You know the feeling.  You’ve just done something, or neglected to do something, that attracted the boss’s attention.  And not the good kind.

Maybe you made a mistake.  But maybe you didn’t.

Perhaps you awakened the boss’s own Inner Lizard.

Or, maybe, just maybe, your manager is simply a jerk.

In any case, you now feel like a complete idiot.  You begin to suffer from this demonstration of your own incompetence, and think, “If I had only worked harder.  Paid closer attention.  Gone back to school to get an advanced degree.  Then I wouldn’t feel so stupid. THEN I’d be successful.”

I’ve suffered this way, more than once.  Fortunately, over time, I have learned that this kind of reversion to self-flagellation, in any situation, is actually a colossal learning opportunity meant to serve me for years to come.

If you’re like me, you’ve compounded one lie (“I’m a complete idiot”) with another (“I should have worked harder…) with another (“THEN I won’t feel stupid anymore”).  And you did it automatically, your brain racing through a script that was written long ago, and that without an observer to question it, will run automatically, like a computer responding to a keystroke.  Unless you consciously change the program, it will run by default.

For those of you wondering where the lies are, hold this situation in your mind and check in with your body.  Does thinking of those statements (I should have worked harder…paid closer attention…) feel like freedom?  Or does it create a familiar constricted throat, or knot in your stomach, or emptiness in your heart-space?

The problem with all those assertions about hard work and advanced degrees is the expectation that some external circumstance will change how you feel.  I may be insulting your personal religion when I say that this is simply not so.  It’s not easy to take in, but it’s important to realize that whatever you do, or is done to you, need not rule you.  You have the power to decide whether to feel like a failure or to look for the lessons inherent in these moments.

Consider the following:

-Maybe you’re in the wrong line of work.  One of the ways your essential self communicates this is through an uncontrollable string of mistakes, or by endowing you with a penchant for social awkwardness that makes your boss wish he’d hired Charlie Sheen instead.

-If you love the work and usually have supportive bosses, perhaps this isn’t the right boss or the right company culture for you.  If you’ve been really clear with your manager about how you expect to be managed, and s/he just doesn’t ‘get’ you, you may not be the right fit for that team.  Your boss may be projecting fears about his own performance on you.  Realize that you probably won’t change the boss—those time-wasting 360-degree reviews notwithstanding.

-If the boss is abusive, inventing ways to criticize your work or threatening your job, take it to HR.  I endured 5 years of such abuse because of a belief that I was a screw-up that no one else would ever hire, so I hung on to that job at all costs.  What it cost me was my self-esteem, which took years to rebuild.

I had another boss whose method of developing talent involved sarcasm and pointed questions about why I didn’t already know the answer to any question I was asking.  He preyed on my fear of feeling stupid.  Regardless of his motivation and actions, I realized I had a choice.  I could hold on to the idea that it could be true somehow—that I truly was stupid—and feel the sting of his condescending tone.  Or I could know that his unsupportive behavior and accusatory language said more about him than about me, and were really just indications that it was time to move on to find a corporate tribe whose culture embraced my talent.

Above all, remember that no one has the power to “make you feel” anything.  That is 100% your own personal choice.  The next time you react to a manager’s behavior by feeling stupid, take it as a signal to learn something new about yourself or the work you’re doing.  Step back and assess the culture of your workplace.  Then set a healthy boundary for yourself: just say “no!” to an employer, boss or culture that is anything less than wildly supportive of your career path or personal growth.  There’s no good reason to choose a work tribe that is any thing less than amazing, inspiring and rewarding.

 

23 Responses to When the Boss Makes You Feel Like an Idiot

  1. Andy B says:

    I finished reading this, thinking – boy, have I gone through my own version of just about all of that over the years. I especially liked the thought about the “string of uncontrollable mistakes;” I can’t count the number of times I felt like I was outside myself, watching as I deliberately sabotaged my work, wondering why the heck someone would do that to themselves. I was pretty good at doing it in my personal life, too, but that all started to change for the good when you and I really started working with each other last year. 2012 will go down as the year that I dug, then dug some more, then slowly, slowly climbed out of the cave and into the sunlight (very bright, still adjusting). Would not have happened without you as my guide.

