The New Boss from Hell

Think pre-2000. Your stocks are doing great; your 401(k) is on track; your job is ideal; you’ve got all the benefits you could imagine wanting; and the people you work with and for make your workplace a joy. 

Your life was almost perfect . . . until your boss quit, the market tanked and you were sure that a statement was missing from your 401(k) reports-how could the value be so low?

The old ditty, “No one likes me, everybody hates me, think I’ll eat some worms . . .” has become your daily mantra. On top of it, your new boss is a clone of every disastrous manager one could imagine. 

You’ve gone from heaven in the workplace to hell in the basement and you don’t see any hand reaching down to pull you up. 

There is little you can do to please your new boss. It seems that everything you do that was encouraged and applauded with your prior boss is dinged, faulted and tossed aside. 

Innuendoes are casually and snidely cast about. You now hate your workplace, and despise the boss. Leaving is looking more attractive every day; it doesn’t matter that unemployment is up and you have friends who are also looking for a new position. 

Let’s face it, some people are a pain in the rear. What happens if it’s the person who signs your paycheck or authorizes it? Do you confront the devil’s twin? Do you hope the offending tyrant gets a weird disease and has to be quarantined? Do you grin and bear it? Or, should you toss in the towel and leave? What do you do?

Before you formally announce you are out of there, try these steps:

1. Meet with the boss. Let her know that you would like to learn what she wants and ask her if she has a preferred style or method of getting a job done. 

Ask her what her priorities are—maybe your old boss had different ones and the methods you use and the tasks you take on are totally out of sync. You end up triggering a negative response from the new boss.

2. “Carefront” the boss’s criticism. Carefronting uses more tack than outright confronting. Let her know that when she makes negative remarks (and be prepared to cite a few and when they occurred), that they actually make you react defensive and/or negative. 

Say something along these lines, “Bertha, at the marketing meeting last week, your remarks about my ability to complete the job I was assigned concerned me. I want to communicate effectively with you and do the job you would like completed. I’d appreciate your guidance. I want to do it well.” 

Unless she intentionally is undermining you, she’s going to open up a tad and tell you what she wants.

3. Be the shrink. The boss may actually be feeling insecure—her job may be a step up and her managing skills are sub-par. Maybe she’s been put in charge of a project (which you are part of) that she knows little about. 

Ask her if she would like you to do a summary of the project (in writing) prior to her heading the team—you look like you are helping vs. hindering.

4. How’s your attitude? Switch sides and look in the mirror. When she came on board, were you helpful, or were you standoffish, sizing her up? 

It’s not uncommon for new bosses to want to do things their way—did she? Did you say, or act out, “we’ve always done it this way” or some variation of a resistance theme? Many don’t like change, whether it’s personnel or policy. 

Unless it’s clearly spelled out, it’s normal to resist or ignore whatever the attempted change is.

5. Listen, listen, listen. People who know how to listen will usually succeed in whatever they are up to. How are your listening skills? Do you listen with your ears, your eyes, and your senses? 

Listening is more than just hearing words. What kind of body language does the new boss use? What about her facial expressions and the tone of her voice? A person can say one thing, but the inflection within her voice can mean something else.

Before you throw in the towel; make sure you understand what the dynamics are. 

If you work in a company that has some size to it, meaning more than 50 employees, a transfer to another area may lessen the problem. Otherwise, move on. 

If you truly have a boss from hell, get out. Don’t rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic—life if just too short.