Abusive Boss Is Making Me Miserable

10/06/2010 01:50 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dear Liz,

I know that it takes all kinds and that goes double in the boss department, but my boss is really hard to take. He cuts you off in the middle of your sentence, his highest praise is "OK, you didn't screw that up too badly," and he's never satisfied with anything.

When you don't achieve 100 percent of your goal, he says, "someone's not making me happy today," as though the only reason to accomplish anything is to make him happy. When you talk to him, he doesn't listen. He's unbelievably rude to the employees, insulting people over nothing and making comments about them to other people.

In the middle of an important meeting with 10 staff members, he'll take a cell phone call and stay on it for 20 minutes while we all cool our heels, and it's not even necessarily a business call. I'm telling you, the guy is a royal pain. Can you share some words of wisdom for us and maybe even for him? I'm going to tack your column to the breakroom bulletin board and maybe he'll read it and back off a little.

Thanks, Martine

Dear Martine,

Let's be real with one another. Does the guy you're describing sound like the type who will stop at the breakroom bulletin board, look at a newspaper column posted there, read the whole thing, and say "Gee willikers, could I be engaging in any of these unfortunate leadership practices myself?"

We already now that your boss wouldn't do any of these things. He's not that type of cowboy. He does his own thing, tramples on people's egos for fun or because he couldn't care less about them, and most likely sleeps very soundly on his pillow at night all the same.

This column isn't for him, Martine -- it's for you. What is it that keeps you there working for Mr. Toad, day after day? Do you believe that this kind of boss-team member relationship is the best you can aspire to?

You and your co-workers are living in fear of this guy, instead of staying in your power and either backing him off or going to work somewhere else.

People like the Pig Man can only exist because other people (no offense Martine, but I'm including people like you and your teammates) allow them to. What if the whole crew up and quit one day -- how would he run his business then?

The universe wants you to take control of the situation and of your career, Martine, and so do I. That might mean putting your foot down one day, and saying "Stan, I treat you with respect and I expect the same from you." It might mean bailing, bolting, getting out of Dodge, or fleeing like the flea who found the flaw in the flue.

Either way, you're entitled to a better standard of living on the job. I believe you are -- do you?

Best, Liz

Dear Liz,

When I read Martine's post I felt her pain, because I can totally relate -- I'm in the same situation.

Liz, no offense, but while I appreciated your "you're better than that" and "he gets away with it because you allow it" pep talk, it's just not realistic, as far as I'm concerned. Up and quit? Are you kidding? In this economy? Try to find a different job? Um... that's all I've been doing. Me
and thousands of others -- all competing for the same jobs out there. Can you give more substantial feedback on ways to get through the day with a Mr. Nasty without jumping off the ledge?



Dear Jane,

As long as you tell yourself "this situation is bigger than I am" you will stay a victim and your circumstances won't change. Our two choices in a situation like Martine's are to take action, or to go underground and pretend to be someone else, concocting reasons to live our lives in fear and anxiety. There will come a moment when you decide that you don't have to take abuse anymore, and you'll act. Until then, I encourage you to stop listening to the messages
and drinking the Kool-Aid that says "There aren't any jobs." There are millions of jobs open, and people (including our members) are getting good jobs every day. There's no reason to stay in an abusive work situation unless you choose to do that.