executives….”

      I would slow roll responses to his IMs and emails, and possibly respond to several at once. In a CYA move, always resend him what you sent before/received before. “Boss, here is the email from June 2, 2021 which references x topic you wanted to discuss….” CC others as appropriate.

      1. Aphra*

        When I had a similar situation I realised that my bad boss ‘knew’ that I wouldn’t challenge him in meetings with senior management so he felt safe passing my ideas off as his own. I devised a combination of giving him half ideas and challenging him, so, boss says ‘ Here’s my idea about thing…’, I say ‘Yes, when I brought that idea to you last week I hadn’t finalised the fine detail but now I’ve mapped it out, and thing is……’. Another trick I used was to email him the transcript of every meeting we had, no matter how brief or low level, so ‘Hi Boss, just to confirm that you agreed my idea about thing was worth taking forward, so I plan to …..’. Every. Single. Meeting. If nothing else, it gives you proof, if you ever need it, that these are your ideas.

      2. TardyTardis*

        I made one boss confirm everything in an email after her bad memory about what she told me finally got me totally fed up.

        It was amazing how good her memory became after that!

    1. DarthVelma*

      Dementia doesn’t explain him being a mansplaining asshole who doesn’t do any work but takes all the credit.

    2. Just a Thought*

      Maybe Josh does not have dementia but is a bad boss. Much more likely – and explains all the symptoms rather than just a couple.

    3. Rayray*

      Honestly, I don’t think it’s actual certifiable dementia but I swear something happens to certain people the higher up they move in a company sometimes.

      I worked as an executive assistant once (never again) and the things I dealt with and witnessed were ridiculous but sometimes actually hilarious. Some people just lose capability to be able to manage their own schedules and meeting notes like grown adults and I’ve seen grown men incapable of microwaving a frozen lunch and making their assistant do it.

      It’s a power thing. Some people really trip out on authority and enjoy making those “beneath” them do things like this.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “It’s a power thing. Some people really trip out on authority and enjoy making those “beneath” them do things like this.”

        YES! So true! I’m an EA and I have experienced this. It’s ridiculous.

      2. Aquawoman*

        Some of it is a multiplication thing. I have 6 reports, so that’s 6x as many cases to keep track of. Something has to give.

      3. Hannah Lee*

        This is it!

        I’ve worked with people who feign incapability when it’s really just they don’t want to spend their time doing something their inflated ego says is beneath them.

        With a co-worker, peer you can push back. With a boss it’s trickier. I had one that I’d kind of assist in a “I’m helping you to learn how to help yourself” way. He’s very smart, I’m very smart, so me taking his performative helplessness *at face value* and doing things to help him be less helpless vs just doing the trivial task FOR him annoyed him to no end. Because he knew I knew he knew I knew he was just being pompous and lazy.

        But it did cut down on the ridiculous requests to me somewhat, I’d see him just take that act down the hall to the next “peon”
        It was somewhat amusing to see what kinds of things were beneath him, because on the flip side he’d sometimes try to micro manage things like collating 4 copies of a 10 page document … and in my head I’d be like “only one of us fits in front of this table, and it’s a waste of both of our time for me to press copy and then hand every page to you as it prints so YOU, the company President, can put it in one of 4 stacks, but whatever!”

        But it sounds like LW has a whole constellation of bad boss behaviors on their hands, so job hunt is the best move.

  5. WulfInTheForest*

    Honestly? If your “grandboss” isn’t up to discussing it more despite this being an ongoing issue with Josh, I’d start looking for a new job now. The market is hopping right now and people who leave their jobs typically get more money. Win-win situation.

    1. Expelliarmus*

      OP is looking for a new job though; she just wants to know how she can put up with Josh in the meanwhile.

    2. Hardly Working At All*

      I have a Josh, who also does many similar things that the OP mentioned. He wants me to be his admin/personal assistant instead of executing the tech support role I’m in.

      I used to confront him about it. Like the OP’s Josh, he’d claim to change but never did. I raised issues to management. They didn’t really care because he brings in big orders/$ each year. So I changed my mindset. My job these days is not technical support; it’s crisis management and hand holding. My actual work days are about 1 in 30. The rest of the time I’m paid to be on standby for when he has a problem needing a quick fix or something’s late. The company is very happy – they keep giving me raises because no one else wants to deal with him.