    As I head into 2013, I feel a self-awareness and thoughtfulness (not to mention happiness) that I haven’t experienced before. Having recently made the thoughtful, emotionally informed decision to join a new work tribe, I enter into the year with much hope and excitement – and with every reason to expect amazing, inspiring and rewarding experiences and outcomes with my new crew.

    I’m not done working, but wow, what a start. Thank you, thank you, and looking forward to an even more enlightened 2013.

    • amysteindler says:

      Andy B, your work inspires ME, and as I’ve witnessed your growth and transformation, it makes me giddy with delight!

  2. Marilou Burleson says:

    I am also amazed at the similarities I’m having at my job. There has been such a stream of avoidable mistakes that my only conclusion is I am sabotaging myself. On closer look, I realize my morale is extremely low because I feel under appreciated. My boss doesn’t make me feel like an idiot, I get no feedback at all. And it doesn’t make me feel better to say, “well at least you have a job!”

    No matter how much I train my focus on the positive aspects of the job, there is an undeniable heaviness and discontent. So, here I go! I’m going to find another way to make a living!

    • amysteindler says:

      I understand, and I agree that ANY sentence starting with “At least…” should precede the punchline of a joke, and is not helpful during a liminal period in someone’s life. Godspeed on this part of your journey. You are so talented–I firmly believe that you have everything you need to move on to someplace where you’ll be supported and appreciated.

  3. Daisy Sailer says:

    I have been trying for some time now to be okay with who I am in my work performance. I recently left a job after working for a boss that made the butt of all her jokes, took out her frustration on me and my coworkers, looked at me stupid when I asked a question. So after 8 years of her abuse is simply quit. Walked out. Now I work for a wonderful company! Only problem now is. My boss or team lead is my best friend. I’ve never worked so closely with her. And she is beginning to talk slowly to me when explaining things. Loving at me with irritation when I ask a question and even the explanations are short, offhand, and impatient. I know I shouldn’t but I beat myself up in my head over and over until I finally forget. It can ruin hours at a time. I dont want to lose this friendship or this position. I’ll bookmark this page for strength. Thank you, I thought I was the only one who did this to themselves!

    • amysteindler says:

      Dear Daisy,
      You are NOT alone. Emotional intelligence at work is a skill worth developing, it takes time and practice, and it begins with a high level of self-awareness that used to be called “maturity”.

      Remember that you can’t control how others respond–sometimes a boss will look at you with irritation, or respond in short, impatient ways. No matter what she does, she is choosing her response, just as you choose yours. Best friends have a responsibility to communicate honestly and with kindness, and good bosses choose that route as well. Good luck, and let me know if I can help.

  4. Beth says:

    My boss is a divorce attorney and I have worked with him for 23 years. When ever I make a mistake no matter how small the mistake is it’s like the world has come to an end and he acts like he never makes mistakes. It seems like no matter what wrong happens at this office it is my fault. I believe he thinks I am a robot! Most of the time everything is alright and we get along but lately, I just can’t stand to be near him! I only have another 10 years to go before I can retire, I just hope I can stand it that long.

    • amysteindler says:

      Dear Beth,
      Only ten years? Sounds like enough time to develop a healthy set of boundaries or a massive well of resentment–I hope you are successful with the former so you don’t have to resort to the latter.

      Are you managing the entire office? I do know that many attorneys are better at getting things done than at developing balanced relationships with their co-workers. I wonder if you’d rather do something other than “stand it” for the next decade–like be supported and encouraged and appreciated? Good luck, and let me know if I can be of service.

  5. Katie says:

    My boss makes me feel like an idiot. I’ve been in the job a year plus and he has recently been saying how I’ve been in the job over a year and should know what I am doing. I had a coworker tell me me she didn’t know the answer (she worked there 16 years) and when I asked the boss to confirm I’m right, he to,d me I should know by now an raised his voice telling me so. This job changes rules constantly. I don’t mind the job, but do notice after talking with the boss I do tend to make more errors.

