Anyone ever successfully confront a hostile boss?

I work in a supervisory position over a few part-time employees. I’ve only been in this job for a few months. The structure of the group I work for is such that while I am technically in a supervisory position, they often report directly to the main boss directly. Often when they make errors they are reprimanded incredibly harshly, called stupid, yelled at, or otherwise treated in a disrespectful or bullying manner. I personally have never been treated like this by my boss, but as I have a supervisory role over these employees I feel it is my right to create and maintain for them a respectful work environment. I’m not sure what action to take at this point. Any ideas?

Is the person over you the only one? If not, maybe talk to one of his peers to see if he might bring something up to him. Failing that, you can try to go over his head to his supervisor or, if you want to risk it, confront him directly.

Those’re the only things I can think of and I’d do them in that order. Sorry I couldn’t be much help.

It’s a difficult situation to navigate because of the small size of the company and the lack of clearly defined heirarchial structure. I work for a husband and wife team who own the business. The wife is incredibly self-reliant, and rarely requires much by way of administrative help, and there are few problems on her end. She is technically the president of the company, although there really aren’t any titles here. They also have one associate, myself, and then two part time workers. The associate and I are both in a supervisory position over the part-time workers. Often though, this associate serves to justify or enable the behavior of the husband, with whom most of the problems initiate. Much of it is explained away to stress or a hectic work schedule. I understand the need for allowance of personal differences in stress handling and coping mechanisms, but I feel that many times his reprimands cross the line. If I had more power or authority I could act as a buffer for this behavior, but unfortunately I do not, and am given little recourse vis a vis handling reprimands myself. The only thing I have at this point determined I can do is suggest a more clear deliniation of accountability structure, and try to position myself in a manner so as to more effectively soften the blow. This would however fail to address the real issue at hand.

What the boss is doing to his employees is harassment/abuse, and it is not acceptable in a workplace. An employer has a responsibility to provide a safe work environment, and that includes one free from harassment. I would suggest you start with your local employment standards office, and see if they have any advice for you. Unfortunately, these mom-and-pop type businesses get away with a lot of shit, and workers usually just quit.

Are both the husband and wife completely unapproachable? If not, I would attempt to speak with one or both privately and sort of ask for the accountability/responsibility to feed, water and walk the part-timers. Well, you know what I mean. Poo trickles downhill. If Boss Man has a problem with an employee, he can bring it to you and you’ll handle it. If the employees have a problem with one of the Bosses, they go to you and you take the issue on up the ladder. I’d couch the request in terms of “this is my career path and I’ve been here x number of months/years and isn’t it time to add to my list of responsibilities? I’ll be happy to be the mediator.”

If they are both completely unapproachable, then I would try to work it from the other end and lend a sympathetic, but business-logical ear and just try to be supportive. “Yes, you are not supposed to come in late without calling. But the BossMan calling you a Lazy POS was uncalled for. Please call me if you’re going to be late and I’ll cover for you.” I think you can probably position yourself in between but I’m sort of wondering why you’d want to do that.

But then again, I recently left a rather high-level management position in a largish (for Tally anyway) company to become a peon in a tiny shop again. So it now mystifies me why anyone would aspire to management.

Since we live in the same city, I’m desperately curious as to who this employer is… (So I’ll never make the mistake of applying to work there.) If you don’t feel comfortable posting… would you mind e-mailing me? The address should be in my profile.

Also, if you’ve already attempted discussions, let us know what the result is. Does the wife not see that the husband’s “management” style is unprofessional and unproductive? Does his behavior toward employees affect the bottom line? If it doesn’t cut into profits, then neither will care much and the revolving door will continue to spin new employees in and out until there’s nobody left in Tallahassee to work for these people. Don’t laugh – this is a small town and it’s very easy to burn your bridges and alienate yourself from potentially beneficial business relationships. Happens every day…

Easy advice here…should solve the problem instantly…

Pull a fight club. :dubious:

This is sort of the tactic I’m leaning towards. Without going into too much detail, this happens to be a particularly busy time of year for our company, so I’m going to wait until there’s a natural lull during which I can approach them in a non-confrontational way. Also, I have an evaluation coming up which, I figure would be an ideal time to discuss this.

