Hostile boss - advice please

Someone near and dear to me is going through some very stressful times at work and I am wondering what sort of recourse an employee has from being harassed by a hostile boss. Any labor laws?

The boss is a brand new person following a string of similar people hired and it is going from bad to worse. She is not only a micromanager but lacks respect for her staff . Everyone is highly criticized and she demands to know everything from the most trivial stuff. Her assistant was found crying in frustration at her desk.

The employee I am concerned about, is a manager level professional but she treats him like a child. She actually said she will have no back talk. Said employee, has years of experience and is not a yes man and has often been the go to person. He will not allow to be cowed by this person. She is also forgetful and she will get angry (drama queen, hands in the air) angry if something goes different than what she expected. I just read an email she sent to him criticizing every level of his managerial responsibilities with trivial items. She copied senior management on this email. I am not sure if he should reply to this email explaining all those items or not answering the nonsense at all. I lean towards explaining since it was copied to senior management but I think he needs to do more than that.

HR is useless. They have no power in that place. They have allowed people like this to come in and get away with this behavior. Senior management also does not care.

I know the quick answer is to look for another job, but no one is rushing to hire middle aged males, despite amount of experience. Yes, he has been networking and has gone on some interviews and everyone loves him on the phone. Eventually, he will find something but until then, it is making him sick.

If you have any ideas, we welcome your advice

This maybe easier said than done, I would ignore her. Your friend has a job he has been doing, just continue to do it the way he has been. He knows people and process at the company, she doesn’t. If she wants to change how things are done, she is going to have to get buy ins from other people.

I am currently a new boss at this company. I am careful to make sure I do not step on people’s toes. As an example, if I want to bring a new vendor in, I have to follow the procurement process. I can’t just tell my staff to do it my way because our request would get denied. I go out of my way to make sure my staff is happy with me now because if not then they could withhold information from me, making my life more difficult, and worse still would be if they should leave. I would be up the creek if their knowledge should leave the company.

I would tell your friend to just sit tight, be nice to her, ignore her hostile emails (but make sure he keeps them). Bosses like her often blow themselves up. My bet is she is not going to last long.

Smile and flatter her. She will not be able to be too aggressive. But seriously, she sounds like a problem. I would ignore here and be prepared to be fired mentally because the stress could kill you. I know this type of micromanagement. I even know of one manager like this who also follow people to the restroom.

Old fort is right on. My SIL just went through this at her old company. I think her age and experience were probably similar to your friend’s. Her strategy was to put her head down and just do her job, while putting her energy into finding a new position. I’m happy to say she is now working at a new company that respects her and is happy to have her. I have a feeling your friend will have a similar outcome, if he is as experienced and as likable as you say. You can help him by being there for him to talk to and by reminding him that he has every reason to be confident in his work.

I worked for someone like this. He laid me off. I left the profession I was in, returned to college, and now do something else.

Boss: highly critical, micromanager, lacks respect for staff, displays angry outbursts,

Business milieux: HR is in place to protect senior staff. Senior staff continues to hire the same personality type for their managers.

Your friend: middle manager,not a yes man, will not kowtow to her.

I believe he should throw all his energy into interviewing for new jobs. This will allow him to feel some control over his situation. In the meantime he needs to tell himself it is not personal. She treats everyone like this. He has had a nice run at this company but the culture is no longer healthy and it is time to leave.

To deal with this personality type takes someone willing to play political games to the max. He would have to pretend to be behind her 100%, to agree with everything she says, to tell her his job is to make her look good. He would have to align himself fully with her. She will be nice to him as long as he can help her achieve her goals. The minute he is not that person she will turn on him again.

Basically she is a narcissistic b#%ch and is in a position of power over him. It’s not going to work and will end up killing him.

Time to go.

He needs to look for another job. In the meantime, say yes to everything and agree with her on everything.
In the long run, I think she my fire him.

I had a boss like this. Luckily I outlasted her but it was a race to see who got another position first. She read everyone’s email to every client before allowing them to be sent. At her farewell lunch, she said (with good humor) she would have fired us all within the first month if she could. Trust me everyone celebrated when she left.

One coworker did leave. She thanked this woman for giving her the motivation and courage to take chances.

I would keep all emails from her and document any and all incidents.

It’s time to update the resume, put out feelers, contact headhunters, and keep looking for a new position. Are there other positions in different departments within the same organization?

@sax is right about the shared goals. If your friend can make sure the boss hits her goals, he’s fine. He doesn’t have to like her and she doesn’t have to like him.

On a personal level, make sure he gets plenty of exercise, however mild.

Thank you. all great suggestions. I am concerned that this will make him sick. The exercise is probably a very good idea. I just feel helpless hearing about the misery.

I don’t know that transferring to another area would help. He actually asked for this but they have done nothing with it. It does not matter because they have this culture going on in other offices as well. However, this one is the worst I have heard about.