    • amysteindler says:

      Ah, Katie. It seems as though this boss thinks nothing of berating his employees, and perhaps feels more secure when he’s diminishing others. But he’s not here, so we’ll resist the temptation to put any more energy into describing his issues. As for you, dear one, noticing that you make more errors after talking with him is the key piece of information. Consider for a moment that what we focus on is what we get more of, and if making errors is what you want to avoid (because the consequences are rather unpleasant), it might be causing you to be more focused on avoiding the boss’s anger than on the task. And when we’re more focused on getting it wrong, we end up…well…getting it wrong. Can you allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them? If you’re okay with that, but the boss isn’t, consider whether you’re a good fit for this organization.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I recently starting working for a company after spending the last five years at home with my children. I worked for the same company when i was a younger woman and was very eager to get back to work…especially since i had prior experience. The first few weeks went beautifully and i felt extremely confident in the work i was doing as i was regularly praised. Evey time someone has called off i covered their shift. (I’ve only had 1 day off in the last 2 weeks!) Then for reasons i have yet to understand my manager’s attitude toward me changed all of a sudden. Every little thing i do is scrutinized! I’m constantly scolded for doing or not doing things that no other employee (including my manager) does. And let’s be honest,everyone makes mistakes. I’ve caught plenty of mistakes that even my manager has made,however her tone with me as opposed to other employees when we’ve made a mistake is like night and day. I know other employees pick up on it because now I’m treated with the same disrespect and irritating tone displayed by my manager from coworkers who have absolutely no authority over me. It’s completely zapped my self confidence and my desire to go to work every day. If i make a mistake,then by all means let me know,but don’t treat me like I’m an idiot and then laugh lightly with other employees when they make the same mistake. I’m so tired of the differential treatment that I’m considering transferring to another location. I’ve spent so much time trying to figure out why her attitude toward me changed so suddenly,but i just can’t understand it. I’m very friendly with everyone and work extremely hard. I’ve dealt with a lot of women all my life who simply don’t like me because I’m attractive…women who are mean to me before they even get to know me no matter how friendly i am toward them. Please don’t misunderstand,i am not in the least conceded,but as there was no action or discussion to explain her sudden change in behavior i don’t have any other ideas as to what caused it. Maybe her jealousy is causing her to lash out in an attempt to break my self confidence? Maybe she’s afraid of losing the “spotlight”? Its just so frustrating! I’m very sensitive and have already broken down a couple times due to her constant nagging and negative attitude. I know allowing her to see me upset is only going to make things worse,but it’s really hard not get upset when i see her laughing and socializing with every other employee all day,while she ONLY speaks to me to tell me what I’m doing wrong. She’s intentionally making it obvious to everyone that I’m the “odd woman out”. I’ve tried to remain positive and try talking with her about life outside of work in an attempt to show I’m willing to be friendly,but she shows no interest. I go into work telling myself that i won’t let it get to me today. I’ll just keep my head down,do my work,and do my absolute best…but after 8 hours of belittling i break down again. I don’t know what else i can do. I’m worried if i go over her head and talk with someone above her about her behavior it will only make matters worse,and if i bring the obvious discrimination to her attention she will only deny it and make work even more unbearable. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle this situation?

    • amysteindler says:

      Jennifer,
      We can never know for sure what prompts someone else’s behavior to change, and when we aren’t sure, we create a story to explain it. Since we can’t know about her, let’s take the opportunity to know more about you, dear one.

      If we take her out of the equation for a moment, what is it that you want most in this situation? If it’s respect, then consider doing the most self-respecting thing you can think of–whatever that might be. What we think we want from others is often what we need to provide for ourselves.

      You mention your sensitivity. Sensitive souls must take special care of themselves. Since you’ve made the effort to be kind, friendly and open with your boss, only to be shown no interest, it’s up to you to decide what the kindest thing to do for yourself might be.

