What do I do about my boss?!
January 23, 2007 8:00 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with the most unprofessional and innapropriate boss?

I'm about 7 months into my first full time job out of college. My boss is constantly innapropriate and unprofessional.

Lately he's made it point to pick fights with my co-workers and me, calling us liars, lazy and slow. He complains about his job constantly and demands to look at our paychecks because he "swears we get paid more than he does."

He brags about how he dropped out of high school, and we should have "never wasted our time in college." He's made numerous racial slurs against clients, and has made suggestive comments toward us females that work in the office.

Just yesterday he threw a temper tantrum and started throwing things across his office, and slamming doors and drawers. He's gone weeks giving us the silent treatment before.

I guess the icing on the cake was when looking at the history of his browser while he was on vacation, I found that he's watches porn all day long.
I guess I can't really report this because I shouldn't have been snooping. Or can I?

As far as business dealings are concerned he fudges sales numbers and monthly goals in order to make himself look better to the corporate office. He even fell asleep during a meeting today.

I like where I work, It's a job that wouldn't be so bad if he wasn't there.

Talking to his supervisor is nearly pointless because they live together.
(I know, that's unprofessional as well)

I can't take it any longer. I'm not sure what to do.
Is this what I should expect in the real world?
How do we get this guy outta here?!
posted by dearest to Work & Money (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This boss and his supervisor... do THEY have a boss?!?
posted by rokusan at 8:06 PM on January 23, 2007

Document everything with Human Resources. Write to human resources with all of this, particularly the racist and sexist comments. Mention that you've seen your boss watching porn but DONT mention that you looked at his browsing history. Believe me, your company will take action.

If the action is against your boss, good job. If the action is against you for reporting it, it's LAWSUIT TIME. This is why lawyers exist. Again, make sure you document specific instances of his behavior with HR.

You probably want to make sure you arrive on time, don't leave early, and get all your work done satisfactorily in the meantime.
posted by Justinian at 8:11 PM on January 23, 2007

How large is your company. Once you get above a certain size, companies will provide a channel outside of your reporting heirarchy to bring complaints like this. Maybe talk to someone in HR about it.
posted by alms at 8:12 PM on January 23, 2007

Keep notes of everything he does, with printouts and copies of things that you can use as evidence. Take this home with you so if you get fired and escorted out, HR won't find your evidence and toss it before you get it back. Don't show him your paystub. You say he threw a temper tantrum that involved throwing items? Call security on him. No security? Call the cops.

Talk to HR. Talk to the boss of the supervisor he lives with. Talk to a lawyer. File a lawsuit against him and the company for sexual harassment.

Seriously, I know you like your job, you've got to stop allowing him to treat you all like this. What he's doing is illegal and harmful.
posted by smashingstars at 8:12 PM on January 23, 2007

Keeping notes at home, as smashingstars suggests, is something I should have mentioned as well. If you get blowback you want it as evidence for your now undoubtedly lucrative lawsuit.
posted by Justinian at 8:16 PM on January 23, 2007

Response by poster: Hi there,
thanks so much for the speedy response a couple quick things:

1. They do have a boss, but they seem to be buddy buddy with her as well.

2. It's a small newspaper with a staff of about 15 with no HR department, maybe in the corporate offices in Alabama--would they be the ones to notify?

3. I don't have exact time and dates of sexual harrassment. Should I just start documenting it now?
posted by dearest at 8:18 PM on January 23, 2007

Using racial slurs at work will get your ass fired.

Sexually charged comments directed at subordinates will get your ass fired.

Viewing pornography on a company computer, on company time will almost certainly get your ass fired.

Is there someone else in the company you can talk to? Somebody in HR? Could you make up a story about walking into his office one day and seeing something inappropriate on his computer and that they might want to look at his browsing history?

This guy, by the way, is completely atypical. I'm 35 years old. I've worked for quite a few assholes and sociopaths in my life but most of them had enough sense to avoid behavior that would get them sued.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:19 PM on January 23, 2007

It sounds like you need a different job. And quick. You need to decide if you like the job and future prospects at that particular company enough to fight a battle that you might well not win and is sure to cause you a lot of stress. Do not underestimate the toll it might take. Do you have the mental bandwidth to open this can of worms?

You work for a skunk. My Dad, wise Texan that he was, always said "Son, never get into a pissin' contest with a skunk."

You are young and only have 7 months invested in this 1st job. You have learned a valuable lesson about what REAL work-life can be like. It does not NEED to be like that.
posted by toucano at 8:21 PM on January 23, 2007

Get out now.

I tell you this because people like that will end up firing you for some stupid reason, and if you leave on your own you choose the timing.

It happened to me when I first got out of college, too. Some companies hire new grads because they know we don't always know what is appropriate.

