Crackpot boss: What to do?

My ex-gf had a boss who was always trying to get her into trouble. It was a state job, so it was almost impossible to get her fired, but the boss kept at it. One of the most idiotic stunts that the boss pulled was to send an email similar to this:

*HH’s gf: Today you used the term ‘My bad’ in front of a client of the state. This phrase is disrespectful and you are not to use it on state property, in front of state clients again.

cc: hr*

Now, the term ‘My bad’ is, according to wikipedia, just an Americanism, meaning, of course, my mistake, mea culpa, etc…

The most irritating part is that the boss was totally wrong, of course, and documented her nonsense in a cc to HR. But, the fact that it was in writing, to HR, meant that, uncontested, it would probably be thought of as valid, and HH’s gf could be termed if she used an innocuous, habitual term again, or would have to apologize to psycho boss if she did use it, and hope boss would be magnanimous enough of a freak to overlook it.
Isn’t there a way to combat this nonsense? It would have to go to HR, and show that the term isn’t an amoral affront to civilization, and the boss would have to be notified that she was wrong. Is there any kind of relief in this situation?
Of course, the ex left there some years ago, but this kind of goofiness sticks in my brain and crops up every now and then, and I have a psycho boss and the answer to this may help me in the near future.


This is an interesting case. I’m curious what comes of it. I have a similar situation… but not. I float from branch to branch covering vacations, medical leave, training, etc. One branch’s supervisor is cut from the same cloth as the OP’s GF’s boss. My boss knows I’m not a trouble maker and a great employee, as do the other supervisors at the other branches, so she disregards the BS that one supervisor spews.

To be honest, based on a lot of experience dealing with incompetent, inexperienced, dickheaded or just completely insane bosses…

The only solution is to leave.

Sorry, but that’s it. Spare yourself the ulcers and the extra work. Find another job.

In the mean time, if the nutjob boss is NOT the ultimate boss or owner of the company, do your best to completely ignore the most batshit insane elements of their behavior and carry on life as normal. If I’d gotten the above e-mail, I’d act as if I’d never received it. If at some point in the future, you get called on it, only then is it reasonable to take it up with HR or your bosses boss and ask if this kind of thing is serious and if it is reasonable behavior in your company.

“Um, you mean I’m being written up because I used the phrase “my bad”? Is this serious? Is this kind of thing a punishable offense at ABC company? If so, could you please provide me some guidelines on acceptable figures of speech so that I do not get written up for saying “Whoops” or something equally inoffensive? If necessary, should I put this request in writing, so that it’s in my file with this other write-up?”

This is exactly I would do, submit this request in writing attaching copies of Wiki or what ever supporting that the boss is an idiot, and saying that you need guidance as to what phrases are and are not acceptable.
It will probably cause somebody in HR’s head to asplode, but don’t let it drop, make it their problem.
Once you have the list, you are golden.

IANA HR person but IMO when the boss sends an email like that, he shoots himself in the foot and looks like an idiot. If he wrote something to the effect that “My bad is slang, and therefore unprofessional,” I mightalmostkindamaybesorta see that but I’d still wonder what the conniption was. It could also be that this boss complains about many picayune things because he doesn’t know WTF he’s doing WRT the bigger picture. And he presumably supervises more than the gf, so this could be the tip of the iceberg in terms of what emails HR receives from him.

A polite reply asking clarification, yeah, I guess, if you want.

Sometimes it pays to build up a portfolio, preferably take somone into your confidence such as a Union rep.

If you go to HR on first time, you’ll look like a tattle tale, you only do this on first occasion when there is something at stake, like your job or gross misconduct.

Keep records, keep a watching brief, things like annual evaluations - annual targets - see if you are being singled out or is this person a dick to everyone.

Differant situations and differant personalities call for differant approaches, none of us here know the parties involved, nor the company culture and company HR system.

Once I had a reasonable case, I might bring up some of the issues with the manager directly either personally or through the grievance procedure, and I would save other issues as ammo for later. Don’t fire everything at once unless it is urgent and critical.

Meantime, read up on your company HR policies and documents, make sure you know how to file any paperwork, and make sure you know of any deadlines for actions/meetings and reports back - you can often win you battle by knowing the rules and following them whilst the locall manager is ‘far too important’ to get involved in such minutiae.

Be careful who you confide in, your best friend may well be nothing like, or just too much of a blabbermouth, listen, rather than talk.

Huh. I would have just sent him back an e-mail saying, “Okay. My bad.”

Doing it by email is bad, but many companies do have guidelines on acceptable terminology. For example, one job I had where our phone calls were randomly audited we would get marked off if we said “yea” instead of “yes” because it was considered unprofessional.