      Whether this means transferring to another location or finding employment elsewhere or some other solution (totally up to you!), this is an opportunity to explore your own role in creating the kind of work environment that you do want next. Sometimes there are hidden gems of learning from the most toxic circumstances, and I’d encourage you to look for the bits that teach you about yourself–what you truly want from your life, and where you might be standing in your own way.

      Good luck, Jennifer, and let me know what you decide to do next.

      Warmest regards,
      Amy

  7. Rebecca says:

    I’ve been in my job for about four months and it is everything I’ve worked hard to reach.
    I’m one of three in a team of admin, each with our own department to support. I started off with every intention of growing in the company, taking the time speak to managers and get a good understanding of the office life.
    Just before Christmas I had a small disagreement with one of the team, something I thought was cleared up as I took the time to apologise.
    Turns out not to be the case and ever since then my manager has treated me like an idiot, as if this is my first job! Telling how to do the simplest tasks in a very condescending manner. When I questioned why I was being given what I consider the ‘junior’ jobs from my colleague while she seems to pick and choose tasks I was told that my colleague is very clever with office programmes and skilled at her job. I don’t dispute that she is.
    A meeting I had with my manager today has left with no enthusiasm for a job I love and thinking I really am terrible at what I do. in a company that encourages growth and personal development I’m left wondering if I’ve made a terrible career move that will knock me back several steps
    Is there anything I can do to get back that enthusiasm, when whatever I do is wrong in my mangers eyes

    • amysteindler says:

      Rebecca,
      I find that enthusiasm for a job (a.k.a. “engagement”) requires a connection to some sense of purpose. Why do you do the work you do? If you can focus on what you love to do, and why you love to do it, you may regain your enthusiasm. However, if your manager is standing in the way of your fulfillment, it may be time to examine other aspects.

      If someone else’s behavior is determining how you feel, you may have an opportunity to set a stronger boundary. This may require an honest and potentially difficult conversation, or it may simply be a matter of not responding to the condescension, which says more about the manager than it does about you. Do you want to work for this kind of person?

      If you are clearly asking for what you want and need, and your manager is not providing it, there may be little you can do to change that. The trick is to know whether you’ve been clear–not always easy.

  8. Karen says:

    I’ve been in this department for 18 years. I have the type of boss that takes his misery out on us. I feel unappreciated, made to feel incompetent, speaks to me in a condescending tone.

    He rarely validates anything I do. He’s always there to tell me what I did wrong. The way his speaks to me get my back up. My co-workers say “be thankful you have a job”. UGH! I’m not able to move within the company because of no Degree. I’ve didn’t have algebra so I would need to start from scratch.

    To top it off the job bores me. I recently turned 50, married with a 9 year old son and NO Degree. How on earth do I start over. I need a job that makes me feel alive, making a difference, supported and encouraged.

    Today, he comes over and says..did you start X yet…no I haven’t…well why not. He then says, let me connect the dots for you and proceeds to explain what I already know. It’s like that all the time.

    How he addresses me certainly doesn’t make me want to do a better job. I know I’ve been slacking. I’ve given it my all and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere accept feeling more bitter.

    • amysteindler says:

      Karen,
      I just came back from a three day training on Inclusive Leadership–and although it sounds as if your boss might be a candidate for leadership training, we can’t do much about his behavior, so we’ll focus on empowering you to change your own circumstances. We have to start with a question, “what are you believing that makes you stay in a job that bores you and makes you feel bitter?” It sounds like you’ve given it your all, but without any encouragement or appreciation, you’ve disengaged, which is a normal response.

      I have a hunch that part of what’s holding you back from leaving this situation is the belief that without a degree, you have few options–tell me where I’m wrong? Perhaps it would help to take some introspective time to examine whether that belief is true, including research about people who have no degree, but educated themselves in the area of work they were most interested in. There are plenty of examples, and the one thread that is common to all the examples is that they pursued work they truly wanted to do in the world.