Seriously. Leave. It will not improve. You cannot fight that kind of situation.
posted by winna at 8:26 PM on January 23, 2007

I would second the above comment. If you're unable to fix the situation yourself, it may be best that you leave. You're fresh out of college and you don't want to be fired on bad terms especially from a pissant such as your boss. Sometimes you're just gonna have to marshal up your energy someplace else and simply walk away from a fight.
posted by Myles at 8:32 PM on January 23, 2007

I'm about 7 months into my first full time job out of college.

Leave. You have bigger fish to fry and nothing to lose at this point. I predict that you'll leave and go, "why did I ever stick around so long at that place?"
posted by frogan at 8:39 PM on January 23, 2007

His behavior is certainly actionable. You might want to consider trying to figure out if your similarly afflicted coworkers will have your back if you decide to do something about it, meaning report everything. To whom is kind of a guess, if there is a corporate office off somewhere they are probably the most likely to take it straight on, but his boss might buffer you somewhat from dealing with it personally but that's only if she is sympathetic to your cause and it sounds like she might not be.

And of course it could all go really badly in many, many ways. You sound smart enough to imagine how trying to bring the hammer down on your boss in the context of his live-in supervisor and possibly aligned boss, probably mediating with some faceless corporate off somewhere, could get ugly. You will certainly be in the middle of some shit for a while. You should definitely have a plan for looking for other employment immediately because if you address this you could get fired, right or wrong, or the atmosphere could go from bad to unbearable right off the bat, and even if he is ousted it could easily not be worth working there due to the shit that is going to get stirred up.

If you do decide to report it report everything except you snooping on his browser.

If you decide you just want out you could bring it all up in the exit interview, in that case you could throw in the porn element for good measure and then walk right out on that mess. I gotta tell you: I'm one hundred percent sure you are going to be leaving this job soon regardless.
posted by nanojath at 8:40 PM on January 23, 2007

sue him before he fires you
posted by matteo at 8:43 PM on January 23, 2007

Yes, start documenting now.

Is there another supervisor to whom you could be transferred? Perhaps for other reasons than your asshole boss, like more opportunity for advancement or more challenging work or some such? This may be the only way to keep your job with this company.

It's depressingly hard to get upper-level nutcases fired. But it does happen.

Back to that documentation -- get yourself some good, concrete examples that have no ambiguity. Try to score points in all categories. Be prepared to explain why these behaviors are fact, not your opinion; are inappropriate, not insulting; are dangerous, not startling; are racial slurs, not just insinuations.

Document all the minor stuff, too, but pay special attention to the stuff that is harder to blow off as "sensitive young employee" or could make you sound "emotional" or "the PC police." When you bring your complaint, and I hope that you do, your boss will paint you as an inexperienced ninny.

Collect evidence for a few months (no, a few weeks' worth is not enough.) Tell the boss (the one that's above both of them) that you need to talk to her about something important, and make sure that she has time to take you seriously. Lay out your concerns, all business-like. Ask her to investigate.

Start looking for a new job. Just in case. Also start being paranoid around your boss, who very well may buy the loyalty of your co-workers when he finds out who squealed.

Even if you don't win, if you have enough like-minded co-workers who are willing to step up to their principles, you can sue him for creating a hostile work environment. I have personally known people who won AND kept their jobs after doing this.

Jerks like this exist, but they're not the norm. Take heart.
posted by desuetude at 8:43 PM on January 23, 2007

I agree with what many here have already suggested, and I'd recommend a combination; first, document everything. If you have sympathetic co-workers, get their statements documented as well. Send the whole mess to the corporate office. They most likely have an HR person on staff who will, hopefully take this seriously. (This sort of thing opens their corporation to lawsuits and any HR departments worth a damn will come down on this behavior like a ton of bricks.)

And yes, start looking for a new job. It really sucks, and you may get really lucky. Maybe corporate will clean house, but don't count on it.

Either way, don't let this sour you, not all bosses are complete assholes. Some actually try to make work easier.
posted by quin at 8:47 PM on January 23, 2007

Have you discussed this with your coworkers? If he's as horrible as you say, you shouldn't have any trouble banding together, right? Mutiny!
posted by granted at 9:04 PM on January 23, 2007

You work for Michael Scott!

I think it would be great if you decided to document everything and take it up with HR. But to be honest, unless this is your dream job, it'll be a lot easier and less stressful for you to just find something else. (Of course, during your exit interview, you would, one hopes, explain why you're leaving.)

Good luck. That sounds like a dreadful work environment.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:09 PM on January 23, 2007

Response by poster: Hello again,

I'm actually asking this on behalf of the other co-workers I work closely with. We're all at our wits end. Mutiny is something we've considered!