      Used to drive me nuts, but now I’m liking it. I take training courses, read AAM, occasionally help out other projects (without Josh’s knowledge), take long lunches…

  6. Lady Blerd*

    This letter is published right on time as I feel this in my bones. I have a bad boss situation right now although not as bad as Josh. Maybe I should switch my thinking to “he sucks and won’t change”. It may not help all the time but it might reduce the aggravation.

    1. BasketcaseNZ*

      One of my former bosses gave me feedback that said she was really happy with my work, but then she’d change and edit *everything* I did, often in the most minute ways.
      Once I could reframe it as “she is one of those people who has to have the last word”, and “everything she sends out has to sound like she wrote it”, it was easier to not blame myself for not getting things right.
      I don’t think she even realised she was doing it.

      1. Sandi*

        I had this editing problem, and boss would typically want to do at least several revisions of my work. I quickly started to feel better when he revised his own parts, the ones that he had most heavily edited the previous time, as much as my own original wording. He was weirdly picky without realizing that he wasn’t even consistent! When he went away on vacation we would all suddenly ask his replacement to edit our work. I don’t miss him.

  7. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

    I have a coworker just like this. It’s been 7 long years working with him. I can’t imagine if he was actually my *supervisor* vs just a regular coworker. Shudder. You have my sympathies, LW.

    I think you should go ahead and start job-hunting. I don’t think it’s weird to be looking for a new job at this point. A lot of people are reassessing what they want out of their lives and careers. You’ve been there through the entire pandemic, which is plenty long enough to decide if it’s the right fit or not.

    Good luck!

    1. Strictly Speaking*

      Haha, I also recognized this as how as some of my coworkers operate (not just bosses):

      “He IM’s me constantly throughout the day, wanting me to remind him of what was discussed in meetings he was in, asking me to find emails that were sent to him because he can’t bother looking in his inbox, you name it.”

  8. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    I like Alison’s advice, as usual. Although it will take energy to put into practice the things Alison recommends, it won’t be more energy than you are expending right now doing nothing. It may also make it more obvious to everyone that Josh is a real, tangible problem – maybe something will actually change! Of course, realistically, maybe not – but this is a better use of the energy you’re already putting toward the issue.

  9. Sara without an H*

    We seem to be having a run of insecure managers letters here today. OP, you’re right — Josh isn’t going to change and there is no combination of words that will get him to change. He is what he is. An ass.

    While you’re hunting for your next job, which I urge you to do, you should follow Alison’s advice to speak up when feasible to claim your own ideas. Be sure to document your achievements whenever possible, so you can reference those achievements in your cover letters. (See the AAM archives for good advice on those and on resumes.)

    Then try to avoid thinking about Josh. Do not get sucked into unnecessary overtime. Develop a personal life outside of work. Are there professional development activities you could do, preferably on your employer’s dime? If you think of job searching as your primary project, you may find Josh a little less irritating.

    Good luck, and update us when you find something new.

  10. CBB*

    LW, your point about not knowing a lot of people in the area leaving you obsessing over work really struck a chord. I wish there was an easy solution to that problem.

    1. irene adler*

      A partial solution might be to seek out the professional organization pertaining to the industry LW works in and get involved with them. This presents some measure of social activities while networking/job hunting.

    2. LilyP*

      I really encourage OP to re-affirm a work-life boundary and disconnect from work in the evenings and weekends — wind down and stop working at a consistent time, turn the work computer *off*, do some sort of transition activity (e.g. go for a short walk). Try to fill up your afternoons/evenings with some sort of activities — being in a new town is a great time to take a class, volunteer somewhere, join a book club, whatever. If you catch yourself thinking about work, gently redirect your thoughts — plan your weekend, decide what to make for dinner, call a friend, pick up a book. This guy already gets unfair access and influence over you, he doesn’t get to live rent-free in your head as well!

    3. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      Have you (or the OP) tried to meet people in the new area? It’s a poor time to have a small social circle of course, what with… well everything, but depending on where you are, I feel like this could be a good thing to try.

      I am very lucky living in the north eastern US, we have largely reopened, and just as importantly we have largely reopened for the right reason (high vaccination rates and low infection rates). I could see not being very comfortable meeting new people if your area is still very shutdown, or has reopened in spite of high infection rates.