This is the tactic I’ve been using in the meantime. I’ve tried to uphold the reprimand but at the same time be sensitive to the employee’s emotional reactions, and letting them know I disapprove of the manner in which it was given. I haven’t promised action of any sort, as I do not want to promise anything which I cannot deliver, but consider it my duty to promote harmony in this area. I’d be willing to position myself in-between in part because the part-timers don’t get paid enough to put up with this kind of behavior and in part because I consider it part of a good supervisor’s role to approachable about complaints and to work to smoothe over interpersonal differences.

::g:: I’m beginning to wonder the same thing, really. Unfortunately I rather need the management-level income, so I’m stuck for the time being. Plus, all told I rather enjoy what I do.

Sure, I’ll email you privately. You may have further insight for me, and I appreciate the offer.

I’ll explain more privately, but I don’t forsee this as putting much of a hamper on their business relationships, and unfortunately I don’t really forsee anything I do as having much of an impact, but I would not be able to maintain my self-respect if I didn’t say something.


Well, then at the very least, you will gain some really great experience and will learn all the ins and outs of how NOT to treat your employees. That will come in handy when you’re a gajillionaire self-made business owner. :smiley:

That said, and having received your e-mail: you are right. Wait until the dust settles, which if I’m not mistaken, should be very soon, like in the next couple weeks. Then discuss it as part of your appraisal. Who knows, you might actually get a raise/promotion out of the deal. If I had an employee who was willing to run interference between myself and the other employees… I’d hand over the reins and a nice salary increase with a big smile on my face.

Hang in there!

(And think how much better traffic is going to be in a few weeks: the students and the legislation will all go home and we can go places without sitting in gridlock!)

Unfortunately, and sadly, you’re wrong. At least in a legal sense (I couldn’t agree more from a moral perspective).

Sexual harassment is prohibited. Abuse or harassment based on ethnicity, handicap, age or (in some places) sexual orientation is prohibited.

But it is perfectly legal in this country to be an abusive asshole of a boss. Employees are not protected from such a person (unless he or she crosses over the line and actually physically abuses an employee). Most employees are “at will” employees, and unless they’re a member of a protected class, they have pretty much no rights whatsoever.

I know that Americans assume that everybody should be like them, but you did see that featherlou is posting from Canada, didn’t you?

First, as a manager you are the filter. Your job is to keep petty crap from floating upward to the Execs. You should also keep the crap from raining down on your subs.

From my experience, unless they are compulsive micro-managers, (nothing you can do about them), most managers only micro manage when they feel things aren’t getting done, or they’re being pressured from above. You need to let your boss know that s/he can trust you to get it done. Since you should be managing the work flow, I suggest you approach your boss with something this:

Boss. we aren’t as efficient here in dept XJGX as we should/could be. I think that’s because you aren’t always keeping me informed about what you want or expect from the departmet. I know that sometimes it may seem easier for you to go directly to the group, but I’ll whip these Bozos into shape for you if you give me the chance. Let’s sit down together and you outline the goals and objectives for the (year) (project) (contract) and I’ll make sure it happens.

As the manager you need to make sure your boss is confident and comfortable that the job will get done.

OOh boy. I worked for a husband/wife company for years (as the service foreman) and there’s no way I’d try to get in the middle of that marriage.

In my case it was painfully obvious that the wife was bilking the husband for all he could give AND undermining his authority every chance she got.

Only by luck I got injured, and am now forced out of that dreadful situation. That’s lose/lose. Look for a new job. I almost think my injury was a manifestation of stress.

People will go to extreme lengths to keep up the illusion that their marriage/husband/wife is perfect and would sooner get rid of you.

In my experience many bosses are bad. They do not understand how to manage people or motivate them. But still they are the boss! They have spent their entire life becoming the person that they are and will probably not appreciate you telling them how to do their job. Approach with caution. I use the opening “ I have some ideas that might be helpful.” What reasonable person would not like ideas that might be helpful? If he does not respect your concern to make a better work environment, then it is time to look for another job.

I didn’t. We have much to learn from our chilly neighbors.

I didn’t. We have much to learn from our chilly neighbors. However, the OP is posting from the US, so my point still stands.