what is he trying to say?
July 1, 2019 5:38 PM   Subscribe

My team lead like public shaming my work with the whole team instead of directly talking to me.

My team is around 8 people, consist with 2 females, I am the youngest female( human) on the team with the same title as other team members except my team lead. ( they all graduate from same university)

My Team lead is extremely experienced and very good at his job, I learned a lot after he joined our team and when he was applying for the lead I rooted for him.

What made me ask this question:
last week after he was reviewing my work, I found out although he knows is my work, he was commenting out loud :
“ look at this xxx .”
“What is the use of this xxxx”
“What is the use of doing Xxxx”

He used to directly commenting on my work just to me ( your work is a mess), and I accept his suggestion and improve fully.

But for the change, he only did this of commenting style to me, I don’t know why he would do this to me and what is he trying tell me ?

Can somebody gives me some advice how to speak to him tomorrow, I am feeling really frustrated and have to talk to him about this.

P.S: I don’t know why, He reminded me an extremely similar feeling what I get from ex boyfriend who abused me for 2 years.
Which it made me so scared of talking to him!
posted by dadaxiang1204 to Human Relations (7 answers total)
First, it’s very possible that his behavior had nothing to do with you but rather was a result of a problem at home, or a frustrating commute, or just a general bad mood.

Given your experience I can see why you would be anxious about talking to him about it, but I would give him the benefit of the doubt and go with "I find your feedback very useful, but it’s easier for me if you share it just to me."

If he apologizes then you’re good for now. If he doesn’t then at a minimum he’s telling you that you can expect more public shaming in the future.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:04 PM on July 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

I had a boss who once did this when lots of us on the team were making the same mistake, so he wanted to correct everyone at the same time by using me as an example. But he made sure to say that at the meeting so I didn’t feel foolish about it. It made me feel like he thought I was confident and my work was otherwise good enough that I wouldn’t be hurt by him using me as the example (which was true—I didn’t mind).
posted by sallybrown at 6:09 PM on July 1, 2019 [8 favorites]

If he's given you private feedback before, but there are still issues with your work, he's may be frustrated with you and might think that giving you the feedback publicly might compel you to take his feedback more seriously.

I've worked in creative team settings and have received public feedback on my work. It's not fun, but (assuming it isn't needlessly cruel or rude, and the person isn't screaming or yelling at you) I don't think it's out of order. I can't tell if the "xxxx" is meant to stand in for an expletive or if it's just a placeholder for some specific work reference, so maybe I'm reading this wrong. If not, I'd probably rather have someone say "What's the use of this thing?" in a group setting rather than "Your work is a mess" privately, as that seems way worse to me.
posted by mpbx at 7:13 PM on July 1, 2019

I would assume that he's giving this critique in front of the rest of the team because he thinks they will also find it relevant. If he can use an example once for everyone, instructionally, that could be much more efficient than just waiting for everyone to turn in their work and make the same set of mistakes.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:38 PM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hi dadaxiang, if he's saying in a meeting that your work is a piece of shit, that's unprofessional. It would be unprofessional if you weren't at the meeting at all. It's crappy behavior, and it doesn't raise the team leader in the team's estimation. It just makes them afraid of becoming the next victim slated for a public shaming.

I've seen a manager deal with this treatment from a higher-up, and I've dealt with it as a target myself. When my manager of a few years back was ambushed publicly over his efforts on a project, he told the ambusher -- and leader of the meeting -- that he didn't appreciate being told his work was a piece of shit. There was an audible gasp when he said it. His manager fell on her sword and apologized, but her abusive behavior continued. (My boss later left the company and so did I).

That guy had manager status, so I'm not sure how this would go over as a lower-level employee. It might be worth a try -- you'll have to decide.

The other way of dealing with it, as others mentioned above, is to have a private meeting with this person and ask him to dial it down. When I tried this myself, I told my manager that when he attacked or dismissed me in a meeting, he was compromising my status in the eyes of my team members. I told him that in order to work effectively with the team, it was important that they respect me and believe that I have management's support.
I played dumb and assured him that I didn't think he was trying to sabotage my position on purpose. I phrased it as a request and made as if I assumed he'd just slipped up and done something thoughtless that he normally wouldn't want to do.

My manager apologized and said he'd do better, but he continued to shame me in meetings. Going higher up the food chain didn't work -- I was dismissed at every turn. Things didn't get better until I was no longer working at that place.

I've sometimes wondered: Why would they hire an employee they didn't respect in the first place? It's clear that some companies are so massively dysfunctional and fear-driven that they need a scapegoat. Beating up on the lower-level scapegoat means a manager who's afraid of his or her boss, can put off addressing the real issues for another day and go home feeling like they accomplished something.

Your comment that your team leader's behavior toward you reminds you of an abusive ex, tells me you should heed your gut feelings about this situation.

I don't think all managers are sadistic, but some of them are. And some will enjoy humiliating you in meetings. Some of them approach managing like cock-fighting with people. In my experience there's not a lot you can do against people like this, because we're talking about personality disorders. You might take comfort in the likelihood that other people on the team also think this leader is toxic. (Are you friends with any of the other employees? What do they think about this guy?) Leaving may be your only option if it's unendurable.

Sure, do you what you can to improve things by being reasonable, polite, and professional. Give conversation with him a try in a closed-door meeting.

And if the behavior continues, please consider leaving the job. It's just a job after all, and you deserve to work in a place where you're treated with respect.

Good luck!
posted by cartoonella at 8:51 PM on July 1, 2019 [8 favorites]

It's a little hard to understand what's going on from your example. It's a little abstract. He could simply be using your work as an object lesson, or he could be being a dick. I think it's a good thing to talk with him, but be careful of making an outright accusation that he's being unfair to you. I generally use the formulation "When you do x, it makes me feel y, because z" in these situations. As in "When you ask me to work overtime without pay, it makes me feel like I am not valued, because I am being asked to work for free." See if you can fit your talking point into this formulation. Even as an exercise it can help promote emotionally neutral discussion.
posted by xammerboy at 10:32 PM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would actually hold off on talking about it unless it happens again. It sounds, unless I'm misunderstanding you, that this only happened on one occasion, and on all others he gave feedback directly to you. So it seems like his general managerial tendency is in line with what you want, with this incident being an exception. I think you can wait to have a conversation about this until you see if it represents a shift in his managerial tendency - that is, until (and if) it happens again.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:42 AM on July 2, 2019

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