      Assuming you are comfortable going out, I had a lot of success with when I first moved up here from the south. In most mid to large metro areas they have meetups that range through a variety of interests, as well as purely social meetups. At the worst it gives you something to do, at the best you might meet people you genuinely like. I made a few friends I still keep in touch with several years later.

      Another option would be to find an interesting class of some sort. After her divorce my girlfriend took up Brazilian Jujitsu, and a good part of her social circle is still from her school. Plus something like martial arts or dance or similar would probably help you work out some frustration along with possibly meeting people.

      Everyone’s mileage varies of course, but it might be worth a try.

  11. AndersonDarling*

    It’s not the same as the OP, but I’m in a spot where executives jump in to micro-manage a project, ignore my expertise, and make terrible decisions on my projects. It’s been eating my soul that I have to produce crap work and that these executives will not listen to my advice.
    But then I had an epiphany. I will never win a battle with an executive’s ego. I kept hoping that the next project would be different, or that someone would step in and change the dynamics. Maybe if I say the right magic words then I will be respected? Nope. None of that will happen. I only have control of what I have control over.
    I’m not giving anymore emotional energy to work projects, instead I am working on my own side projects where I am respected and can share my knowledge with people who want to learn.
    I’ve accepted that my work life won’t change, and work executives will continue to make decisions for their egos rather than the success of the company. Once I’ve put in enough time, I will change to another company that will respect my experience and doesn’t hire egotistical managers. I’ll invest my hope in my own future, not the future of my failing company.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      I came to this realization as well. I don’t argue. I don’t argue even when they are wrong and I am right. I am no longer emotionally vested in the work I do for money. It’s not worth it.

      1. 30 Years in the Biz*

        It took me over 25 years in the working world to figure this out. As a scientist, I always thought facts and data would win the discussion. It often didn’t, and I would internalize all my anger and frustration. I wish someone had told me to not get emotionally invested. I only push my position now if it involves patient health and safety. I was terminated for this once, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t.

    2. A Feast of Fools*

      My favorite manager recently left because the choice of projects and quality of work expected by the Big Boss is sub-optimal. And BB (Big Boss) has a habit of saying, on Tuesday, that he wants the project to be XYZ but then, come Friday, says that the project should be ABC, without proactively acknowledging that he had originally said XYZ.

      BUT… if you point out to BB that the only reason you’re doing XYZ is because that’s what he told you to do, he will own it and apologize.

      This drove Good Manager nuts. He didn’t think he should have to remind executives of the directives they’ve given. Which is true but, as we’ve seen here, things can be so, so, very much worse in Corporate America than an executive who changes their mind without actively signaling that they’ve done so.

      I mean, they could be mean about it. They could flat-out lie. They could tell you what an idiot you are for doing XYZ when they’ve told you all along to do ABC. I’ve worked for those people. I ended up on FMLA because of the mental, emotional, and physical breakdown it caused.

      So, yeah, if on Monday we march left but on Tuesday we’re told to march right and on Wednesday we’re told to stop marching. . . hell, it’s all the same paycheck to me. I’ll point out why I think we shouldn’t stop marching but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

  12. Escaped a Work Cult*

    Uh holy crap OP, I almost want to ask if this is my boss due to how eerily similar my situation is to this. The only difference is that it’s a small agency and I’m the team lead trying to run interference, and getting nowhere.

    Like others are saying, leaving for a new job is viable at this time. The job market will have a better opening and team layout for you. While you are hitting those boards, keep work at work. That is one of the hardest things I have to do as well. But truly, clocking out and dropping it will keep your sanity.

    Hang in there OP, I have every confidence in you spreading your wings and getting out.

  13. too many too soon*

    Does your company have any way to report gender-based biases/misogyny? Move it out of the realm of interpersonal subjectivity and into the broader area of discriminatory behavior and see if that budges anything.

  14. Goldenrod*

    OP, I feel your pain. I MASSIVELY feel your pain. I just left a job with a boss like this. I enjoyed everything else about the job….EXCEPT the boss. Who, really, is one of the meanest people I’ve ever met and she was never, ever going to get better.

    She did a lot of the behaviors you describe – including treating me like her personal assistant. Which is NOT okay because the job is at a state institution and it’s not that kind of workplace. But I think all crappy bosses do that.

