Dealing with a Difficult Boss

Updated on February 19, 2011
T.K. asks from Lombard, IL
14 answers

Hi Moms,

So I had a confrontation with my boss earlier this week. Actually it wasn't a confrontation, it was very one sided, She came charging over to my cube and proceeded to yell at me in front of my entire department. Now, I did make a mistake and I did deserve to get in trouble, I'm not denying that. However, that way in which she handled it was completely unprofessional and unacceptable. I was completely humiliated in front of my co-workers. Again, I was expecting to get called into her office on this issue, but this totally blindsided me. The kicker is that not only is she my boss, she is the VP on the company. I do not really have any type of recourse against her.
I am so angry. I do not expect a woman of this level to treat people like this. I'm not the first person she has done this to, it's just my first time being her victim. I would never treat anybody the way she treated me, especially in the workplace.
I could go to HR or talk to her, but I know that it not accomplish anything, she is the boss and I need my job right now. So I guess I'm just looking for any advice or support that you may have. Or if you have had a similar experice, how you handled/dealt with it. Thanks!!!!

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much for all of you words. I've been doing a lot of thinking about it and you're all right, she is the one who looks like the idiot and I'm thankful for that. This company is a mid-size, strong company. The location, the salary and my co-workers are all great. This lady runs the show, she is in charge of everything and I'm really starting to understand that the level of stress she puts on everybody is un-necessary. I don't think people should be afraid of their bosses at work and that's how this place is run becasue that's the environment she's created. I'm in my 30's and I'm looking for a company I can join and grow with and move up in and and this isn't the type of environment I want to be a part of.
I know that I should talk to her about the incident, but again, I'm just putting a target on my back. I have to interact with her daily and I know how I will be treated if I'm on her "list". I hope that I can move on from this company and when I leave, I will let her know my reasons (in a professional way).
Again, thank you everyone for all of your advice, it really made me feel so much better!!!

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answers from Chicago on

You could go ahead and "stop her with a smile" could say, as she is screaming, "Thank you for coming to me about this immediately in such a calm way. I appreciate being able to collaborate with you on this." That tends to stop people in their tracks. Another method is to take notes and repeat back exactly what she says,"Now you just said that I..." This also tends to put things into perspective and makes her realize how she is sounding.It also makes you look very professional and calm. Just a thought. Good luck dealing with her...just think...she has to live with herself all the time, and you only have to see her at work.

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answers from Chicago on

Wow, do I feel your pain. I was sitting in my office the other day and my boss came running in and started yelling at me about something my co-worker said. Not wanting to throw her under the bus , I just stared at her. She yelled "Do you want to know what people think of you?" She then said things like everyone in the hospital thinks you are mean and the like. I prayed right there and then on the spot to ask God to stop me from asking her if she wanted to know what others thought of her. It worked. I shut my mouth and just kept staring. In the past I have always felt defensive and verbalized my defense. I found out this time however, that just staring at her (with a surprised look on my face) was the most effective thing I could do. You are not going to win this one I am sorry to say. The management are management because they have something the CEO wants in the upper level. It usually is some quality they admire in themselves. Unfortunately it may be something they think is great like assertiveness but the rest of the world views as "abrasiveness". I agree with the everyone on the suggestion not to go to HR. They will not defend you. AND keep looking for a job. I love Careerbuilders and Good Luck and God Bless.

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answers from Norfolk on

If she treats other people like this, I wouldn't take it personally.
She loses credibility every time she pulls this stunt.
Let it blow over and try not to make that same mistake again.
I had a boss in the past who timed how long everyone took in the bathroom, told a co-worker undergoing chemo for breast cancer that she was using her condition as an excuse to slack off at work, never called you in for a word/help unless it was 5 min before quitting time, and was evaluated at a team building exercise as someone who could benefit from professional therapy.
Just let it roll off your back.
If it makes you feel any better, they sell little voodoo kits where you can stick pins in a little pointy haired boss doll, but keep it at home.
Some bosses are truly crazy, but it gives you something to talk about for years after you are finished with them.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

This is awful but HR is a waste of time...they are on management's side always. HR knows how the VP behaves. Be proactive and have your resume prepared and just look at your options. Please take my advice from experience. I have tried to go the HR route and legally/morally I was right....HR sides with management/VP. You have a target on you now, be prepared. Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

I feel for you..... I hate it husband has to deal with the same thing. He's in a different position.... he quit once because of it and the company called and wanted him back, so he told them.."I'm a 55 year old man and there isn't a reason in the world to scream at me in front of others..... if I need an a$$ chewing do it behind closed doors.... no problem!!" The other responses are right.... the yeller is the one that looks like an idiot and everyone in the office knows it. I just wanted you to know that you're not alone.....!!!

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answers from Phoenix on

My husband is the VP of his company and has two employees directly under him. He treats them with respect at all times. He's had to confront them before but he's never treated them this way even though one of them did something so stupid and hair-brained and could've cost someone's life or caused huge repercussions from another company. Of course, he had a severe heart to heart with this person so not to ever have that happen again but he also maintained his dignity. I hate it when people have to disrespect someone just to show who's boss. There are better ways of handling situations like this and there's no excuses. I hope you're able to file a complaint or find another job.

