Boss gone because of me and our very small office hates me
December 21, 2019 1:03 AM   Subscribe

I started working 2 years ago at a nonprofit. My supervisor and I have never gotten along. He would yell and belittle me. He was a brand new supervisor and deeply insecure (he admitted it) and thought I did not listen to him enough when I first started. When I found out after a month, it was too late to change his opinion of me.

He favored support staff/new professionals (not saying what kind to keep things anonymous) over more autonomous/older professionals and would let the former do anything. He organized office parties frequently and was super festive, and the support staff loved him because of it. I stopped attending the office parties because he would belittle me during them.

Our organization unionized this year. A lot of changes have occurred since. I asked the union delegate to set up an informal meeting with my supervisor. A few days after a time was set, my supervisor wanted to file a disciplinary warning against me. I ask for, and am given, a union meeting with him. There is a yelling match between him and the union rep, which everyone heard.

Things spiraled out of control and shortly afterwards, he announces his resignation and quick departure. From what I know, the supervisor makes it clear that I'm the reason he's leaving. The person replacing him is a higher up whom they all hate (I don't hate her, I don't hate anyone). I invited this person to an office party and the support staff clearly ostracized me during it.

The support staff are furious at me. The other professionals are somewhat indifferent, because they knew of the supervisor's unfair treatment of me. One of the support staff threatened to 'beat me up' (not to my face, just yelled it loudly to other people). I have to work with everyone. The support staff have been there the longest and are the oldest in the office, so they are treated with a lot of deference.

Things have been very, very tense and hostile. I have been as professional as possible.

How do I act around the support staff? Things I will not do: transfer/change jobs. I can telecommute sometimes, when I don't have set appointments. I have been meditating, reading upon on office politics, watching motivational videos. I don't want to draw HR in. The union says they can't 'control' what the support staff are doing. The management of the entire organization is dysfunctional from the top. Note: I won't transfer/change jobs
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Try to get one on side. Pick the one whose least hostile and chip away slowly. Once someone warms to you, maybe the others will follow. And you know, give it time, these things will blow over. Hopefully.

In the meantime, the support staff don’t have to like you but they do have to be professional and do their job and so do you. So smile if you can, make small talk and go about your day. These people are not smart.

Hating someone is exhausting and takes up all the air in the room and if you’ve noticed it then everyone else has and pretty soon their boss will too. That’s what they should really be concerned about. They don’t want to be known for creating a hostile work environment and wind up out of a job out of some misguided sense of loyalty to an employee who isn’t even there anymore and voluntarily chose to leave. So if they’re smart they’ll get over it.
posted by Jubey at 2:30 AM on December 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

Change, any change in an originization brings out the worst in people. People feel incredibly insecure when bosses change, even when there are lots of facts it is for the better there are just to many unknowns and people worry.

Right now that is being taken out on you. I think with some time things will fall into a new normal. People will start to express their frustrations and things they like about new boss and less focus on the thing that just happened. Be polite, stick it out and it will likely be ok. Of course minimize your interaction for now. Maybe bring in some treats for the support staff or something. Ask for things politely and be professional.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:43 AM on December 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

Just for the record, you might want to report the staff member who threatened to beat you up. Sometimes threats escalate, and if they do, it's good to have a record of verbal threats.
posted by Umami Dearest at 3:55 AM on December 21, 2019 [31 favorites]

Make them see you as a 3-dimensional human being by casually showing your interests.

Do you volunteer with any charities? Wear a shirt from that.

Do you like a local sports team or have longtime hobbies that others may share? Put a photo or souvenir on your desk relating to that hobby or sport.

Put photos of your family. If you don't have kids, this could be siblings or parents from Thanksgiving.

It is easier for people to hate a two-dimensional caricature. It is much harder when they see you as a full human with hobbies they share, involvement in the community, and love for your family.
posted by cheesecake at 4:31 AM on December 21, 2019 [8 favorites]

This is one of those situation where the best thing to do is nothing. Just wait. Wait for the passage of time. It'll settle down.
posted by mono blanco at 5:59 AM on December 21, 2019 [12 favorites]

You haven't said anything about the support staff refusing to do their job in relation to supporting you but just in case one or more decide to undermine you, maintain a paper trial. Send work requests and requests for progress via e-mail.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 6:53 AM on December 21, 2019 [9 favorites]

He didn’t leave because of you, he left because the union rep called him out.

In the company you describe he won’t be the last person to be chased out. Be patient and as that develops they’ll shift their ire to the next target of opportunity.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:36 AM on December 21, 2019 [11 favorites]

This is definitely a question for Alison at Ask A Manager. She is a specialist in giving advice for this type of situation.