    Alison’s advice here is really good. Might I also recommend a book that helped me get through the bad times? It’s called “The Asshole Survival Guide.” I highly recommend it, it helped me a lot while I looked for other jobs but was stuck with the bad boss.

    I even hid a copy in the bottom of my desk drawer on my way out, in the hopes that the next person would find it. :D

    Hope you get outta there soon! Good luck!!!

      1. Goldenrod*

        Thank you!! I followed Alison’s advice and was a class act with everything else – I was polite, I left good documentation, etc. Mostly because I didn’t want the next EA to suffer (more than I already knew they were going to).

        But leaving that book behind felt GREAT! :D

  15. Re'lar Fela*

    I read the first two paragraphs and was unsettled because I didn’t see the expected “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change”…but then I kept going and now I feel much better!

    I had a bad boss several years ago–it was a remote position with very little oversight (which was great), fascinating work with some really incredible external partners, and great overall organizational leadership…but my direct supervisor was an absolute nightmare. One of those people who routinely used big words to hide the fact that he had no idea what he was talking about. Pompous mainsplainer to the extreme. I think we had maybe 2-3 one-on-one conversations in the five years that I worked there. For the first couple of years, I stressed about him non-stop. Then I accepted that there wasn’t anything I could do about it and I was quite happy there for the rest of my tenure (until I was offered a position by one of the previously mentioned external partners–I tried to resign to him, but he didn’t take the call, so I called the COO instead).

  16. The Starsong Princess*

    If Josh was female, he’d be my old boss, Chaoswoman. I found another job elsewhere – as they saw, people often don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. Anyway, you can’t fix him but in the interim, create a shared document and document every thing he told you to do and every decision. If he IMs you for something, only send him back the link to that document.

    1. Big 4 Denizen*

      Oooh! A OneNote notebook with tabs for each project. Document things there and share with Josh.

  17. TechWriter*

    I can’t offer any more advice on Josh, but does your company have internal transfers? That kind of thing might move along faster than a new job search. Maybe reach out to that original hiring supervisor who you liked, and see if she’s aware of any openings.

    1. KHB*

      Clearly the company does have internal transfers, since the original hiring manager got one. (Although that doesn’t necessarily mean there are similar opportunities available for OP.)

    2. GlitsyGus*

      This is exactly what I was coming here to comment. Float out to your old manager that you really miss working with her and that if there is ever room on her team for you, you’d be very interested. Keep looking for other jobs as well, obviously, but it can’t hurt to let her know.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This is what I came here to say! It is a large company, that is likely interested in keeping OP.

  18. Coast East*

    This gave me flashbacks to my last office supervisor. Except instead of apologies when corrected on behavior, she doubled down on them– even when during a climate survey she was on of the 2 most called out employees for unprofessional behavior. She also “mansplained” (managersplained? Insecursplained?) & made ridiculous proclamations of tasks that made no sense; and refused to acknowledge she knew less than the operators (unless it was in her benefit to do so). My therapist suggested looking for jobs in a completely different part of the US since I had no social support, and leaving behind the awful boss and a state where I had no one was the biggest help to my mental health possible. Best of luck to OP in getting a better job and boss.

  19. KHB*

    This is one of those situations where the problem is compounded by the remote work environment. You’re not without natural allies here: The whole rest of your team is in the same boat as you are (having had Old Good Boss yanked away from them and Mansplaining Josh put in his place), and it sounds like Old Good Boss is still around, on another team in the same company. If you were all together in the same building, you’d likely be having incidental conversations with your coworkers where you roll your eyes at the latest mansplaining you’ve had to endure from Mansplaining Josh, or you could maybe swing by Old Good Boss’s office for support (or even advice on how you could get the same kind of internal transfer as he got). Even if nothing actionable comes of these conversations, commiserating about a bad boss can help you realize you’re not alone. But when everything is remote, those kinds of informal communications become much harder.

    Is your employer staying remote forever, or is there still a “back to the office” date in your future? If it’s the latter, just keeping in mind that the remoteness of the situation is temporary could make it that much easier to bear. Otherwise, you could try reaching out to other victims of Mansplaining Josh’s mansplaining and ask if you could chitchat on the phone for a few minutes – that could help you keep your sanity intact until you can make your escape.

  20. I should really pick a name*

    If the head of the team says to reduce his involvement in your work, ask them what that would look like.
    Maybe it means you don’t need to act like his assistant when he asks you to.
    Maybe it means you’ve got more standing to push back than you think you do.

