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Career Strategy When Your Boss is a Bully
Q. Right after I accepted my new position, the manager who hired me quit. I now have a boss "Sam" who's a classic bully. He has most of the office terrorized. Every question becomes a confrontation. Last week, he walked into the conference room as I was meeting with a customer and began berating me about a missing fax. Our Regional VP has asked us to be understanding because Sam has family and health problems. I've only been here two months. Should I begin looking for a new job?
A. When you're a midlife, midcareer manager, you face different challenges than an entry level employee. Changing jobs can be one of your options -- after you've taken some steps.
(1) Document your boss's behavior, with action time and date. Personal comments ("he's a jerk," are irrelevant. Instead, "Sam entered Conference Room A at 11:04 AM while I was meeting with Mary, VP of Eastern Widgets. Mary left five minutes later, so I could not complete my presentation to this Major Account." Write what Sam said and describe his gestures objectively. "He pointed a finger at me," not, "He waved his arms wildly." Keep your notes at home.
(2) Document your efforts to establish a good relationship with your new boss. Be ready to demonstrate that you're building bridges.
(3) Stay tuned to the office grapevine but avoid getting bogged down in long gripe sessions. Use the time to enhance your skills and test the job market.
(4) Take care of your own needs. Coaches can help you develop creative coping strategies and provide a confidential sounding board. If you're seriously depressed or anxious, find the appropriate professional resource.
(5) Begin exploring the job market, even if you're new. Many employers will understand if you explain, "The manager who fought to get me hired has left the company and my new boss wants to put own team together." Be brief and professional.
(6) Call the manager who hired you. She may not be willing to serve as a reference, but she can back up your story of a change in management.
(7) Listen for hidden agendas. Some managers are untouchable, no matter how outrageously they behave, because of some past history with the company. Maybe they brought in a big account during an economic downturn. Maybe they saved the president's career a long time ago. You may never learn the reason.
(8) Assess your corporate culture before making a formal complaint. Once you've reached management level, you have to tread carefully when appealing to HR, senior managers or even legal action. You're expected to be able to handle all kinds of tough situations. Some companies even evaluate managers on how they deal with a bad boss.
(9) Prepare a "last resort" strategy. If your boss has crossed the line from bad to bully, you can't find a new job, and your stress level soars, take your documentation to the appropriate resource. Start with your boss's boss, then human resources. Make your case professionally, in terms of the company's needs. "I've lost two sales reps who named Sam in their exit interview. I've had to spend an extra nine thousand dollars to hire replacements and they're still on their learning curve."
(10) Reclaim your own power. Seize the opportunity to use your company's resources as a vehicle to reach your own career goals. A coach or consultant can help you identify specific steps you can take. Recognize that your time here will be limited and begin to invest time, energy and sometimes money in your own healthy long-term future.
I offer one-to-one consultations on career strategy.
About The Author
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker and career/business consultant, helping midlife professionals take their First step to a Second Career. http://www.cathygoodwin.com.
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