Letter from Someone With a Bad Boss But Can't Quit

Alternatives, from assertive to cautious.

Posted Dec 08, 2015

Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain
Source: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

In each installment of this daily series, I respond to a composite letter that asks for my career advice.

Dear Marty,

I work in the three-person HR department of a small non-profit. I absolutely cannot stand my boss. He is a lazy, stupid do-nothing. I'm sure he got promoted to manager for some reason other than merit because he has no merit.

But what pushed me over the edge were two things that happened a month ago. He's always on his cell phone and says it's on official business but I glanced over his shoulder and he was on Facebook!  The straw that broke the camel's back was this: I went into the supply closet to get a flash drive and he was in there bonking one of the admins.

I went to his boss and she said she'd look into it. It's been a month so I checked back with her today and she said she's still looking into it. I don't believe it. I think she's blowing me off.

There's nowhere to transfer to in my organization and I'm scared of quitting because it's not easy for someone with soft skills and only a bachelor's degree in sociology to get a good job  Plus, because my boss knows I don't like him, I'm sure he'll, at best, say the company policy is to not give a reference and his tone will suggest I'm bad. I can't afford to go without income, so I'm stuck here.

How do I cope?

Aggravated in Atlanta

Dear Aggravated,

It seems you have three choices.

If your boss is as bad as you say, perhaps it's worth getting your other two coworkers to orchestrate trying to get him fired. If you all, as a group, document and then report all his bad behavior to his boss and perhaps even to his boss's boss, there's a chance they'll get rid of him. 

Or the three of you could use that documentation as a threat hanging over his head. After you have plenty of examples of his poor performance, have an "intervention." The three of you go into his office, show him the list and kindly suggest those as important areas for growth, or even demand immediate improvement or you'll show the list to his boss and his boss's boss.

Your third alternative is to build a temporal and emotional wall between you and him. Expect nothing from him, avoid interaction with him, and decide that his bad performance will not get to you. Focus on doing your job and save your emotional energy for more worthy people.

I hope one of these ideas is helpful.

Marty Nemko

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia. His 8th book, just published, is The Best of Marty Nemko.