    1. Sasha*

      You definitely don’t need to act like his assistant. He can’t find an email? Oh no, neither can you! I wonder where it could be?

      He can’t remember what happened in the meeting? You neither, they talked about so much didn’t they? You definitely remember Specific Outcome You Wanted From That Meeting, the rest is a bit of a blur, sorry!

      Just be really unhelpful, but really enthusiastically and cheerfully.

      1. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

        “Just be really unhelpful, but really enthusiastically and cheerfully.”

        I second this strategy. You might be pleasantly surprised how much fun it can be. Heh heh heh.

      2. irene adler*

        Yes! If there’s no satisfaction from the responses, Josh will have to go elsewhere. Or, heaven forbid, become self-sufficient.

      3. Clorinda*

        Ah, the old golden retriever trick. I like it. Not malicious compliance–enthusiastic but ineffective compliance.

        1. Lord Peter Wimsey*

          Laughing out loud at “golden retriever trick” — enthusiastically and cheerfully unhelpful is such a great description for goldens.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Rather than pleasantly unhelpful, I’d coolly ask whether he’d checked his emails. I’d say “try using the search button, with my name, I think I sent it on Tuesday. Coolly to show that I really am not amenable to doing it myself, maybe pointing out that I’m in the middle of a report at the same time.

  21. Meep*

    I once sent an email to my Josh (VP of Marketing & Sales) telling her that I didn’t appreciate her expecting me (a female software engineer) to do a whole list of secretarial things. She would demand and scream at me to check her email for her on top of her expecting me to schedule client meetings, etc. I didn’t threaten to leave. Just that it was inappropriate and out of line as she never expected any of my male coworkers to do these things because they were “too busy doing engineering”. She turned around and said that our boss (the Owner) was out of line to expect me to do that. But don’t I worry! She wasn’t going to tell him that I was thinking about resigning!

    This disconnect was amazing. She continues to act that way as late as last week. But at the time I was a year into my first job and didn’t know any better. She had also gaslit me into this time believing that if I left there were worst people than her and at least I “knew” what I was getting. (Seriously, she basically said I should suck up being abused because I knew how she abused me!)

    Luckily, once I got out from under her, I was ACTUALLY able to do engineering things rather than be her personal assistant. She still hasn’t figured out how to search her email as far as I can tell and is quite flummoxed that I refuse to give her ideas to present to the owner so she can take credit. The couple of times I did give her ideas, I had already told him about it so she looked foolish claiming credit. And she also hasn’t a clue what is going on because her human calendar is gone and in its place is a giant shrug!

  22. KimberlyR*

    If you have to, emotionally disengage from the company a bit. It sucks to have to force yourself not to care as much but its also freeing in a way. You can put in the time and effort you can, and then just shut it off at the end of the day with no remorse. If your company is determined to let Josh run amok and do this, they’ll lose your emotional investment, and eventually you, as you find a new job. Sucks for them.

  23. PT*

    Your boss is an absolutely awful person.

    That said, you can’t put your boss on a PIP. You can’t go in and say “These are the behaviors I don’t like about you. These are the behaviors I need YOU to change. I need YOU to be less involved in my work,” when the behaviors you’re asking to change are “Change your entire personality.” That’s just…not how the power differential works at work. They’re your boss, you are not their boss. Either you decide you’re going to deal with your boss being an ass hole, or you go find work somewhere else and hope your new boss is not an even worse ass hole.

  24. The Smiling Pug*

    I’m so sorry OP. One my friends worked with a female version of Josh. My friend was depressed and angry the entire time she worked there, but didn’t want to leave because in her exact words, “it pays well.” I told her that no job is worth your mental health, joy or personal life. Long story short, she changed jobs and is much happier. Please keep job-searching, and in the meantime, you have my sympathies. :(

  25. Cobol*

    OP is the head of your team above Josh in the hierarchy? If they’re telling you to involve Josh less, you can do that. It can take some time to move people out, or take them out of a management position if they are a good individual performer.

    Also, is it a big enough company that there are other business groups you can transfer too? That might be an option.

  26. Mynona*

    My boss of 2+ years is exactly like Josh, down to the inability to do anything for himself. It’s eery. When I tried to engage him about his behavior, he became defensive and accused me of being passive aggressive. I can’t just get a new job, because I’m in a niche field with no openings.

