Dear Kate, My boss is the worst! What do I do?

Dear-Kate-column-identityBy Katharine Luckinbill

Dear Kate,

My boss has always been pretty difficult to work for, but recently wrote something terrible about me to someone else at work on email that I have access to. I want to say something, should I?


Should I Speak Up Sally


Dear Should I Speak Up Sally,

Well I guess in this situation you have two choices:

You can either…

1. Chalk it up to unprofessional and inappropriate behavior that isn’t even worth getting upset about.

oops it's thursday

A wise woman once told me “If you don’t respect and love the person giving you the criticism, consider it to be of no consequence.”

“If you don’t respect and love the person giving you the criticism, consider it to be of no consequence.”

So you have to ask yourself if you respect someone who would be so careless with such disparaging remarks about one of their employees. If he or she knew you would have access to what was written, was it intentional, or just thoughtless?

Or you can…

2. Decide that this kind of behavior and treatment is probably against your company’s code of conduct and choose to do something about it and stand up for your rights as an employee.

Discreetly get yourself a copy of your employee handbook and read it very carefully for any key language such as:

  • “harassment”
  • “interferes with employee’s work performance”
  • “hostile”
  • or
  • “offensive work environment”

Once you have looked up what your company’s policies are and can specifcally identify situations where your boss has clearly violated these things (proof helps, btw) – then you should go to your HR representative and raise this issue officially.

Now here’s the trouble with talking to HR:

  1. You should speak to someone not so senior in the department that they may have politically charged connections with your supervisor and won’t really be able to help you. Speak with someone closer to your level that you would consider a peer and who you could trust.
  2. Once you speak to HR, it’s possible that the only thing that they can do to help you is to speak to your boss and address the bad behavior. This very well could make things worse – so it’s an extremely tough call. You need to feel confident that the person you speak with is going to able to do this in a friendly and diplomatic way, so as not to make your life at work even more miserable.
  3. Lastly, and unfortunately, sometimes HR departments are already well aware of this problem and have been informed by many employees in the past and there’s simply nothing they/the company is doing to make it better. This is another sad reality that you may have to resign yourself to.

The reality is that it might not get very much better, so you should probably start to extend your network and start reaching out to find a new position elsewhere. It’s a crappy truth – but I don’t know very many examples of abusive bosses who suddenly saw the light and came around to being productive and encouraging supervisors. (And by “not very many”, I mean I know literally none).

In the meantime – this great article on Cnet about how to deal might get you through the day.

And there’s the hope that bills like this one will get passed nationwide and there will finally be some legal repurcussions for bullying in the workplace. More on that topic here.

Until then…keep in mind that if you are an at-will employee, you can go ahead and quit whenever you want and they cannot retaliate. (If you’re contracted, I don’t know what to tell you…take up kickboxing to relieve tension?) But do not quit until you have something better lined up, that’s the best revenge you can get. Peacefully leave them there and move on to bigger and better things.

You deserve better!

Now go buy yourself some ice cream!



 I Quit Cake

Dear Kate is a column that runs on every other Thursday at noon. It is written by the wise Katharine Luckinbill, who you should follow on Twitter. Got a life, friendship, family, dating, or relationship question that you’d like Dear Kate to answer? Send it to and she will help you out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: