COPING WITH THE BOSS FROM HELL

I recently received an email from a former student who reads our blog now and then. I  modified some details in the email to protect the individual’s identity, and have permission to share the story on the blog.

“Hey DrB. Give me some advice on coping with my crazy supervisor. She’s in her late 60s and all of us in her department are hoping every day that she’ll retire. She thinks she is god’s gift — I have never seen such an ego. She’s paranoid as hell, always sending out emails to someone and accusing them of trying to undercut her. Recently she told me, ‘Make sure you come to me; I don’t want to see you talking to (her supervisor) and bad mouthing me.’ She’s overweight and is beginning to harass everyone about losing weight. Yesterday she sent out an email telling us all about the weight program she has joined and suggested we all join her. She’s a germ phobe. The other day I handed her a report she wanted from me and she put it down on her desk and proceeded to lather up her hands with sanitizer. This woman is a walking case study, DrB. Any thoughts? We’re all scared to death and worried she can fire us and even ruin our careers. I remember enough from my psyc major to know that she’s not likely to change, right? Actually, she’ll probably get worse, right?”

She sounds a lot like J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI for decades, who struck fear into US Presidents! OCD about germs and weight, paranoia, narcissism. I would be walking on egg shells, too! I agree with you that she’s not likely to change and that her issues are likely to get worse as you said. I would assume she is watching all her workers quite closely, maybe even monitoring emails. So be vigilant and cautious. Like Hoover she may have a special file (enemies list) on each worker to use either to get you fired or to blackmail you into giving her unqualified support.

I don’t think I would disagree with anything you said. Her power, anger, internal insecurities, paranoia, narcissism, OCD tendencies and lord knows what else are toxic combinations. Those tendencies will likely expand and intensify. She will possibly go to any lengths to get her way and use you. So go the sycophant road and “kiss butt.” When she mentions the weight say how much your (spouse) has lost and that your whole family is more aware of their health. Be careful whom you talk to at work; assume that your emails are not private; keep a detailed log of all your work meetings, both with her and others. Watch your back, keep your head down, and keep detailed records.

It would be nice to do a job search, too, and get your resume’ out there. Of course, if vicious supervisor learns of it, you’re dead meat!

2 thoughts on “”

  1. Learning to cope with the boss from hell is something that we can all relate to, including myself. During my senior year of college, I was picking up serving jobs at nearby restaurants not too far from school. One day, I met with a college student who worked at a very popular restaurant. One day I stopped him in the hall for small talk and got to ask him about his current serving job. At this time, my friend replied “it’s hard work and can get stressful, but it pays well… I was able to get my car with this job. At first, I did not believe him. He drove a brand new BMW 335i and I found it impossible for him to afford a car like that. Judging by the skepticism in my voice, he brought me into his dorm room and opened a safe that consisted of large sums of money (I did not understand why he didn’t use a bank with a savings account). He stated that all of the cash was from working at this restaurant. At this time, I began to believe him a little more. I asked him if the owner was hiring at the restaurant and he suggested that I came in during his shift to speak to the owner personally. When I realized that I could start making a lot more money than what my broke college student’s wallet can hold, I took full advantage of this opportunity. The owner was a well-dressed man in his mid-50s. As I approached him, I formally introduced myself and asked him if he was hiring. At this time, the owner asked if I spoke Spanish and had any serving experience. When he found out that I had experience in both areas, I was hired on the spot! It was fantastic.
    On my first day I made about $130 and as a month or two passed I then began averaging $400-$500 a night. During my first few months, one of the more experienced servers pulled me to the side and said, “never get in the way of [insert name of boss] because he will throw you the hell out of here for blinking the wrong way!” At first, I was shocked. The naïve 21-year old version of myself did not believe it. I asked myself, “how can a person who hired me and was so respectful be someone that people are intimidated by?” I soon came to find out that I would be put to the test. Growing up I was always taught to respect the people around me. While working at the restaurant, I began to pick up the late-night routine of prepping the restaurant for the next day. The restaurant owner always sat at the same table in the restaurant with friends waiting for the restaurant to be prepped for the next day. Most of the time, he would be smoking cigars and drinking expensive wines. As time went on, I began to notice that he would always be intoxicated and at times would disrespect me and my coworkers. In some cases, he would fire people in his restaurant for ridiculous things. One time, a woman complained that her well-done steak was burnt and a cook was fired on the spot and called a “dumb piece of [insert word]. My boss was known for being a raging alcoholic and a bully. He use to pick on his employees because he knew that no one would ever say or do anything to jeopardize their job. Overtime, the boss began cursing at me and calling me inappropriate names. On one occasion he fired me and grabbed me by the shirt and literally pushed me out of the restaurant. The next day, he called me and apologized for his actions and gave me my job back. It was my naïve self that kept me involved at the job.
    I never grew up with a lot of money and my father was often laid-off from jobs. As a 21-year old, I continued to work at the restaurant because it was the only source of (what I believed to be) large sums of money. I realized that if I wanted to keep my sanity I needed to strategize my plan of escape from this job. I decided that the psychological torment that I would endure needed to count for something so I needed to work smart not work hard. One day I came into the restaurant and decided to cut my hours from working 5 to 3 days a week. These days were Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday. I chose only 3 days to limit the amount of time I spent working around my boss’s schedule to avoid him at all costs. While choosing to do so, I began interacting less with my boss and using my days off to apply to other jobs. As I continued to save money I was finally hired to work in a retirement home. Although I would be taking a decrease in salary, I knew that it was the better choice in the long run.
    The person in this story needed to come up with their own strategies to escape their current position. It is important use feelings of dissatisfaction as a motivator to get out of whatever stressful situation you are in. If you experience a “boss form hell” you need to outweigh the pros and cons and strategize a way to temporarily deal with it and devise an exit strategy as quickly as possible.

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  2. I think you came up with some good coping strategies to deal with this situation. You knew you couldn’t control the boss, but you could control to some extent the amount contact you had with him.

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