In The Workplace

I have a foul-mouthed boss who is the most hated manager in our department. He ridicules people in front of other workers and customers, even for minor mistakes, and uses four-letter words. I thought that because I am the only woman in the department, he would spare me, until yesterday when he bawled me out using sexist language in the presence of my colleagues. Please tell me what to do given the fact he’s a loyal, trustworthy, and nearly indispensable manager who is viewed favorably by top management. — Can’t Take It.
A man, his wife, and his formidable mother-in-law went on safari in Africa. They were billeted in a small hotel near the jungle. One morning, the married couple awoke to find the mother-in-law missing from her room. After a lengthy search, they found her a few hundred meters outside the hotel, face-to-face with a huge lion.
The terrified wife cried out loud to her husband: “Honey, what should we do?” The husband replied: “There’s nothing that we can do for the lion. He got himself into this mess. Let him get himself out of it.”
Like the lion in this story, it’s very difficult for your boss to extricate himself from a reputation like “most hated manager.” Even if he is the most important person in the organization, I don’t think he should be allowed verbally abuse others. After all, there’s no excuse for any manager to badmouth workers and colleagues.
We can’t ignore the basic formula: “Praise in public, castigate in private.” If this rule is violated, the boss will surely be in a difficult situation, which is beyond your control.
Let’s talk about what you can control. You have to extricate yourself from the situation by carefully studying all possible consequences of your actions. It’s unfortunate to have a boss like that, but unless you act intelligently and execute your plan right away, the situation may get worse before it gets better.
Let’s consider certain options in the following order of priority:
First, gather enough strength to talk to your boss in private. Make an appointment with your boss at a time when you expect no interruptions. Timing is important. Even miserable people have their occasional lucid intervals. Find such a time, and be courteous and professional in telling him how you felt when he bawled you out in public. Be brave but don’t be emotional. Stand your ground without losing your cool.
Be brief and warn him that a repetition of such an event would be handled differently, especially because his remarks have sexist undertones. There’s a chance he will mend his ways because office bullies like him are often pick on those who can’t fight back. The odds are in your favor if you show that you aren’t easily intimidated.
Second, seek the counsel of a trustworthy department manager. If you’re not brave enough to have a face-to-face meeting with your boss or if you’re not sure if Option Number One is tenable, then ask for the help of another manager or a high-ranking official, preferably another woman who might be sympathetic to your situation. She could point you to a way to resolve the situation, if not serve as a medium so the complaint reaches the ears of your antagonist.
However, this approach may escalate the situation if your boss ends up resenting the involvement of other managers.
Third, fight back the next time the boss raises hell. You can do this if Option Number One above fails to resolve the issue. You will have warned him already and he knows what’s coming. Raise your voice to the same decibel level of your boss. Do this in front of others who can serve as witnesses to prove that he started it. Whatever happens, don’t use angry language.
Don’t sink to his level. Play it cool. Simmer down the moment your boss realizes that you’re ready to fight back. Calmly leave the area and seek the counsel of a friendly department manager or a sympathetic friend. Trust me. I’ve done it before and I successfully stood up to a chief operating officer and was backed up by my immediate boss. The COO knew that he was in the wrong, and that silenced him forever.
Fourth, bring the matter to top management for immediate resolution. Don’t delay. Make your complaint complete and detailed, including instances where you tried to talk to your boss to resolve the matter privately. Review the company’s code of conduct and refer to the relevant provisions, particularly the expected standard of professional decorum.
If the code is not helpful, check out Article 285 of the Labor Code, which covers “serious insult by the employer or his representative on the honor and person of the employee” and the “inhuman and unbearable treatment” you’ve experienced.
If you have a union and you’re part of it, file a complaint with the help of its leadership. Even if you don’t have a union, there may be other victims you can enlist. Sooner or later, top management will realize that they have an incompetent boss who must be immediately eased out of his job.
Last, take it in stride and resign the moment you have another job offer elsewhere, particularly if you’re not confident about your boss responding to the four steps above. Or else, look for opportunities in another department. In the meantime, bear with it. Know and try to understand what your boss expects from you. Be clear about it. If possible, have him put his expectations in writing or record it through an email exchange.
But don’t ignore how you may have contributed to the boss’s outburst.
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