      What are you really great at, Karen? What do you do that lights you up? Ask those who love and support you to help you see your own strengths so you can focus on those first. It may take some time, but if you make the decision to free yourself from the limiting beliefs, roadblocks and barriers that you’ve created yourself, you can take one step at a time in the direction your heart is longing to go.

  9. Ryan says:

    I’ve been in my current job now a little over three years. Earlier this year we went live with a new software and I’m down to doing one task and that’s it whereas before I did several tasks. It was done this way to streamline workflow and plus I’m one of two in the office that knows how to do this one function. Since February 2017 I’ve gotten nothing but scolding remarks regarding my performance from my team lead. For six weeks I nothing but count how many days/weeks it had been since go live that I was treated the way I was. My boss makes me feel so, so stupid and I’ve done everything to get better at what I’m doing. My director even told me in my performance evaluation that I was much improved. Really? Am I doing THAT much better or am I being told what I want to hear? At this juncture I don’t care anymore. I’ve drafted a resignation letter and waiting for the catalyst to push me over the edge so I can promptly leave my desk and quit without notice. A job I was so enthused to take three years ago has gone South and frankly I couldn’t care less anymore. Sad state of affairs but it’s true.

  10. Eidelweis Loffiana citra says:

    So relatable!

    I just started working for almost 3 months now. I was never given training, but just papers filled with handovers from the predecessor. The company being 3 years old, doesn’t have any Sop or guidelines (even the hr admitted it to me). Ive lost my identity, I’m not the person I was. It took many people to tell me that, even the hr told me I wasn’t the bubbly person she interviewed. I’m 26, and it’s not my first job, I have been working for the past 6 years. My manager makes me feel like I’m incompetent, and stupid. He is always claiming that he doesn’t understand my logic, called me a millennial, too diplomatic, and simply following instructions blindly without making judgements etc. I’m surprised, because that’s never who I am, and I’ve had no complaints from previous jobs. He contradicts so much; when I try and imply my logic into the things I do, it doesn’t make sense to him. But when I follow his instructions, it’s still wrong to him, and wants me to follow beyond instructions and really understand, of which I really did understand. He likes to question me in front of my other colleagues, asking if I really understood, whys and all. Sometimes when I don’t see the purpose of doing something that was tasked to me, I questioned him, and he makes all sorts of tsks and sighs. I feel restricted at work, I don’t really talk to anyone, always keeping to myself perhaps because I feel pressured to do what he wants, to attempt to live up to his expectations since im still under probation. I’ve always been known to be that person who tells you in your face, and not someone who blindly follows. I’m exhausted from having to put on a mask everyday, getting through the day with the lump in my throat because I can breakdown anytime (and I don’t easily break down), and fearing I’ll do something ‘wrong’ again. It gets to me, am I really that stupid, where’s my common sense? And this just affects my work even more.
    A few days back, I was running around preparing for an upcoming event, and got called into the meeting room for a very impromptu performance review with my hr, manager and VP. I found it unacceptable, because you’re catching me off guard when I’m trying to focus on my tasks.

    Maybe it’s the company’s culture, I don’t fit in the whole corporate environment, or I can’t work well with these guys, my level of understanding with my manager is different, or maybe it’s really me with that personal issue?

    It’s always easy to quit, but how do you tell yourself after this episode, no I’m not an idiot? I hate to quit,but at this age, should I find something and be somewhere where I could be myself, like my job and contribute well?

    • amysteindler says:

      Ironically, we are sometimes given the perfect set of circumstances in which to work through our personal history, to recognize our emotional triggers, and to check the validity of the stories we tell ourselves. It sounds like there’s a combination of all of these things at play here, but the key to returning to yourself is to understand what your particular superpower is and to consistently check whether what you’re doing is in alignment with the most fundamental gifts you have to offer the world. No one can take those away from you.

