Scary Bosses: Handling the Manager From Hell

Everyone has a story about a boss who makes "The Devil Wears Prada" look tame.

Take Ryan, from Hauppauge, N.Y., a public relations professional whose former boss never missed an opportunity to bite off his head in front of the rest of the office.

"She forced me to come in for two days with a 104-degree fever and threatened to fire me if I didn't (I needed the job) and then screamed when I couldn't work any faster. [She] also forced me to come into the office right after dental surgery (we're talking right after the operation was done)," he said via e-mail.

But the icing on the cake was when his boss "started screaming at me for taking a call from one of my best friends, who was fighting in Iraq."

Instead of walking off the job, Ryan bit his tongue and worked his buns off, which pretty much earned him a Hollywood ending: high-profile industry award, multiple job offers from other agencies and the ability to walk out on his miserable boss with his head held high.

Of course, that was a couple years back, before layoffs lurked around every corner like some oozing, drooling horror movie monster. But a spooky job market doesn't mean you have to sit back and take it when the boss slimes you.

"The scariest people don't know that they're scary," said Genia Spencer, managing director of operations and human resources of employment firm Randstad. "And the reason that they don't know is because they're modeling the bad bosses they've had in their own experience."

If you've never pointed out to a boss that you respond better when you're not being berated at top volume, now would be a fine time to diplomatically do so.

Often, that can lead to "a discussion of style" and even, lo and behold, "awareness" on your boss's part, Spencer said.

But reasoning with a scary boss isn't the only way to keep him or her at bay. Read on.

Your Boss Keeps Butchering the Deadline

Next to bosses who scream, bosses who assign projects or pull in project deadlines without actually conveying this information to you are the biggest fright show around.

Nina, a marketing maven from Manhattan, can attest to this. As was customary in their relationship, Nina's former boss forgot to tell her about a Very Important Project that she needed in hand yesterday.

"She then gave me a deadline of 48 hours to complete three PowerPoint presentations, each over 100 pages," Nina said. "Twenty-four hours later, she comes demanding to see the finished presentations, swearing she had told me 24 hours."

When Nina informed her boss that she was still working on the presentations, her boss threw everything but the computer off Nina's desk, while "stomping on the floor and cursing up a storm," unfazed by the five other cube dwellers Nina shared an office with.

"My desk contents were blocking the door now, locking in my five other co-workers who were too afraid to make a peep," Nina said. "Like a school child, [my boss] told me to sit down, turn on the computer, and step by step for the next three hours we sat working on one presentation. No one in the office moved, even the one who desperately needed to go to the bathroom."

In this situation, the "please turn down the volume" conversation isn't your only option.

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