My Job is Awesome, But My Boss is a Jerk

by Evil HR Lady on March 21, 2011

Dear Evil HR Lady,

The company I work for is very small (6 of us in total including part-timers). The founder and my boss are also father and son respectively. My boss is a bully and true to your advice I have been trying to offset his negativity by rising above it, concentrating on the task at hand, and confronting him where necessary. However, nothing seems to help for very long. I have even started creating a log of all ‘misdemeanors’ in case I ever need to substantiate any claims. It would make for rather hilarious reading if it wasn’t happening to me.

I love my job – the work is great and I feel all the things I should feel when satisfied with the content of my day. It’s just I can’t seem to keep my boss happy. I do a universally accepted great job (customers all over the world send very positive feedback) and when it comes to appraisal time, he will nix all my efforts by something like (and this is genuine) forgetting the sellotape. He doesn’t communicate much, he engages in politicking, he tells half truths which I discover later when talking to other colleagues, he’s never on time for meetings and often just blows them off at the last minute, complains about everything under the sun when everyone else gives a glowing report, shifts the goalposts, undermines my authority (gives me responsibility, takes it away and dumps it back last minute if it’s not going well for me to pick up the pieces and clear his name), all my ideas are rubbish in his view… need I go on?

Please don’t ask me to update my CV and prepare to look for a new job – it really is a great job, I get a fab work-life balance as it’s a mile from my house, all my other colleagues are lovely and genuine, I have a fantastic rapport with all my customers and I am doing a great job earning money for the company. I just need to know how to handle my boss. It is a tricky situation, and I guess there’s no simple answer to the problem but I’m hoping you are able to enlighten me with some golden nuggets of wisdom.

My Job is Awesome, But My Boss is a Jerk

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Interviewer March 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm

The best thing you can do is support your boss the same way you would the customers. I know – you already do, right? But he's a selfish jerk who doesn't care what you're doing for them. He just cares about what you're not doing for him.

I'm sure it comes across in your attitude that you think he's worthless. Maybe all of "his" stuff gets shoved to the bottom of the stack so you can help the company first.

So look at it this way, if he thinks the best improvement you can make is not to forget the tape, then for goodness sake, don't ever forget it. Who cares if you made the company profitable last year? Remember the tape!

Yes, I know he's a pathetic loser who will have forgotten all about your monumental achievement of remembering tape by tomorrow. Tomorrow, he'll go on and on about someone forgetting the pencils. Soon you'll recognize the larger pattern: he wants things to be taken care of promptly, without pointing them out to you. He doesn't communicate – because he expects you to read his mind. That's a rare skill to have and one you can definitely work on. Figure out what's going to annoy him and fix it ahead of time. Once you have the legal pads and markers and pencils and tape all squared away, on top of your regular awesome achievements, he'll think you're the go-to person that the company can't afford to lose. Right now, in his eyes you're the dummy who can't remember tape, no matter how much you add to the bottom line.

That's the best advice I can give you. Good luck.

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Sergey Gorbatov March 21, 2011 at 11:03 pm

First things first – your CV must ALWAYS be updated, no matter why type of boss you have.

Secondly, being a subordinate is an art, and often it is much more difficult to be a subordinate than a leader simply because you do not have the organizational power (http://hrboutique.blogspot.com/2011/01/leadership-power-and-influence.html). It does not matter if your boss is stroking his ego at your expense or you are indeed an incompetent worker who forgets cello tape – from the organizational perspective he will always win: after all he's the boss's son.

Thus, do you want your peace of mind back? Start looking around and see what's out there. You will be surprised how many better jobs there are. Do not wait until your boss will change (you might retire first): remember that you are doing a favor to that company by rendering your services to them and not vice versa.

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Rodolphe Mortreuil March 22, 2011 at 10:55 am

This is, I think, the first time I disagree with your answer EHRL. Sucking it up and putting forward the good points only works for so long.
As great as the job itself is, the truth is that bullies in the company can ruin it all.
The important bit to remember is that there are other fascinating, rewarding jobs out there, with better emotional rewards than the constant put-downs which your writer is talking about.
The lucky situation she's in is that, at least, she can take the time in her search for another position which she will enjoy as much, without undue pressure to take the first one that comes along at the risk of getting it wrong.
The right answer there should have been, I think: "it's a big world out there, start looking".

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Lauren March 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm

To the first commentor ("Interviewer"): when I read the story, I get the impression that it's the BOSS who forgets the tape – thus potentially dooming the sale and negating the questioner's efforts.

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The HR Wannabe March 23, 2011 at 1:11 am

Ultimately, a bully is a bully. There really isn't anything you can do to change his behaviour, and I think there's a point where you just accept that and move on. It doesn't sound like you are interested in leaving the job, so the best thing you can do is try not to let this jerk get to you. Make sure that you are doing the best job you can for your own integrity, and try not to pay too much attention when he gets on your back about the tape. If you're very lucky, maybe he moves on or gets fired and the next guy is better. Really, though, your choices are to keep working with the jerk, or to leave. You won't change him, so best to try and make peace with that, or move on.

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Ness March 24, 2011 at 11:07 am

Really a thought provoking, interested and informative post.

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Anonymous March 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Get out of there before he fires you for forgetting to order staples.

It's easier to find a job while you have a job than when you are unemployed. If you wait until he fires you for some made-up excuse, you will have the added burden that you will get a bad reference from your "last employer."

I once worked for a manager who teased me all the time about being incompetent and that he was going to have to fire me one day — usually said right after I had done something really great for him. I also knew he was joking because he really did think a lot of me; and I always got great performance reviews an pay increases.

However, one day the Corporate Controller was walking down the end of the hall and overheard him tell me that I was incompetent and he was going to have to find someone to replace me one of these days. The Controller asked my manager to come see him. When my manager retured, he was laughing and explained to me that the Controller had overheard his comments and had suggested that he replace me if I was truly incompetent. My manager told me he quickly set things right with the Corporate Controller, telling him that it was just a joke between the two of us and that I was a great employee.

My manager thought that was so funny… I was horrified.

Don't stay with an employer who inpunes your reputation … NOTHING is worth that. Your employer is a bad reference waiting to happen.

Good Luck!

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Anonymous April 2, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Your boss gotta listen to someone… which appear to be the founder (his father)… if you're doing a great job, the founder is more likely to hear you than to his son.

Influence your boss indirectly through facts and accomplishments. If you're an "asset" that generate earning, any smart businessman will not turn you to a "liability" and write you off from the "book".

;-)

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