Help! My Boss is a Jerk!

Q. Every time my coworkers or I ask my manager a question, he snaps at us and tries to make us feel stupid for not already knowing the answer. What should we do? Lisa in Raleigh, NC

Well, as my teachers always said: there are no stupid questions. Of course, it sounds like there are some stupid managers out there.

Your Boss is a Jerk

It’s painful enough to work with a jerk, but when the jerk is also your boss, your life can become a living hell. Jerks with power are the worst kinds of jerks.

There are various reasons that a given team even requires supervision at all.  Often, there is a need for accountability, leadership and/or training. Even if your manager’s sole responsibility is accountability – that is, he is there to just keep the rest of you in line – there is still no excuse for his lack of maturity.

The most important duty of a manager is to develop his or her team to excel for the company; and when the manager himself impedes this development, the employees often have nowhere to turn.

Who knows why your supervisor is failing at his most important job function; the fact is, his actions are hurting morale and, ultimately, the company’s performance.

I Love Questions

I love when subordinates ask me questions. I look at all questions as invitations to develop the person doing the asking. Because the employee asked for the assistance, they are more open to the answers – the employee development becomes a mutually beneficial occurrence. Conversely, whenever I unilaterally work to develop someone, I am at the mercy of the receiver who may or may not be open to receiving my terrific guidance and tremendous wisdom.

Okay, enough about me…

What should you and your coworkers do? I can only speak from my experience here, but if I ran this company I would want to know about this jerk and how he is treating others. While I’ve never given credence to any mutiny, I actually recommend you and your coworkers move up the organizational chart to your boss’ boss and explain the situation.

Strength In Numbers

There is strength in numbers, and the entire team should deliver this message as a group. Be careful not give ultimatums (e.g., “it’s either him or us”), just try to explain the situation (without emotion or opinions) and let the company know how this is effecting your work.

Be prepared for your boss’ boss to go into leadership development mode and retain the jerk for the near-term. If your company cares about people, they will investigate the situation and then provide some management training for your boss – giving him a chance to redeem himself.

As crappy as this sounds for you and your team, you really wouldn’t want to work for a company that didn’t provide second chances in cases like these. (Who knows, you might be the manager someday and you wouldn’t want a few disgruntled employees to get you fired without due process.)

We All Have Choices

While most companies would make an adjustment in this situation, there is the chance that nothing changes. If this happens, you are left with four choices:

  1. You can look for another position within your company;
  2. You can look for something at another company;
  3. You can give the “it’s him or us” ultimatum (and be prepared to possibly be fired); or
  4. You can live with it.

For me, choice number 4 is not a choice. The satisfaction I receive from my work is too important to me to let someone drain me of it. Life’s too short to work for a jerk – that leaves you with choices 1, 2, or 3. Of course, these depend on the opportunities available to you, and your stomach for confrontation and change.

I’m hopeful your company will make a change – as I wrote, most companies would – but whatever happens, please keep us posted.