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answers from New York on

She sounds horrible but I'm not sure there's a lot you can do. Theoretically, no one should want to work for this woman so her professional career should be halted as one person after the next quits and tells HR why they're quitting - her poor behaviour. Of course, that's more likely in a boom economy where employees are hard to find and jobs are easy. In this economy, if you have to take the best job you can get and this is it, your options are limited. If you go to HR, it'll start something that ultimately your boss probably will win unless everyone else who works for her also goes to complain and threatens to quit. If sometimes your boss is nice, you could go to her when she's in a good mood and apologize again for your error and then suggest that next time it would be great if she could reprimand you in private. But I'd be pretty deferential about how you talk to her. Otherwise, as someone said, you can all commisurate about what a b-tch she is and all try to find other jobs. Once you've done that, then a comment to HR would be safe. Likely all your coworkers sympathized with you and she's the one who looked like an idiot. So for the time being, I'd try to shrug it off and think "this is why a lot of people start their own business - to be their own boss." Then of course those people have to deal with obnoxious customers... I'd slowly look for another job and if you get a good boss, treasure him/her. In the meantime, there are lots of ahole bosses out there so you're not alone.

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answers from Harrisburg on

I don't care what job it is, no person should treat another person with disrespect, even if they are wrong. I personally would be angry as well, but I would definitely confront her. You need the job right now, but you don't have to succomb to this type of behavior just because this is your bread. I think it's because she is in her position and others don't want to do anything why she can get away with it. I would send her a tactful note something along the line of this "Ms Boss, I am sorry for making the mistake that I did and I do apologize, however, I do not like to be treated with disrespect and I felt how you responded to the situation was not in good taste. Please let us discuss this in private and see how I might be able to fix the problem this has caused"

There is NOTHING wrong in confronting another person about what they did wrong, and how it made you feel, it is how you do it, and whether it is worth the fight based on the person you are dealing with. She might actually be feeling bad herself for acting that way and have too much pride as VP to come back and apologize to you. Being a woman in that position, I would assume she is under the gun and have a lot of pressure on her. Who knows, she might actually be on PMS too. She might appreciate you stepping up to her and discussing in a civil adult manner (unlike her), without you feeling threatened by losing your job.

You want the money, but does that mean anyone should treat you like my opinion, it is not worth it, and believe me I have had to put up with a whole lot of stuff from my difficult boss as well, had to confront him many times and I am still employed.

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answers from Chicago on

I disagree that talking to her will not accomplish anything. If you speak to her privately in a VERY straightforward manner (NO emotions, NO rehashing what happened, NO whining, etc.) it will make an impression and could help.

Schedule a 15 min meeting and state the following:
"(Name), I want to talk to you about our interaction the other day. There is never a need to scream when you talk with me. I am a professional and you are a professional -- and I expect to be treated in a professional manner. When you have issues about my performance or behavior, I would appreciate the professional courtesy of you handling it in an appropriate manner. Thank you for listening. I should get back to the X project now. Thanks again." And then stand to leave.

If she gets defensive and starts to talk about what you had done (or whatever), stay there with a completely nuetral look on your face and listen and nod until she is done. The less you say, the better. The only things you should be saying at this point is, "I understand." Do NOT talk about whatever it was you did to get in trouble and whatever you do, do NOT show any emotion -- be calm and neutral. Don't disagree with anything she is saying. Do not react. Think of it the same way we deal with toddlers -- you have the responsiblity to set the example of how we want our children to behave. Do the same thing here.

I promise you this will make an impression on her.

PS...Everyone is correct -- do not go to HR about personality conflicts or behavioral issues (unless laws have been broken.) HR works to protect the corporation (which usually includes the executives)...not the workers.

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answers from Houston on

I would start brushing up on your resume and looking elsewhere.... I would also go to HR. Just remain professional and cordial while at the office.

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answers from Chicago on

Hi there,

Sorry to hear you are dealing with this. I am in a similar boat and honestly don't believe there's such a thing as employee rights anymore. Everything is so political these days, HR is more likely to go directly to the person and say "so & so said you did XYZ and you said ABC", out of some sort of weird sense of protocol. It makes people wonder what purpose HR really serves when it comes to things like this. They shuffle their feet, shrug their shoulders, and then end up letting it go because "it's a VP". No offense intended to anybody in HR. I'm only saying that it seems like your hands are as tied as the employee's.

Maybe go to the VP and state that you are displeased about the way the situation was handled and then go to HR. Two birds, one stone.

Good Luck!!!! :-)

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answers from Chicago on

HR is the only way to go honestly ... She needs to have some retraining it sounds like. You can do it annonamously.

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Chicago on

because of the position she holds you are definitely in a catch 22. I would however be on the search for a new position as I know you need your job, but living under the stressors of being "stuck" under such a person can take a toll on the person you are. I know I put up with it for 4 years and when she was finally fired I realized how exactly how much stress she injected not only into my work life, but my home. I gave her way more power than I should ever have allowed in my life. I know that jobs are tight right now, but if you have a reasonable track record for jobs then you should be okay. If this should happen again to you before your end of employement there I suggest that at the get go of the stampede that you say "I understand you have something to discuss with me, let's go to a private place and do just that" and stand up and start walking to an office, hers, an empty conference room, wherever. A person like that thrives on an audience. If you handle it this way then it will take some of the wind out of her sail and let both of you gain composure and ground and make you appear to be the proffessional one. If this is done once or twice other co-workers will then be taught how to deal with this person and perhaps give her a quiet education as you have done nothing threatening, just moved the place of the discussion.

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