I am not sure what he could do with the documentation if HR is not interested. I would have thought there should be something in place for bullying in the workplace. She definitely crosses the line. In my place of employment, where HR cares a little more, they would monitor the situation and not let it get out of hand. It is not perfect, but they would not allow this type of behavior.

In my experience, HR is the resources of management and the company. Not for the employees.

I have had four bosses like this over my career. I have found what works for me was to have a conversation with them to see exactly what they were looking for in terms of performance. Next I did my best to carry myself at work like I was not bothered by their style and was always a happy and content employee.

I think many of these people just want to make you miserable and if you do not let them they seek more fertile ground.

He should document everything for a number of reasons. Should his boss complain about him to HR, he will have documentation to support his response. Should he be fired or leave the company of his own accord, he may be able to negotiate a favorable settlement based upon his documentation. Should he ever decide to sue the company, he will have the documentation to support his case.

My first reaction is that this boss is herself very worried about her own situation there and her inability to control herself is a clear symptom of her internal problems. She is trying to push the blame onto everyone else in hopes that she will insulate herself if something falls short which, if she can only manage through negativity, will happen soon enough.

I’m sorry for your friend’s situation. He should make sure that all his work is impeccable and give her no basis for mischaracterizing his work.

That is pretty serious stuff in a corporate environment and is not the norm unless she has an agenda. To be honest if I found myself in that position I would be very serious about exploring other opportunities. What is his relationship if any with the person that this woman reports to? Is there a general re-structuring going on within the company?

I do agree with the poster above who said that people who operate like this tend to blow themselves up. But the email to senior management would be above my threshold of tolerance, especially if I was a long term employee with a good track record. There is no need for this sort of thing. A good manger sits down with direct reports and reviews issues with work performance privately. As far as I know it is the annual reviews that are shared with senior management for the purposes of general knowledge and bonus allocation. She sounds like a nightmare.

Had two like this and sorry to say, if the company tolerates that, the problem is bigger than just doing your job well and keeping your head down.

I can rant, if we get to that. This can be much bigger than the little kid advice to dot all your i’s and be Johnny on the spot.

I had a boss like this in my last corporate job. It is by no means a trivial issue. People who behave like this have serious mental illness, but they also can accomplish a lot, so management likes to have them on board. The “little people” like your friend are considered dispensable.

Sending him an extremely critical email and copying senior management demonstrates that she plans to fire him sooner or later. This is not in doubt. It’s clear as can be.

Your friend needs to remind himself, repeatedly, that this is not his real life. His real life consists of his family, friends, hobbies, and all the things that make his life worthwhile.

In addition, he must start looking for another job, now. He will either be fired or backed into a corner where he has no option but to leave.

What happened to me was that my boss really crossed a line in the bullying/harassing department. (PM me if you’d like the gory details.) I complained about her to HR and thankfully they took it seriously. (I did use the words “hostile environment” when I discussed it with them) When she was questioned about the incidents (there were two), she lied about what took place. I had a witness who backed me up. HR asked me what I wanted, and I ran out of there the same day with a severance package and my bonus (not due for another two months) without looking back.

Sadly, the manager is still there. I’m waiting for karma. In the meantime, I am still suffering from a bit of PTSD, and I will never, ever work in another corporate job again.

This is unfortunately a pretty common situation. He needs to do a few things:

  • Do his best to understand her style and expectations and match it.
  • Document the heck out of their interactions that are problems. She may try to fire him before he gets another job, and he needs to be prepared for that.
  • Get serious about his job search. Lots of companies let bosses like this stay for various reasons. It is hard to win as the employee, I say focus on getting out.

How these issues are handles appears to vary depending on the type of company you work at. I think government and large corporations might have more protections and possible landing spots for employees that find they have a toxic boss. Smaller businesses that may not have as much experience with lawsuits caused by these toxic supervisors might let it go to far.

I agree that he should give her as little ammunition as possible, but if this is about verbal abuse from a controlling person, you CANNOT achieve some kind of “perfection” that will prevent the abuse. The verbal abuser always finds something. Always.

My husband is similarly going through this With his company’s attempt to be PC for female managers who know nothing of the projects.

His manager does things in a sneaky and underhanded manner. She is insecure and threatened by anyone with a brain. She so naive in assuming that no one knows him in his 25 years of clout, acumen, and just being a really nice guy. By not including him on emails to meetings, she thinks no one else will, and then when he shows up, saying stupidly, “I didn’t invite you to this meeting. Why are you here?”

My husband’s response, “no, you didn’t but the VP and the Air Force did”.

Her: “Well, I didn’t approve your time on this contract, you can’t possibly know what the contract delivery terms are.”

Hubbie: "Well, what I do know was approved and supplied to me by Scott (her manager) and the client.

The woman sends nasty emails about my husband and stupidly assumes that no one will forward to him. He gets them all because everyone likes him so much and he’s always willing to help anyone. The employees have bets going as to how long she will last.

My husband likes the power of headphones.