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I have a bad boss

Q. I am a contractor working in an open area work space with 10 others. I have worked as a contractor for over a decade (I’ve also worked as a full-time employee), and I have been in my current assignment for 5 months. I do my job well and with a great attitude. Unfortunately, some of my work is supervised by a VP who is not a very nice person. He’s younger than I, treats me disrespectfully, and plays fantasy football. He just doesn’t like me. I told our boss that I was getting no feedback from this VP for the work I had done for him. He doesn’t explain things appropriately and has intentionally tried to give me as little information as possible. Yesterday, this VP came into the work area after a meeting with our boss and told everyone that a certain someone needed more feedback. “How ridiculous…you need a friend? This isn’t the place…” He made a mockery of me in the process. I was horrified. In this open work space, to be singled out by him and have my colleagues laughing about it, I felt deeply offended. Now I want to take action and challenge him. How do I do this without losing my contract?

A. These are some great examples of bad management behavior at the VP level, and perhaps his boss as well. If you are looking to take action and “challenge him”, we can add you to the bad behavior bucket too. Keep your contract, and take action. I don’t see this as challenging someone, but as advocating for yourself, and ensuring a professional work environment for yourself and others. Continue to do your job well, and with a great attitude.

You have enough work experience to have run into people who are not nice people, and those who just don’t like you. It happens. It can make the environment difficult, annoying, and frustrating, but you should always remain professional. You have a bad boss. That happens too, and there are ways to deal with the situation professionally.

It is clear you do not like your manager. The fantasy football comment gave it away. Many employees are challenged by working with bad managers, managers they do not like, or with managers who exhibit a dislike for them. Options are limited. You can quit; you can act unprofessionally and risk being fired, or you can be extremely professional. Resolving these kinds of situations in a more positive manner typically rests with the employee rather than the manager.

You tried to raise your concerns with the more senior boss, and you should have been able to discuss this situation with him and to get support. You may have chosen to have this discussion too soon in the process, and by complaining rather than taking a more problem solving approach. In this kind of situation employees can be better served by looking for help solving the problem. Saying, “I am not getting enough direction or feedback from the VP. Do you have any suggestions for me to improve the situation?” This keeps the responsibility with you, the senior manager understands the problem, and you do not earn the complainer reputation. Most often a manager will ask you if you would like them to intervene, and early in the process you can decline. You many need support later – particular if the public embarrassment is repeated.

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I’m sorry your colleagues didn’t respond in a more supportive manner. Managers like this trade employee targets, and look for applause from the audience. As soon as people realize they will be the next target, they might not be as amused by his bad management activity. Colleagues can help put an end to this type of bullying by being dismissive of these types of comments.

Some people shouldn’t be in management, and your VP may be too immature for this kind of role. If you want to keep your contract, deal with him professionally, and use his boss to build support, but not run interference.

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