I have thirty minutes to make my boss stop hating me.
December 19, 2012 8:10 PM Subscribe
My boss treats me like garbage. My coworkers encouraged me to set up a meeting with her to discuss how we can have a better relationship. Our meeting is tomorrow and I'm regretting scheduling this talk. How can I go through with it and get the best results without humiliating myself?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I work at an immigration law firm as a paralegal. My boss, an associate attorney, is extremely overworked, underappreciated, and not very well-supported by her own boss. She deals with this by verbally abusing her paralegals. I've been working for this lady for maybe a year and I'm kind of at the end of my rope.
My boss isn’t a bad person, but she regularly stays at work until 3 a.m., and I can’t imagine even the kindest person in the world being immune to that sort of stress. I’ve tried very hard to be supportive. I’ve been with her when she’s burst into tears because she’s so overwhelmed, and my heart just goes out to her. We’re both kind of outspoken women in our thirties so I suppose I identify with her and can be kind of protective of her. When other paralegals and contract attorneys complained about her, I used to defend her by pointing out how impossible her job can be. My friends and coworkers can’t believe how much I defend this woman because she’s honestly such a bitch to me that they don’t think her exhaustion is a sufficient excuse. I still feel awful for her, but I agree that something about our work relationship has to change because I seem to be her favorite rage target and I don’t know how I got there. Basically, I want to ask how.
My coworkers and some other attorneys encouraged me to set up a meeting with my boss to discuss our apparent conflict, but I’m incredibly nervous because, as is often the case with this sort of thing, I never really bothered to document all of the times my boss blamed me for someone else’s mistake or forgot to ask me for a file she needed and froze me out for a week because I didn’t read her mind. I can’t even really outline them here because they’re so small and would seem so petty. There are a million tiny things that have happened over the year that have made colleagues say, “Why does she come down so much harder on you than anyone else?” What stays with me is the tone she uses to make me feel terrible:
“I just don’t know what to do with you anymore.”
“ I want to have a good work relationship, but you make it so hard. “
“You don’t have my back.”
“I seriously just don’t know what the fuck to do with you anymore.”
I can expect to hear some iteration of this at least once a day. Please understand that I know this may not be unusual in some work environments, but for me it’s incredibly jarring and I’d like for it to stop because try as I might, I can’t stop myself from crying in the break room on occasion when she implies that I’m just beyond hope. I just can’t imagine what she’s saying about me to the partners if she’s saying this sort of thing to my face. As far as I know, she doesn’t treat anyone else on the team this way and I make the same amount of mistakes everyone else does. (According to the contract attorneys on my team, I make fewer mistakes, but they may be trying to comfort me because we’re all underdogs.) When my boss is in a better mood, she usually compliments my work and tells me I’m good at taking criticism and fixing my mistakes, so I don’t think the problem is that I’m too defensive. A few months ago, I had a meeting with her where I framed all of my confusion about this as a how-can-I-do-better sort of plea, but I didn’t get much feedback and the issue persisted.
So, anyway, this second meeting I stupidly requested is tomorrow. Basically, I want to say, "I get that you're tired and your job is impossible and you're drowning right now, and I've been incredibly sympathetic to that, but it doesn't increase my productivity when you take it out on me. Also, why exactly do you take it out on me in particular, by the way? Is it because I've been sympathetic and I seem like a safe target because you think I'll continue to be sympathetic? How do I get you to stop?" Obviously I can’t actually ask any of that. My boyfriend is worried that this meeting will just come off as me complaining to my boss that she hurts my feelings. I’m really regretting setting this meeting. How can I get what I want out of it without seeming like a five-year-old who’s complaining she’s not nice? Help me frame this, please!