Friday, May 12, 2017

He made my life a living hell

We're going to read an e-mail today:


My name is Sam and I am a software program manager. I've been with my company for six years. I manage testing and commercialization of connectivity programs. I do nerdy stuff: establish routine update, update status, schedule trends vs. baseline, risk management, mitigation and recovery actions.

Six months ago, I got a new boss whom I'll call Mr. Stumpt (for you gamers out there, no connection to the characters Ash, Rik, Price, and Jas). He is 6'1", strong built. He looks like an action movie actor, like Tom Hardy.  Now picture me, I am short (5'6") and weight only 140 pounds.

From the week he got started, Mr. Stumpt started taking me apart from the group, with one-on-one "lap talks" (at least that is how I call them). In these talks he would snap his fingers, put his arm around me and tell me: "No, really, did you think I wasn't going to see that ? and "I watched you, and frankly, I was not impressed". As our private talks became more frequent they reached this progression: from annoying to nuisance to dreadful. We had bi-weekly department meetings he started like this:

"We're talking Sam today. Sam and his his little routine update management is the work we need to pay attention to." So he brought me up at every meeting, even though I'm sure he could see I was a little more than uncomfortable with it and there's no apparent reason for doing it.

At another of our lap talks: We need to show a little extra work, Sam. He then gave me the work of three. I started staying late at work, past 9 o'clock. My work became my life, without a life.

I was coming home exhausted and when I fell asleep I had dreams about Mr. Stumpt. "Sam, we're depending on you." We're counting on you, Sam. Does this rhyme with you, Sam ?"

Tell me, Max, is it anything I can do before he fires me ?"


Sam, thanks for writing. As you know, I don't give advice. What I can do is express an opinion, which may or may not work for you. Unfortunately, bad bosses are very much a rule, not an exception.

You have two choices: hand over your resignation or fight. If you don't want to go willingly, you should fight only after you "laid things bare":

1. What do you have to lose if you fight him ? Worst case scenario. Where will you be after you lost your job ? Will you be able to get another one ? Start from scratch ?...etc.

2. What does he have to lose if he fights you ? Worst case scenario (for him). See exactly what will happen if your boss lost his job.

Once you establish that, you can answer this question:

3. How much skin in the game does he have ? For example, if the boss is going back to a relatively comfortable living after taking a job loss, he doesn't have skin in the game. Perhaps that's why he is acting up. If he "has skin in the game" and wants to stay where he is, is he more vulnerable? Or less so ? You need to determine that. I have a theory that bad bosses are just rotten kids who need discipline.

Confronting the boss

I'll have to write a whole post just on that, but not today. Go straight to him, with the sketch of just these three points during one of your private talks. Make your concerns known. He'll have to either alter his approach or go full blown on you.

Once you decide to go against him, don't hesitate. People like that will slice off your throat if you let them. I'll close with a short video on the BJJ classic rear naked choke. If you were able to do that on your bad boss, figuratively speaking, do you think he'll let go of you ?

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