I'm sorry for what you're going through.
posted by purplesludge at 7:40 AM on December 21, 2019 [13 favorites]

Ugh, I feel for you. I have just spent most of the last year navigating a fairly similar situation in a non-profit where we had to let a long-serving Executive Director go after many, many years of non-performance and flat-out defiance of the Board. The individual was loved by their staff because they allowed them to do whatever they wanted in order to avoid any scrutiny that would have exposed the crap they were up to on the organization's dime. I was not involved in the decision to terminate them, but I became the face of it to the staff after the fact.

In my case, a large part of what worked followed the pattern recommended above: be polite and professional, and don't get drawn into any snark. Humanize yourself where possible, especially if you can identify one or two of the support staff who seem friendlier or more open than others, and make sure you are on good terms with the other professionals. Be generous in your praise and appreciation for any assistance you get. Establish a solid relationship with the new supervisor. If you're asked about what you think about the new regime, be open about what you see as working better than before, but try to avoid directly criticizing the person who is gone.

The way you carry yourself during this period will be important. I would recommend "holding your territory," and not working from home much more than usual or otherwise withdrawing from places or activities that are a normal part of your job and/or your workday, at least after the holidays. You did nothing wrong, you have nothing to apologize for, and you have the right to make normal requests of the support staff that fall into their job descriptions and regular functions. You all have to do your jobs, even if you don't like each other. If they can't accept that, that's their problem, and they are the ones who will suffer for it.

While the union may not be able to "control" the support staff, they are responsible, along with management, for ensuring that a workplace is free from harassment and abuse, and that includes by one member against another. Your desire to keep management out of it is commendable, but you don't have to tolerate threats and harassment. I would reiterate to your union rep that threats to beat you up definitely constitute harassment and that you expect the union to clarify its position on that to the offenders, so that things don't have to go to HR or the new supervisor.

I'm sorry you are going through this, but I agree that it will blow over in time. It took about six months in our case, and that was where the departure was involuntary. In your situation, the bottom line was that the supervisor chose to leave, and knowing that should make the acceptance process easier.
posted by rpfields at 9:12 AM on December 21, 2019 [8 favorites]

I think mono blanco has the most important bit of advice.

Doctors/nurses/medicos are given to calling this type of cure the "tincture of time."
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 10:28 AM on December 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

First, is it possible you're being paranoid to some degree? I only ask because I've just recently become aware of how much a factor paranoia can be in my life and the lives of others, especially where work stuff's involved. The language you use is pretty strong, you make the place sound unbearable. Is it at all possible that people there don't really hate you, and you're projecting all over the place? The nut who yelled about beating you up, there's no misreading that, but in other cases is it possible that you're interpreting standard human indifference as frostiness and hostility? Take a moment to consider the possibility. If this is actually a workplace where people behave like professionals, maybe you can just be polite, do your job and ride this out.

Now, all that being said, this sure doesn't sound like pure paranoia to me. If it's really as bad as you say, you have an incredibly shitty job. You keep saying you won't change jobs, but I'm still going to plead with you to change jobs. Read over what you've written here and ask yourself what you'd say to anybody else in this situation. You'd tell them that they have to get out of that awful place, and you'd be right.

Your workplace is a toxic mess. You've got people threatening you on the job and a bunch of people are siding with some asshole boss who used to yell at you, yelled at a union rep and belittled you at office parties. People are ostracizing you because they're in such a snit about losing the guy who treated you like shit. This isn't a workplace, it's middle school.

If there's some reason why you absolutely cannot get a new job, maybe look into transferring to another office, another floor, anything. Get as far away from those jerks as you can. In the meantime, remember that you have nothing to apologize for. The guy who left was a very, very obviously bad, mean boss, and anybody who sides with him over you must be pretty shitty too. Did they think it was OK for you to be the office punching bag?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:11 PM on December 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Old boss (of support staff) was a fun boss. If new boss (the higher up; demoted or given wider responsibility) isn't liked, try to intervene and let the support staff that you're on their side.

Fight for them, if necessary. Take credit when possible (after you've talked about the situation with new boss).

You don't need to be their friend, just that they know you'll be fair to/ for them. It'll take time.

Don't know the specifics, but I always try to be polite and greet everyone regardless of their position in the org chart no matter what.
posted by porpoise at 8:07 PM on December 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

« Older Remote therapist with modern understanding of...   |   Misleading game ads? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.