A few years back, I asked people to tell me about their asshole.

The story was that I had someone who was making my life hell at work and I didn’t think I could take the bullshit anymore. Thus, with the idea of there being strength in numbers, I figured you all had someone, somewhere who did the same thing to you. Thus, I asked you to tell me about that asshole so, as Julie Andrews said, “I won’t feel so bad.”

Honestly, it really did help, so I'm asking for help again.

My wife is having a similar existential crisis these days at work, thanks to a boss with personal disorganization and a demeaning streak of OCD demands. This has been going on for about two years, although it has been getting worse over the past six months. The prevailing theory is she doesn’t want to run the department, won’t confront faculty and thus focuses on minutia in the front office and uses it to attack my wife. It’s like the guy who has a shitty day at work and goes home to berate the dog for not walking properly.

To wit:

  • She has been handed back meeting minutes with lines down them, demonstrating that she hasn’t been keeping every line in exact indented formation
  • Her boss told her that she has to “be perfect” in every aspect of communication with other people via email. (My wife often corrects the emails of her boss prior to sending them out. The boss searches for typos in my wife’s email and brings them to her attention.)
  • She was told she wasn’t following the standard form of minutes noted by my wife’s predecessor. When my wife pulled out several copies of minutes, all using different forms, her boss said that wasn’t the point.
  • The boss forced my wife to go through a training guide that no one reads to fix all the problems. These “problems” ended up being spots where there were two spaces used to create harmony among indentations instead of a two-space tab. You can’t tell the difference unless you turn on the “show formatting” option in Word, but this was a huge problem for people who will get this thing in print, apparently.
  • She was told she needed to “standardize” her lunch breaks because people needed to be able to “rely” on her and know when she would be around. After doing so, the boss would occasionally come in, during her lunch break, and talk with her. The reason? The boss had just shown up and was leaving early to do something else.

There are a dozen other patronizing or demeaning things I could list, but that’s not the point. The point is that this sucks and I’m hoping that if you were able to offer support or share your own stories of “Yeah, I’ve got a Dilbert-boss over here too…” it might make things just a bit shinier on a gray and rainy Friday.

Share away and thanks for your help.


11 thoughts on “Bossy-Nova

  1. My sympathy and empathy — seems like people problems are always the worst work problems, and that’s only amplified when it’s a boss or supervisor in the asshole role.
    Hmmm…is there any option to leave, move, transfer, or otherwise get out? Sometimes telling said asshole to take-the-job-and-shove-it is the best choice. Can an official grievance be filed, or is this stuff that a grievance board doesn’t get involved with?
    My own tendencies in previous lives were quitting, full use of sick leave/vacation, um, plenty of self-medication of various kinds on my off hours…and for one supervisor, who could be a task master (though not a bad person)…basically saying yes to everything while assuming at least half the stuff would be forgotten down the road.

  2. I once had a supervisor and manager (supervisor’s BFF) who literally hated me – ostensibly due to the fact I was extremely competent and didn’t fear them. I’m one of two people who remain here after 15 years out of a department of 40+ (downsizing and the usual outsourcing).
    Anyway the two of them finally hung themsleves. Managers come and go but they need the worker bees who do the actual work. I never aspired to management myself.
    I pretended nothing was wrong and showered them both with friendliness. Kill her with kindness would be my advice. There is a certain perverse fun in doing it.
    Don’t run away unless you really want another position somewhere else.

  3. The OCD part might provide Human Resources with grounds for action — “suggesting,” for example, that Boss avail herself of the employee-assistance program. If there’s a grievance program, I hope Mrs. Doc can use it.
    Otherwise, I think she has two options, neither pleasant: wait until Boss departs (and if she doesn’t actually want to run the unit, maybe she’s actually trying to do so, although that notion is probably giving her more credit than she deserves) or leave.
    I’ve been in that situation. It sucks. And I wish you both luck and patience.

  4. Uhm, really? This (admittedly annoying) piddly crap doesn’t even begin to come near to belonging in any discussion of shitty bosses my friends and I have had. Of course, most of us are/were longtime newspaper reporters.

  5. This sounds like an attorney I had to work with once. The woman was batshit insane. She reduced me to tears of frustration once–to the point that after a document review offsite once I called the office manager and said I would be out for the rest of the day drinking. I was not kidding. Anyway, the hardest thing was that the other attorneys and office manager assumed I was the problem because I was a baby paralegal. The office manager assigned another paralegal in the office to sit in on all of the meetings between the attorney and me so there was a third party to see where the communication breakdown was happening. It wasn’t long before my “supervisor” paralegal saw that batshit insane attorney was indeed batshit insane. Problem was that the partner who had hired batshit insane attorney didn’t see the problem. So office manager and supervisor paralegal told me to go ahead with my bad self and do what I could to do my job while ignoring batshit insane attorney’s insanity. The woman went so far as accusing me of setting her up to fail. It was an associate who saved the day, actually: he also knew batshit insane attorney was batshit insane and one day just hollered at her in his office. Partner finally saw there was a problem and took her off case.
    I have also worked with similar people in theatre; the thing about theatre work is you can tell a director or actor that they are being ridiculous to their faces.
    As for your wife, I would really suggest going up the chain, if possible. This nutball boss of hers is impacting productivity, to say nothing of morale. I would think people higher up the food chain would care about the productivity, at least. Of course, it IS academia, so they might not care. However, if nutto boss lady’s demands make it so that your wife cannot take care of things the head of the department might need, THAT might get someone’s attention. You know, like when the head of the department asks your wife to format a memo or something, your wife can say, well, I will get to that just as soon as I finish nutto boss lady’s OCD project du jour (use different wording, but you get the point).
    Good luck, and my sympathies to your wife. It sucks to have bad bosses.

