Sunday, November 20, 2016

"Dear Ellen, I'm sick and tired of my boss yelling at me..."

Dear Ellen,

I've got a problem with my boss. He comes in at 1030am, has a long lunch, comes back at 4pm and at 5 he's telling me what he wants me to do. And he wants everything done the same day. Last week I worked until 9 twice! I got home after 10 when my kids were in bed. I'm staff so I don't get overttime. I get in at 8am. Also, he's yelling at me. If he can't find something, it's my fault. If a client is upset, it's my fault. Everything is my fault! I'm sick and tired of him and I want to quit. But jobs aren't easy to get. Also, I have a degree but not more. What should I do?

Question: Who do you work for and what's your job title? What are your office hours? How long have you been working there? Do you have a list of KPIs? How are you doing on those? What did your last performance review say? Is this boss new or have you worked together a while?

Answers:
(Redacted) Medium sized local company, accounts management
9-5 Mon-Fri
8 years working there
Yes, I have KPIs. Last year got a bonus. This year on track.
Same boss 4 years.

PS has the job changed in the last year?
No

PPS Is your company laying people off?
No


Dear Sick and Tired,

Okay, my first thought was that your boss might have been yelling because he's hoping you'll leave and he won't have to pay compensation. Clearly that's not the case.

Sometimes bosses yell because their staff are lazy or don't do their jobs. So let's look at you.

As you have been there for a significant time, you've been doing a good job for some years now. If you hadn't, the company would have replaced you. Also, you got a bonus last year, so you were definitely doing something right back then!  The job hasn't changed, so it seems logical that you're still hitting the spot.

At present,
1. You are in on time and he is not.
2. He's too disorganised to give you a proper period of time to get things done.
3. This means you have to work unreasonably long hours, and
4. He behaves unprofessionally, shouting at you

First things first. You don't need to put up with a disorganised man who yells. I'm going to make a few suggestions, just to list your broad options.

Your company is medium sized, so you might look to transfer internally. Speak to human resources about this, or scout positions among your peers. 

You can also try to fix this situation. Standard advice is to log everything and then approach human resources to talk to your manager and resolve this. The idea here is that they are a neutral third party who can settle this according to company protocol.

It may work. It may also backfire if your boss is the kind who thinks that talking to HR is sneaking or tattling. You know your company culture, so you can tell if this is a good approach.

If you go that route and it doesn't work, you have two options: explore a hostile work environment claim, and/or leave.

You can simply quit. Yes, the job market is lousy but all you need is one job, right? So you can write up your CV and start talking to headhunters. Believe me, companies are always out looking for someone who has experience!

What I've said so far is all standard safe advice. I would add this: you seem to have liked your boss in the past.  So, if you want to give this man one more chance, you can take the straightforward route and talk to him.

Note: this only works if he's a reasonable human being. If he's not, then it's probably not worth it.  You know him, so you decide.

If you do talk to him in an open manner, you need to do some prep.

First, put yourself into your boss' space.  As the economy sucks, my bet is that the company is having cash flow trouble. I'm guessing your boss's boss is hammering at him. So your boss then turns around and yells at you. It's unprofessional but very common.

I also bet that your boss doesn't even realise that he's pushing you too far. You've been taking it without protest, and now his bad manners have become a habit. To fix this you have to let him know he has to change his ways, but you should be circumspect and remind him that you're part of his team, and that he can lean on you - without the shouting!

For your prep, write down your work tasks for the last month, and tick off what you've done. If you've done extra work, make a note of that.

On a separate piece of paper, write down the last three times he yelled at you.  Don't be too long about it, just note the day, time and a single sentence about the occasion.

Now you need to go and talk to him. Pick a time when he's calm, and when you can reasonably go straight home or out afterwards. So just before lunch or just before the end of the day.

Take the note of the work you've done, but leave the note about the shouting on your desk.

I'm a straightforward person so I'd get straight to the point with something like this:

"Boss, I've been working for you for four years now. It's been interesting and fulfilling but recently I've been feeling unhappy. I looked at my KPIs and my work sheet, and I think I'm doing my job but I feel I can't do anything right anymore."

If it opens a dialogue, as it should, show him your work sheet.  Ask, "Is there anything else I can do?  I know jobs aren't static so if there's something different I should be doing, please tell me." Then negotiate what he wants you to do.

He should know that he's been a prat for asking you to work late, but you should remind him that you start at 8AM and a 12 hour working day is unreasonable. 

State the problem. "Boss, I work for you Monday to Friday from X till Y.  I do have a private life and a family.  I had to work X extra hours on Wednesday and Thursday last week, which meant I didn't see my kids."

State the solution. "I finish work at 6PM so it would be helpful if you give me my tasks at 5PM the day before.  That way I can think and plan, and be more efficient. Also, it means I can see my kids."

You also need to address the yelling, "You know how on Monday when X and then you Y?" Keep it brief and impersonal. If he says it was a one off, add, "Well, boss, there was also..."

Practice saying, "If I make a mistake, then tell me. But please don't shout at me. It makes me uncomfortable."  If he tries to blow it off, just insist, "It makes me uncomfortable."  He should then get the message.

Clearly the three issues can come up in any order. You should rehearse it to yourself thoroughly first. Imagine what he might say, and what you might say.

Stay calm and professional!

Also, about the degree. Speak to HR on ways you can upgrade your CV. It may simply be a matter of taking on certain tasks, or taking up various bits of in-house training. You might go back to school but frankly it's a lot of extra time and money, which you may not see back, so think very carefully before you go that route.

Good luck and tell me how it goes!

This letter is part of the free agony aunt service I'm offering November 2016. If you have a question, contact me!

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