      Once you’re crystal clear on what qualities make you who you are, it’s easier to stand up for yourself and to recognize when you’ve entered a culture that just doesn’t “get” you. What are your “essence qualities”–those attributes without which you’d be unrecognizable to the people who see you most clearly, and love you just for being you? That’s the starting point.

      Next, you’ll want to recognize the stories you’re telling yourself that are causing you to suffer. When we are focused on living up to someone else’s expectations, it’s easy to go off the rails. Look for evidence that you’re smart, honest, and capable–it’s surely all around you, including past jobs–and focus on those things. I’ve seen a number of managers dismiss young workers for being “millennials” without giving them any indication of what that means to them. It’s a catch-all phrase that often means that the manager is in over his head, and wants to blame his team member for his lack of mentoring or emotional intelligence skills.

      Finally, at 26, you’ve got an entire career in front of you. Finding something and being somewhere where you can be yourself, like your job and make a contribution sounds like just the ticket. Good luck, and let us know what happens next!

  11. Christina Mendax says:

    I am at my current position exactly one year, and love the new direction and challenges in my worklife. The new boss had been supportive, dynamic and engaged, until a staffer threatened to quit; which lead to three others nearly jumping ship. The organization had been held hostage for many, many years by a not too professional staff- and after the largest problem was let go- an upheaval within the “new hires” created an almost problem for my boss. His response was to offer a promotion to a superqualified parson, who turned it down. The next person he offered the position to (who had been threatening to quit since her first day 6 months earlier) told him she would be taking a 4 week leave of absence, and would notify him of her decision then……

    Fast forward a couple of weeks–another person was hired, and my boss paved the way in discussions with this candidate for her to accept the currently open coordinator position. The vacationer returns and procrastinate for awhile, then finally accepts my boss’s offer- she negotiated a substantial pay increase, a “supervisor” title, a move from hourly to salaried, with no required hours, a four day work week, plus free housing.

    Ok, all this is none of my business, excepting I shared with my boss that I thought the other candidate(who has performed the position elsewhere) was better suited in many ways. This was a type of discussion that we had previously had regarding other new hires (he has hired several candidates that I recruited, and has asked me to interview others for “fit”). So, I felt comfortable when he asked my opinion.

    Big mistake; after I shared some superdiplomatic answers to his questions about her capabilities he went a little ballistic- defending the persons shortcomings. I was blown away. And the next day tried to recover by apologizing,which backfired; as everything I said just illuminated how differently we viewed the persons capabilities.
    Fast forward a couple of months- boss now asks the new supervisor to attend weekly “manager” meetings- I couldn’t help myself (sabotage for one please)and shared my unease. Again, why don’t I think before I react?

    Now, a significant amount of admin mistakes are being made by this person, which I DO NOT POINT OUT, even though I am made responsible for cleaning things up after her missteps…And there’s palpable tension in the office (as this person, who never recognized my authority before is now now completely full of her own self importance).

    Ok, I try to put on the big girl pants and get through it right? Yet, for the last four months my boss and the new “supervisor” are involved in a not terribly discreet affair. Seriously; he leaves early, arrives late, she miraculously does the same thing; they disappear/reappear within minutes of one another; he allows her more freedom, no accountability and then there’s all sorts of inside jokes and long gazes.

    Meanwhile, a colleague has “noticed” and vaguely chatted about the situation (outside of work). So, I am not the only one to observe and feel the ramifications. I know not to participate in gossip, especially since my boss has mentioned how he knows about all the office gossip. Yikes, interesting timing!

    I am now performing the “everything’s great” routine at work…Which is actually more aligned with my style. But just now feels forced. I know I’ll get over that with enough practice.

    As I finish up my description, I realize I need my job,and will not /cannot report(as my boss is the defacto HR) and know that my feelings are thinly veiled as I am a terrible actor. I am reaching out with the sincerest hope that you could share some workplace coping techniques?

    And if you can’t, I understand—and thanks for a chance to vent my frustration.

