I have a problem with my boss

Feb 27 2008

Hey Mitch,

I have a problem with my boss – well, not just me, but also my coworkers are very unhappy with her!

My boss is a nice lady, but so unpredictable that nobody knows what to expect from her. In the morning she might be yelling and being mean to people, an hour later totally sweet and acting like she’s never had a bad moment! In the afternoon, she’s often mean and angry again. Coworkers say she’s Bipolar.

I don’t think she’s even aware of how horrible she is to everyone, Mitch. When she apologizes, it’s not for her behaviors, but for something totally out of the blue! She seems to have memory issues, at least partially. How can we help her? She’s really a nice lady, but her actions are horrible!!

Harried On-The-Job,

Hey Harried,

That’s a cycle that’s no fun to ride!!

This is tough because employment relationships are laden with legalese wrapped around the realities of social stressors and workplace dynamics! The Employee Manual doesn’t always cover how to deal with complex interpersonal work issues!

A few points:

1. Choose to engage in work conversations which are positive, helpful (brief venting is OK) and resolution-focused. AVOID “Boss-Bashing” – a negative activity which hurts everyone.

2. Take quiet time away from the job to think about the circumstances around the pleasant and unpleasant exchanges with your boss. Are there precipitating situations (customer complaints; poor employee performances…) leading to her “explosions”? Maybe she has anger triggers which you can watch for signaling time to visit the restroom or otherwise remove yourself from the tempest.

3. Consider the possibility that this “nice lady” may be open to positive support, including letting her know how you feel about your interactions with her… Yes: How you feel – NOT speaking for others (creates distrust, splitting and/or staff infighting)… About your interactions with her – without blaming and/or making her “wrong”!

… Obviously, if you do approach her, she’s more receptive during her “nice” cycle stages.

4. If talking with her seems to be scary, inappropriate or of no value, then time to consult the Employee Manual (or the like) to determine what your options are. Regardless of the emotional-relational aspects of your work, laws and policy dictate appropriate procedure! Many times, a well-meaning employee finds him/herself unprotected, even out of work because they didn’t operate within the manual protocol.

5. Also, take a look at your Employee-Boss relationship expectations. Sometimes, we feel someone is “mean” or “yelling”, when the issue is really about unrealistic and/or inappropriate expectations on our part. Could her bad moments be merely her doing her job (possibly sternly), falling on sensitive ears of employees expecting a little coddling or some love and appreciation?

… And, maybe this is a signal for you to look for another job!.. Either way, look for your learning opportunities, and know you are valuable.

~ Namasté ~

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