How to Handle a Nasty Supervisor?

For the past couple months, I have been working with a supervisor who doesn’t give feedback or criticism on projects/work, he insults my intelligence, choice or career, and work ethic. Luckily, I am leaving the work situation soon but I have no idea how to handle this kind of supervisor for the future. My current method? Crying. Usually, I could keep it together long enough for a bathroom stall weep. I have never worked for someone so abusive and demeaning and I’d like to have some coping techniques for the future - just in case. So how have you handled abusive supervisors?

Find a new job. Really, that’s the only way.

Document it. Write down every nasty remark he makes, with the date, and possibly the time. If you have witnesses, note who saw/heard it. Go to his supervisor and tell him/her about the hostile work environment…and trust me, this IS a prime example. Make sure to use those words, “hostile work environment”. You are not able to work as effectively, because you’re stressing out about this and because you are not getting proper feedback. Most likely, this guy is unsuited or at the very least untrained for a supervisory position, and would be more effective elsewhere. Are you going to work for the same company after you leave his supervision?

I am moving to a new assignment at a new company - thank goodness for consulting!

You still should consult with this guy’s boss. You might want to do some consulting work with them in the future, and you don’t want to get stuck with HIM again.

There’s only a couple of ways, which may or may not work, depending on the person and the company.

1> Confrontation. Refuse to accept the negative treatment, pointedly state that you will not tolerate being insulted and spoken down to in that manner.

2> Complain to HR and/or his/her boss. Have as much documented as possible. If the person is stupid enough to put insults and unprofessional behavior in an e-mail, forward them to your home address before filing a complaint. Be sure to make your complaint professional and not personal. You’re complaining about unprofessional behavior and abusive language, not about the person being an asshole, even if you think they are one. Document the lack of feedback, especially in regard to projects. This will be useful to deflect or shape any issues regarding your work.

3> Find a new job.

4> Tolerate the abuse, do the best job you can, and hope that you eventually win them over. Doesn’t work most of the time, but this is the option most management people are going to give you. “Gosh, we know Assface is a jerk, but you’ll just have to learn how to work with him”

I am very big on a paper trail. I keep a composition book and keep a record of everything that I may need to detail to someone later. Dates and time go a long way if you reach the HR phase.

Why, oh why, do people persist in the delusion that HR has any interest in helping them, or making their work environment more pleasant? They don’t. In every single instance I’ve seen in my years in the working world (and I’ve been out there for a long time), anyone who complains to HR about a boss, or at least about a boss who’s getting results, is marked as a troublemaker. HR will immediately begin documenting everything possible about the complainant. And believe me, they’re better at it than the person complaining. It’s accepted truth in HR departments that nothing good about an employee should ever be said in writing, whereas every trivial nitpick and one-minute lateness should be documented.

If a manager is perceived by his or her superiors as doing a halfway decent job, said superiors will not give a shit how badly that manager treats employees.

The only way to deal with supervisors like the one described in the OP is to get out from under them, either by leaving the company or finding a position within the company that does not report to the asshole.

Well exactly, which was why I gave #4.

Another one of my personal quotes;

“You bring a problem to management, YOU become the problem”

Saintly Loser it’s too bad your so jaded, but taking it to HR does work. I’ve seen it even get rid of a manager. It all depends on your work place. In some places they’re so messed up that nobody but the court system could help. It’s usually easiest to leave in that case. I’ve only worked in one place like that and it was for less than 3 months.

  1. Do your job to the very best of your ability so you end up knowing you have done the best you can.

2… Document everything. Don’t talk to the person any more than you can help. If you are working on a project, make sure you send all project requests by email so you have a paper trail. If there’s some reason you were unable to fulfil one of their verbal requests, send an email saying ‘You asked me to…I didn’t/ couldn’t because…’

  1. Try not to chew your fingernails down so far that they bleed. If you start believing what your supervisor tells you, talk to those who will validate (to an honest degree) your sense of self-worth.

  2. Remain polite at all times.

  3. Do not talk about how much you hate your boss in public places/ on the Internet. Anyone could be listening, and that includes friends/ associates of the boss.

  4. If you have to stay in the job, talk to HR. Get someone to coach you in what you want to say so that you keep it objective, factual and calm, without resorting to personal slanging. If you want to say ‘I have difficulty in working with this person because they do not answer my emails’ be prepared with evidence to back it up. There is no guarantee that HR will listen to you, but if they are prepared to, you want to be as calm as you can.