    • amysteindler says:

      Christina,
      I can’t help but notice that you’ve got a solid sense of self- awareness around what’s your business and what isn’t, the value of avoiding gossip, and how hard it is to pretend everything’s great, when in reality you’re watching something unfold in a workplace setting that is unprofessional and very hard to watch. This might be a good starting point.

      Using your powers of self- awareness, ask yourself some questions (and journal the answers–writing things down brings remarkable clarity to things): How does your work here align with your greatest talents? How does your work here align with a sense of purpose and create opportunities for you to shine? If you can articulate these answers and provide positive examples, there may be reasons to resort to “workplace coping techniques.” If not, the next question to reach inside yourself for answers is: do you want to be in a situation for 40 hours each week where you’re “coping” rather than “thriving”? Check in with yourself about the culture of this workplace–it sounds as if it’s been problematic from day one (see “held hostage for many, many years.” What does that tell you about management’s ability to run the business and manage the staff vs. having it running them?). Does this company have everything you need to feel supported and valued? What’s present, and what’s missing, from the corporate culture? Can you continue to do your best work here, learn, grow, and really shine? Does your boss recognize and appreciate your contributions? Do your successes here bring you a sense of satisfaction?

      Often, my clients will lose sight of the number of possibilities available to them when they’re under stress, or when they feel they need to keep this particular job. Coping is one possibility, assuming there are attributes that make it worth staying. What are the other possibilities?

  12. Mark says:

    I’m university-educated in a STEM field but I work part-time at a manufacturing shop. I had been hired with no experience and the work involved is a trade – machining. I’ve been there now about two years.

    During my first week the boss exploded on me. It was not something I could have controlled – I was not aware yet of what to look for when checking the quality of products produced. At first I was apologetic and I really felt bad. But I also knew he was wrong to do that.

    As time went by I noticed the following. He exploded all the time at all of the employees. Calling them stupid, retarded, and even throwing products around the place in fits of rage. I smelled alcohol on him too from time to time. All of the employees are very young (first job here) and no one’s been around longer than a year or so. Some had stuck it out I understand but left after a few years.

    On the other hand, my work ethic has been praised by him, but mostly he treats me like an idiot. He treats most employees like idiots , really.

    Once his wife and 25-year-old son came to visit. He erupted on them in front of everyone for them to wait outside. I mean he really seemed to degrade his wife and son.

    Now, I’ve learned a lot from other employees but he has no patience whatsoever. Except a 19-yr-old girl who works there who he spends most shifts with and on weekends takes her to breakfast (he’s in his 60s). I like the work now and don’t really want to leave the field even if it’s only part-time, but at the end of each shift I feel that he’s found some way to disrespect me that day.

    Probably I should have left that first week, but I stayed because I needed the money. I’m better off financially now though.

    What do you think? I never want to live by absolutes but I feel like if he does it one more time ….

  13. amysteindler says:

    Mark,
    If I was a bettin’ woman, I’d lay money down that he WILL do it one more time, and you’ll be faced with a choice.

    If you want to stay, you may have to shift your thinking. Is it true that “he’s found some way to disrespect” you? Or might it be true that the person he lacks respect for is himself?

    In emotional intelligence language, he seems to have the unfortunate combination of high emotional expression and low impulse control, making him a purveyor of drama. He seems to have difficulty with empathy as well. Folks with this combination usually come by it honestly–meaning that he learned this way of behaving through personal life experiences. That won’t change.

    But you can change your response to his behavior, if you choose, and the clue lies in the idea of someone ‘disrespecting’ you. You are the only one responsible for tending to your self-respect. Outside validation is nice, but not everyone finds it necessary, even from their employer. How important is it that you get respect from him? If this is non-negotiable, what are your options?

    The respect thing goes two ways. Do you respect him? What would be the best way to show that you do? If you don’t, well, now you’re even.

    Several, possibly more interesting questions for you to answer in order to chart a course of action are, “How might I respect myself in this situation?” or “What’s the best way for me to feel respected?” or “Why is it important for the boss to respect me?” Grab a pen and jot down at least five answers to the question that intrigues you most, and let me know what you find out.

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