Get advice on how to deal with jerks at work Check out the book 'Jerks At Work' and other titles by Ken Lloyd Ph.D. Return to the homepage Learn more about Ken Lloyd, Ph.D. Submit a question to Ken Lloyd, Ph.D.

You asked, Ken answers ...

This item is filed under these categories:
Micromanagement Equal Employment Cell Phones Threats Fairness

I have a situation that I would appreciate your assistance. My current manager is a major micromanager with a well know temper. It is also well know that he has a major chip on his shoulder concerning woman that stems back to his divorce (way before my time) and lucky me, I happen to be the only women in my department. I have worked mainly with men during my career (not at this Company) and have never had any problems. My other male colleagues and I get along well and have never had problems, aside from their occasional “testosterone syndromes”. I am several years older (51) than they are, so I do work with a bunch of immature “boys” (ages 22-36) and do a fairly good job of ignoring their boyish behaviors.

My boss was in a foul mood last Tuesday when we return from the Labor Day weekend and we (he and I) were of differing opinions on how to resolve various comments and corrections to a report. We don’t always see eye to eye and out of professional courtesy, I informed him that I bid on a position in another department within our firm. He became a bit miffed and started his “you’re the problem” lecture. Before he became manager, he was our Geo-hydrologist and had the worst attitude of any person I had ever worked with. Once he became boss (about 3.5 – 4 years ago), he became “Mr. Perfect”, but is starting to revert to his former ways.

Given his attitude on Tuesday and the fact that I was not feeling well, I chose to take PTO on Wednesday and Thursday. Of course I called in on both days. When I spoke with him on Thursday to tell him I was taking the day off (but would return on Friday), he was very defensive, accusatory and basically hung up on me. Jump forward to 9:00 pm Thursday night and I was on my way to bed when he sent the following text message to my personal phone:

“We have POD (plan of the day) covered in A.M. I don’t want you dealing with it given your attitude toward the company and job. We will talk on the morning first thing.”

I was stunned by this message and responded “Fine”. I was suppose to read a Conduct of Operations message at the Facility’s morning POD (which I volunteered). The message was written by a fellow colleague (65 year old PhD) who was out on Friday and that was all I was going to do – read the message. Note that my absent colleague is our department’s representative and is the only one to attend this morning meeting – the rest of our staff does not. Everyone at works talks poorly about the Company, including the boss, and the stress level out there is so obvious and is present in every department. The men in our department can make any comment (about the job, Company, Gov’t, etc) they want and it’s okay. But let me say something and the boss is on my case. By the way, our Company is a major contractor to the US Government (DOE).

I feel that this late-night text message to my personnel phone outside of working hours was a bit threatening and totally inappropriate conduct on my manager’s part. I went to work Friday expecting a showdown and the man never even said hello; in fact he went out of his way to avoid me (which is fine). I would approach his manager, but I’m afraid that isn’t a good idea as there will be a tremendous amount of retaliation taking that avenue. I would like to speak with our HR Representative, who is located in another town, but who has very little contact with anyone in our department. My thought is to just get this inappropriate text on record and then go about business as usual. I have already blocked my boss from contacting me on personal cell phone and have been looking for another position for quite some time.

Any advice or input you could provided me would be greatly appreciated as I have never encountered anything like this in my 25+ year in the working world.

You want to continue with business as usual, but your situation is unusual. You have an abusive, threatening, and discriminatory manager, and you fear retaliation if you take any steps to deal with him, other than trying to transfer. If you continue to either look the other way or look for a transfer, his behavior is not going to change. In fact, it is more likely to become worse. He might even try to interfere with your transfer by making disparaging comments about you.

If you fear retaliation by exerting your rights and speaking to your manager, that raises real questions about him and the firm itself. You should consider speaking to his manager, and you should not let the geographical location of the HR department prevent you from contacting them. You can present your concerns via email. Your manager’s behaviors are the exact kinds of actions that HR departments are typically tooled to handle. And you should share your manager’s threatening text message with them as well.

If you find that the firm is less than responsive to your concerns, you may want to think less about transferring and more about changing jobs and also contacting the agency in your state that handles fair employment.

Comment on this item

Your name (optional)
If you leave this blank, we'll list you as "Website visitor"

Your comments
Please keep your comments focused on the topic. Thanks!