Dealing With Bad Behavior from Your Boss
Dealing with bad behavior at work is a common theme that I address continually in my work with people, my writing and here on this blog. Below is another example of someone experiencing bad behavior from her boss and my recommendations to her. (Her real name is not used.)
Dear Dr. Rick
In my office, we have two dozen employees, and I work directly with the owner and two other veterinarians. In my state, those of us who have worked for a veterinarian for five years as technicians can sit for the boards and take our certification based on experience. I have done this and passed the same test that every tech in America takes on the same day twice a year.
My issue is that the owner does not think that taking the test based on experience is just as valid as if I went to school and studied for two years and then took the test. Just to be clear, I believe that most of the veterinarians in my state accept my certification to be as valid as a schooled tech.
My problem happens when the owner takes me into his office and proceeds to tell me about some mistake I may have or may not have made. He does not let me accept or deny the mistake. After about an hour of insults and cussing he then goes into how my certification is not as valid as a schooled tech and has said that “it does not count” how at my age (45) I should do XYZ or with my experience (15 + years) I should not be making the mistake. I leave his office with hurt feelings and sometimes embarrassment.
I do not need a pat on the back for doing something that I know given my personal background that I am very proud of accomplishing. Like I said I did this for me. However I do not think that he has to dismiss it and belittle my accomplishment. For the most part at this time I wish he would just not bring it up at all.
Please help me, I really love working where I work and do not want to quit. But if this continues I do not see any other alternative. Reviews are coming up and I do not look forward to sitting through an hour of insults just to get a twenty-five cent raise.
Joan (Not her real name.)
Ok, here’s what I get from reading what you’ve written. It seems to me that you tolerate your boss’s bad behavior, even though you find it wrong and offensive. Maybe you do this because you want to be nice. Maybe you do this out of fear for your job. But I don’t see the benefit to you in keeping a job at all costs. I recommend that you read the chapters in my book on dealing with Tanks and Grenades and apply this material to your situation. Because, in my opinion, it is your tolerance of this bad behavior that perpetuates it. I recently wrote a blog entry on this very topic, bullies at work.
Seems to me that you have other options besides take it or quit. I’m not telling you what to do, but I can tell you what I would do. I would stand and walk away when he does this.
Options for Dealing with Bad Boss Behavior
I might first tell him I’ll be back when he’s ready to talk to me in a respectful way, and then walk away.
Or, I might tell him that his behavior is inappropriate, disrespectful, and does him a disservice as well as myself, and I’m not willing to let him continue to embarrass himself, and then look into his eyes until it registers with him that he’s behaving badly. Or I might try Pygmalion Power (it’s in the book in the chapter on Grenades) and tell him, ‘This isn’t like you. You’re a reasonable and intelligent person and you’re capable of talking with others in a respectful and responsible way.” I think anything other than fight or flight is likely to be more effective than letting him do this.
Ultimately, if I were you (which obviously I’m not) and I believed in my value, if I believed in my ability, if I believed in my education and training and performance of my job, then I would require myself to have the courage of my convictions and stand up for what I believe.
Drawing the Line
Assertive behavior like what I’ve been describing here doesn’t require you to attack him or argue with him, just to draw the line on unacceptable behavior. To say “This is who I am and why you should care. I don’t need you to validate my education or background. But do let me know when you’re ready to speak with me in a respectful and responsible way. Until then, excuse me, but I have real work to do and this is keeping me from it for no useful purpose.”
Change is inevitable, but progress is not. YOU make the difference.