“Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin’s Date Goes Awry in the Hamptons.”
That was the headline of a recent post on The Cut. As a responsible citizen, there was no way I was going to ignore this critical news item.
Which is how I learned that thecut.com also covered workplace issues — just like me! Unfortunately, the advice provided is not of the quality my readers demand.
Alison Green’s “I Hate My Boss, But I Love My Job” is the tragic tale of the employee I’ll call Nancy. Nancy has the perfect job in terms of salary, flexibility and cheerful workmates. The fly in the ointment is that Nancy’s work life is Nancy’s horrible manager. (Not as horrible as your manager, of course, but still pretty darn awful.)
“Often she shouts at me (and I do mean shouts,)” writes Nancy. “I struggle to stand up for myself with her. On the few occasions I have, she has either shouted back to me or asked me if I am ‘not up to the stress’ of my job, or has been extra aggressive back and ignored me for several days.”
Why anyone would complain about their manager ignoring them for several days — or several minutes — is beyond me. Clearly, this boss is a jewel. And that’s not even considering how “there are times when she’ll shout at me for something that wasn’t done exactly how she wanted it, and then she’ll bring me a cupcake after lunch.”
I know you’ll agree — a cupcake excuses all sins. Personally, I’d forgive a boss who locked me in the supply closet over a three-day weekend if there were a Nutella cupcake with toasted hazelnuts and sea salt in the offering.
Alison Green sees it differently. “There are other jobs,” she writes, “and you should give yourself permission to find one.”
With a spiffy resume and a surfeit of marketable skills, this does seem to be a reasonable solution. But for thee and me, it is important that we never forget how lucky we are to have any job, even a bad job.
My recommendation to Nancy — and to you, should you find yourself in a similar situation — is to buy a pair of earplugs and tough it out.
Launching yourself into the job-hunting pool means making up a fairy-tale work history filled with skills you don’t have and references you pray no one will ever call. This is followed by depressing meetings with HR drones, which invariably results in continual rejection, humiliation and shame. And at the end of the process, if you’re lucky enough to get a job, it’s certain to be worse than one you currently have.
Unfortunately, the advice that poor Nancy receives is to press ahead with a job search.
“Working around this kind of hostility makes most people worse at their jobs,” Green writes, “because they become fearful, which inhibits initiative, creativity, focus, and other things that help people do well at work.”
Fortunately, you have zero initiative, creativity and focus, so there’s not much to inhibit. On the other hand, a bad boss does give you something extremely valuable — an excuse.
Think about it: Who will blame you for doing a bad job when you have such an abusive manager? Certainly not the manager, who surely believes she is doing a wonderful job. Nor the manager’s manager who is delighted that their direct report is doing their shouting for them, so they can be perceived as the good guy or gal in the situation.
As can you. Of course, you must come to work late. No question, you need unscheduled and unlimited vacation days. Certainly, you can spend the few days that you actually do show up hiding under your desk, quivering.
With a boss like yours, all is forgiven.
“Keep in mind, (the boss’s bad behavior) is not about you,” Alison Green concludes. “It’s about your boss.”
As Green sees it, Nancy’s boss is a deeply unhappy, insecure person. This is no reason to quit. Instead of complaining, Nancy should try to add some fun to her boss’s gloomy life. Nancy could put chili powder in her boss’ latte or put super-glue on her boss’ desk chair.
The boss is sure to get a good laugh from these hijinks, and eventually, remind herself that we’re all human people and should treat each other with dignity and kindness.
Or, Nancy could give her a cupcake. I’m sure that’s what the Bieb would do.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com.