  5. Get the hell out.

  6. Realize that some people are toxic and nothing you can do will change their behaviour.

  7. Learn from your behaviour so you don’t sucked into the same situation the next time.

Document, and leave. Not in that order.

I would set the asshole up.

  1. Figure out a situation that will result predictably in verbal abuse from him. Don’t provoke it, of course, just anticipate it.

  2. Be ready with some kind of voice recorder (or even better, webcam with sound).

  3. Play recording for HR during your exit interview.

  4. Publish recording/video to youtube, wondering out loud why anyone would want to work with this asshole and/or this firm.

  5. Email the company and the supervisor about the youtube file.

  6. Grin when you find out that the asshole got fired.

  7. Enjoy your new job!

I have had a couple of really nasty supervisors. In both cases I realised after some time that they were actually feeling threatened by me. I tend to be quite confident and not scared about disagreeing with people (even those senior to me) and managers who either aren’t secure in the role or who are very used to underlings who don’t dare to question them. With the worst manager I ever had I actually found that when I went against my instincts and allowed her to do me a couple of favours, her behaviour towards me improved dramatically. I think once she felt I was in her debt (even slightly) she relaxed and things improved.

I’m not disagreeing with those who say go to HR - these types of bosses should be reformed or removed where at all possible. However, in my experience there are some situations where you know that isn’t practical - in my case it was a summer job in a small company, no HR dept and in any case no-one was going to raise ructions for a student who would be gone in a few months. Sometimes you just need to come up with some tactics that will let you keep getting through the day intact.

It depends on the politics. If nasty boss is in trouble with management for other reasons, a complaint might be welcomed. If he or she is a veteran, forget it. I’d bet there are plenty of people who don’t complain, so the problem will be seen as coming from the complainer.

AmericanMaid is a consultant, so forget HR. If she works for a consulting company, maybe they’d at least keep her away from this boss, but I doubt they’d risk their in by complaining.

I’m not sure it is. “Hostile work environment” has a more specific definition than “my boss is an asshole”. It refers to sexual harassment and retaliation for your actions (e.g., whistleblowing).

TimsLaw.com » Hostile Work Environment – Generally, in Missouri- Tim's Missouri Employment Law Info Site :

<<Many people are thoroughly upset at how rude their supervisors or co-workers are to them, how they are belittled in front of others and made to feel stupid, how they are cussed at. I then ask the callers a few questions, and I often quickly determine that the “hostile environment” is not of a type that the law can help with. If the hostile environment is a generally bad working environment, where most people are treated rudely by mean co-workers and bosses, then there may not be anything the law can do to help you. There are no employment laws that mandate that people be respectful and polite to each other.>>

This happened to me. I was constantly harassed and belittled by a supervisor. I was given contradictory instructions and screamed at (in front of co-workers) no matter which way I did things. I was written up for spending 3 minutes on the internet (I had to check an ebay auction), when other people on the same team spent hours a day online. She would criticize any personal belongings I had in my cubicle (music, artwork, etc). When other people called off sick, she’d just send out emails saying “Dan (or whoever) is sick”. When I called off sick, she’d make all these nasty comments through emails (“Apocalypso doesn’t feel like coming in today”). One of the things I did was tech support for production runs. Because I have severe hearing issues, I got HR to buy me some special equipment that woke me up when the phone rang. Well the equipment failed and I missed a call. She made a huge stink about it (even after HR investigated and said it wasn’t my fault). I started saving emails and some of my printouts with her nasty comments on them. I took everything to HR, explained what was going on. I was told they’d investigate. A month later the department head called me into her office and said “We don’t think there’s anything inappropriate going on”. A month after that I was laid off. The only other person I know of that got laid off was another guy who - surprise! - was also having similar issues with his supervisor (a different person than mine). I am still having problems today because of this (this happened about 6 years ago).

So, your mileage definitely may vary on this one.

My advice: start looking for another job asap.

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HR exists to help the company, not the employees. Going to HR is almost always a losing proposition. Unless HR already has it in for the person you’re complaining about, you’re just painting a big bulls-eye on your head with ‘troublemaker’ written next to it. I’ve seen this at every place I’ve worked that was big enough to have an HR department.

I disagree with part of what you say. When an employee uses the hostile work enviorment phrase, if HR ignores it they are opening their company liability. I seen HR get really shook up over that claim. I have seen them go after the supervisor and the complaining employee. And yes I have also seen them give your responce. But in time it blows up in their face.

Most HR could give squat about the employees. But when an employee even a supervisor puts the company in jeopardy then they care.