  6. Yes! I had a supervisor like that. She’d demean me in front of everyone in our department at staff meetings. I even had someone ask me what Julia had against me.
    Unfortunately, there is no happy ending to my story. I was the librarian. It took Julia three years, but she finally got rid of me by simply closing the library (“budget cuts” at the hospital where my library was located). It’s interesting how the least capable people are so often promoted up the ladder because they have the best social connections.
    Thank you for listening.

  7. “It’s interesting how the least capable people are so often promoted up the ladder because they have the best social connections.”
    See? That’s what you get when you devote most of your brain cells to butt-kissing instead of actual competence.
    That damn “B Ark” is WAY behind schedule.

  8. She was told she wasn’t following the standard form of minutes noted by my wife’s predecessor. When my wife pulled out several copies of minutes, all using different forms, her boss said that wasn’t the point.
    YOU’RE NOT FOLLOWING RULES THAT DIDN’T EXIST UNTIL JUST THIS MINUTE! is my least favorite management tactic.
    As to this being “piddly crap,” that’s kind of the point. If Doc’s wife’s boss came in every day and hit her with a hammer she could charge her with assault. This is the kind of stuff you do when you just want to wear someone down, and it’s exhausting. A genuine crisis can be dealt with once and it’s over. Someone who every day just wants the agendas printed on a different kind of paper is like a pebble in your shoe. Is it preferable to being stabbed? Sure. Doesn’t mean it don’t hurt.
    Mr. A had a helljob, three years ago I think, in which he had six different bosses in eight months. The only thing consistent among all of them was a passive-aggressive expectation that he be able to read their minds and know their requirements magically. “You weren’t here at 7 am sharp every day!” “You never told me to be, and also, the work got done, so …” That kind of thing. It drove us both batshit.

  9. I have no working-place assholes now, for which I am deeply thankful.
    3 years ago, my wife was moved to Pastor a church in a town not unlike Postville, Iowa ( It wasn’t Postville, but another Iowa town with ‘rural’ values that had a significant minority population of a totally different culture. Both sides were at war with one another – the 2nd-3rd-4th generation whom grew up Iowa, versus the new arrivals whom, fed up with the local intolerance, would angrily remind the locals it was their population that was growing and whom were going to, “take over the town”.
    Insert poor outsider pastor & her family into this mess . . Despite having an exemplary work record, I couldn’t find a job because both side weren’t going to hire someone whom might be, “on the other side.” I eventually got a part-time administrative job in the library at an obviously drastic cut of income. The reason I got the job was because the supervisor was a nut job & had chewed through 4 people in 4 years – I was the only person in town unaware of her nut job status.
    I saw the alarm bells – an obsessive need to get scores of references, showing up at my house instead of calling, and a habit of showing up unexpectedly – but I needed the job so badly. You can live with a micromanaging crazy person with memory issues, as long as you get paid, right?
    Meanwhile, my wife discovered that a husband & wife on her staff had been responsible for campaigns of terror against parishioners and pastors in her church for 20 years. She eventually was able to get them off staff through forced resignations, but it cost her dearly – the town decided that she was going to take the side of the immigrant community. My wife told me to start looking for jobs that’d take us out of this hell hole. I was able to get a job back with my old employer, and although she went through a short stretch of unemployment, we’re doing much better now.

  10. A friend of mine had the most guano-lunatic boss I’ve encountered in years. This boss had been ordered by a judge to bring in administrative and secretarial help as part of a bankruptcy, and my friend was one of two lucky representative from the temp agency. It’s tough to tell if he was malicious or just incompetent, but her stories were awesomely horrible.
    For example, this guy signed up for a “Swinging Singles” website using the company’s main email account instead of his own and seemed surprised that my friend objected when asked to help him evaluate prospective hook-ups.
    At one point he requested that she forge a Kosher certification.
    Most memorably, he learned that she was studying to become a paralegal and he asked her to help with a legal problem that had developed on a business trip. He was trying to sell the company and while he was on the West Coast meeting with a prospective buyer he double parked his rental car. It got towed, so he called a taxi to go back to the airport, then flew home. The rental company reported the car as stolen and now there was a bench warrant for his arrest in California for car theft…
    When this dude’s business eventually collapsed, the judge took my friend and her fellow temp out for drinks to celebrate.

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