Office Coach: Muster the courage, leave abusive boss

2013-04-24T00:00:00Z Office Coach: Muster the courage, leave abusive bossMarie McIntyre Mcclatchy-tribune Arizona Daily Star
April 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Q: The verbal abuse that I receive from my boss has been escalating for several years. About once a week, he begins shouting, cursing and banging on my desk. He starts criticizing my work, then brings up issues from my personal life.

Every time this happens, he eventually calms down and wants to work things out. We always reach an agreement about how he is going to change, but before long he blows up again. His erratic behavior is beginning to affect my performance, which only makes the situation worse.

I have tried to resign for the past three years, but he always talks me out of it. He owns the business, so there is no one else who can help. I am feeling very depressed and don't see how I can endure this much longer.

A: Has it occurred to you that this relationship is exactly like an abusive marriage? Your boss bullies you, you threaten to leave, he promises to change, you agree to stay, then he bullies you again. This is the same vicious cycle that abused spouses experience.

The big difference, however, is that leaving a job is much easier than leaving a marriage. Therefore, the real key to your problem lies in the statement, "I have tried to resign for the past three years." In reality, you are free to depart whenever you like, so staying must provide some kind of emotional payoff.

Perhaps, like many abused spouses, you have developed an enmeshed relationship with your abuser. Or maybe he has made you feel so worthless that you fear no one else will hire you. But regardless of the reason for your reluctance, you need to screw up your courage and get out of there because no one should tolerate that kind of treatment.

Q: I have a co-worker with a very bad attitude who routinely shirks her job duties. My boss frequently complains about "Jackie" and asks me for advice on how to handle her. This week, he went one step further and said that I am now responsible for monitoring Jackie's performance. How am I supposed to do that when I'm not her supervisor?

A: I don't know whether your manager is wimping out or making a reasonable attempt to solve a problem. But I do know that turning you into a monitor will never work unless everyone clearly understands your role. And since Jackie is unlikely to welcome this peer oversight, she deserves an explanation from her boss.

First, you must ask your manager exactly what he wants you to observe, how he expects you to do so and how frequently he would like feedback. Then he needs to meet with you and Jackie together to clarify his expectations and answer any questions she may have.

When Jackie has performance issues, as she undoubtedly will, your boss is the one who should discuss them with her. But if you are expected to handle these coaching conversations, then you have become her supervisor and should be given an official promotion.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach

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