    No advice, just sympathy. I didn’t know men like him still existed, and it’s so depressing to live with every day. Apparently, he’s a type!

  27. Ann*

    I just turned down an otherwise very good position because my would-be new manager showed every sign of being like this guy. It’s an intrinsically stressful job, and I don’t want to spend my energy redirecting someone’s insecurity. I’m back to money worries, but that’s almost less anxiety-inducing!

  28. Pterodactylate*

    That’s a great script for reasserting credit for LW and other women in the office! Very breezy. In terms of the overworking from the PA tasks Josh loads on, would LW be able to have a conversation about what tasks she should prioritize? Then it’s not asking him straight out to change his behavior (since he’s unable/unwilling to do so) but maybe if LW essentially asks do you want me to do [important work thing] or use the search function in your email for you Josh might give her the okay to focus on her actual job (and she’d have his approval to fall back on if he switched again) (though obvs I don’t know the rest of the office politics so that may be off-base)

  29. Euphony*

    I had a similar boss a few years ago – with them it was all about wanting to demonstrate power and control. I found it helpful to deliberately ask them to decide on things I didn’t care about. Eg if I had 5 pieces of work for them to look over, I would ask their opinion on a couple of minor changes (do you like A or B better, I like A because reasons) and then agree/change whatever they suggested. They felt like they’d put their stamp on things and it cut down on the really annoying changes or changes just for the sake of changing things.

  30. Cold Fish*

    I am so sorry this is happening; I know it is so frustrating. Similar things are what got me to start looking (unfortunately at the beginning of last year). I’m wanting to do something different but don’t really know what and I have limited options (small town, 20 years experience in niche industry). For me, just looking helped me deal with some of the biggest frustrations.

    Although, viewing the situation in a new way to cope is not something I do well. I had better luck (for my own mental health) with small rebellions. Tasks that came in from my Josh’s always seemed to get shuffled down on my list of priorities and take a little longer than usual to complete. I “accidentally” didn’t see emails until it was too late (they had to search the system on their own kind of thing). Nothing unprofessional but nothing really helpful either. I did my job and boss couldn’t find fault in the work I was doing. It was really quite fascinating, and eye-opening, to see how quickly their work suffered when I stopped being as helpful to them.

    And this is something that happened a few years ago but it was very satisfying at the time, and aligns with Alison’s advice. The history (sorry it’s gonna be a little long): I was given a spreadsheet that I slowly modified over the course of a couple of years. Because it was inherited, there were some quirks to the spreadsheet I hadn’t gotten around to fixing quite yet. So it wasn’t perfect but it was head over heels better than the original.

    Two other teams used the spreadsheet at separate locations. I’d make changes/updates, they would get approved by the dept manager in charge of all three locations, and manager would email to other locations (always with a note that if there are questions Cold Fish was available to go over changes. There were never questions.).

    At this time there was some tension between my location (Team A – all women) and one of the other locations (Team B – all men). Team B was very fond of mansplaining and seemed to think Team A didn’t know anything. Even though 80-90% of the errors were coming out of the entire department were being made by Team B.

    Then Big Boss decided we needed a department summit where all three locations got together for a big in-person meeting to try and streamline and standardize processes. Team B was very excited because they had made some changes to the spreadsheet that “made it work so much better”. Cool, I was open to that.

    We got to the point in the meeting where Team B’s spreadsheet was brought up and they started going over their “improvements”. Some of it was entirely cosmetic (think changing the font and/or highlight of certain cells). Okay….
    Then they got real excited about this next thing and how cool is this… as they started to explain several formulas/improvements I had made to the spreadsheet, in an almost cheerful matter-of-fact voice with a smile on my face, I responded with a “Yes, I know. That’s how I designed it to work.” Then stopped talking and looked at them in a “sorry I interrupted, please continue” kind of way.

    I am usually not very quick on my feet but it was the perfect response. Sat them back on their heels and they half-heartedly tried to claim they improved it but couldn’t really explain what was different. And because I didn’t say it an accusatory or angry voice they really couldn’t come up with a way to deflect the fact that they were trying to steal my work right in front of me. All they were left with were the few cosmetic changes they had made. When they were done I explained some of the other things I had done over the years to the spreadsheet that they didn’t even know it could do.

    Sorry, that whole long story to say that. But I was so dang proud of myself walking out of that meeting and it still brings a smile to me face. (FYI, totally petty of me, but I made the cosmetic changes to the spreadsheet on the next update.)

  31. Introvert girl*

    To avoid question about what was said in meetings you should write down he minutes. And every time he asks reply with “see minutes”.

    1. Worker bee*

      Why should the LW do this? I didn’t see anything in the letter about the LW being an administrative assistant or “designated notetaker” in meetings. And while I’m making an assumption that the LW is female, based on the mansplaining wording, it would do the LW no favors to start doing this, because they’d be unable to participate in the meeting, since they’d be too busy taking the minutes.

  32. No Dumb Blonde*

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who hoped this LW was the employee of the other “my employee wasn’t respectful enough” LW.

  33. DJ*

    Sorry to hear you’ve had to put up with this whilst moving to a new area during a pandemic so you haven’t been able to do the usual things you’d do to build a new support network and thus don’t know anyone. If restrictions are easing can you focus on getting out there and building a new friendship network. Even if ultimately you move somewhere else you’ll at least have some emotional support and outside of work interests/activities.
    Hope you find a new job very soon!!

  34. Jam Today*

    Letting go of my need for people to acknowledge that I’m as smart as I am and know what I’m talking about has been one of the most difficult aspects of the last 20 years of work history. Its kept me at jobs, twice with extremely abusive managers that gave anxiety and depression at a scale that threatened my life, long past my sell-by date. My advice is: this situation will not change and will impact your quality of life and possibly your health, and its best for you to find a better place to work (which I see you are doing, so that’s good!) It will be an ego blow, but in the end it will be better for your mind and body to be away from it. I wish I had done so in at least one of those prior jobs.

    The exception I would make for this is: does this job pay you such an insane amount of money that you can swallow your pride (as long as you get good marks on your performance reviews) and just take their money for the time being?

  35. GigglyPuff*

    Comments on The Cut: “AAM won’t ever address classism”, also the comments “Just quit the job! Why don’t you just quit OP!”

  36. Enginerd*

    Ugh. I’ve been there. As a female DoD employee in a traditionally male dominated field for 20+ years, as recently as the past few years I’ve had male supervisors ask me to take meeting minutes or get coffee for them. Now I call them out on it in the moment: “Did you just ask me to get coffee like I’m a secretary?” “Did you just ask me to take minutes because I’m the only female in the room?” “Did you forget this is MY meeting?” I also HEAVILY document things in emails; “Hey just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page with our discussion earlier. Here’s what I took away:…..Do you concur?” And, when you are brainstorming ideas via email, always CC your team lead or other project members so that stealing your ideas is a lot harder to do. I didn’t like doing it, but those sorts of behaviors have saved my bacon and stopped a lot of bad behaviors. Good Luck!!

  37. Hex Libris*

    I’m actually maddest about grandboss who can’t be arsed to deal with this. I would love for you to be able to get clarification about what limiting your interactions is supposed to look like. I do think it’s interesting that Josh acts remorseful when confronted — I wonder if there’s a little leverage there, when combined with his amnesia?
    “LW, do this menial task.”
    “Josh, you wanted me to remind you that’s not my job if you asked for that type of thing.”
    “I did?”
    “You did. You actually said I should beat you about the head and shoulders until you were properly chastened but that seems a bit overboard.”

  38. Loremipsum*

    I am so sorry to read this. I see and feel every bit of it. After a long stretch of not having a manager after a retirement and the department was on autopilot, the replacement is truly hapless. Name a bad management practice and this guy has done it, on a daily basis. We’ve had decades of management theories and we all know what works and what doesn’t. Yet in the year 2021, we report to this individual who just astounds with his power trips, micromanagement, penchant for controlling and limiting people, cutting budgets and services, ordering the staff to work onsite in a pandemic, writing to employees on the weekend and when he is supposed to be on vacation. This is the public sector, and he’s been very critical of it and our agency. He’s like the Steve Bannon of our department, and on my more despondent days I feel like he’s trying to crush it from within. I do find joy and fulfillment in my work and in my colleagues, and I’ve had bad bosses in the past – they tend not to stay around. Right now I’m hoping to outlast this one. And documenting everything.

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