Everyone has been such a help, I am currently looking for a job but the job market in my particular area isn't very strong, and I'm not in a position to move quite yet.
posted by dearest at 9:11 PM on January 23, 2007

Start looking for other jobs. As soon as you find one, get the hell out.

I had a hellish job where the higher-ups kept allowing illegal things to happen in the workplace and kept rewarding employees who were basically a lawsuit waiting to happen. I knew I couldn't change the place, especially since the vibe was such that the employees whose behavior I had the strongest objections to were "buddy-buddy" with the people in charge. I could have fought it, but it was much easier for my health and sanity to just find another job. I advise the same to you.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:19 PM on January 23, 2007

You work at a newspaper. Are you a writer or aspiring writer? Kill two birds with one stone by starting a funny blog documenting this situation. (with audio clips if possible)
If the blog becomes popular then you know someone will feel bad for you and want to hire you.
posted by hokie409 at 9:27 PM on January 23, 2007

You work at a newspaper. Are you a writer or aspiring writer? Kill two birds with one stone by starting a funny blog documenting this situation. (with audio clips if possible)
If the blog becomes popular then you know someone will feel bad for you and want to hire you.

This strikes me as being a really bad idea - not only could it make your life even worse if your boss discovers it (or a colleague of yours who might threaten to out you), but it is quite likely to give a bad vibe to potential future employers. The kind of vibe that says: "this guy will make us look bad if he is disgruntled".
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:57 PM on January 23, 2007

If you have a camera phone that does video, this is a good way to collect evidence.
posted by anildash at 10:28 PM on January 23, 2007

Seconding spaceman_spiff, because a blog is also the kind of thing that could hideously backfire if you haven't finished gathering that bulletproof documentation mentioned above. It would be bad if your funny, funny blog about your hilariously evil boss turned into a libel suit against you.

Either take the path of least resistance by leaving, or be prepared for a long stressful fight through the established channels.

It's a job that wouldn't be so bad if he wasn't there.

Scrub that from your list of considerations. (a) It doesn't matter, because he is there and even with your best efforts he's going to remain there for a while yet. (b) No, realistically it's not likely to become a good job just because he's gone. A really really bad manager, another showing questionable judgement and failing to supervise her subordinate, a third who is potentially willing to cover for such failings, a company that has so little oversight that ongoing fraud and porn-surfing can go unnoticed...this all draws a picture. Your boss is not the root of the problem; he's just one very visible symptom of a company that's in trouble. Even if your boss were gone tomorrow, the conditions that make his behavior possible and acceptable -- those will remain and so will their insidious effects on your life. Even if corporate somehow managed to sweep in and make your office more pleasant (allow at least a year for that kind of major "cultural" change to take hold), it's not a good career move to stay with a company so poorly managed. Eventually the house of cards is going to come falling down. (Those "fudged" numbers certainly don't bode well for next year's budget...) Guess who will be expected to make the big sacrifices when that happens? Uh-huh.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:59 PM on January 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

IANAL, but you need to talk with one. Now.

15 people at a rural newspaper would only be of interest to federal authorities, if the paper is the paper of record for some governmental body, or otherwise a government contractor. It's at or below the minimum number of employees for much labor law. The value of "evidence" you take out of the business secretively, and hold in your possession is less than nil, as it more often becomes evidence of trade secret theft and malfeasance on your part, so don't do that.

Don't get righteous without consulting a labor lawyer, specifically, not a general practice attorney, and finding out specific actions you can take, but I doubt very much that you have any real remedy, except moving on, since it is unlikely you can either fund a legal challenge (although some labor lawyers will work on contigency, it's not as common a method as in personal injury law), or stick together with other employees through all the garbage this employer can throw at you.

But if you want to give him some heartburn on the way out, and the workforce is pissed, unionize. You'll all likely lose your jobs, but your labor lawyers will have a field day.
posted by paulsc at 11:56 PM on January 23, 2007

The people telling you that "you need to talk to a lawyer, right now!!" are, in my opinion, giving you terrible advice — not because I necessarily think that you couldn't make a case, but because based on the circumstances you've described (it's a small newspaper, the management sticks together, you're fresh out of college, etc.), this sounds like a stupid battle to fight.

In my opinion, the people telling you "just quit!" are giving you much better advice. Keep looking for another job: expand your search, ask for help with your resume, consult your college's career office, etc. Redouble your efforts, and leave this circumstance behind ASAP.

Sure, you could start sneaking around the newspaper's offices, snapping pics with your cell phone 007-style — but that just seems to me a really stupid way to spend your time and energy. If you're intent on "exacting justice," fine. Otherwise: Put these people and this experience behind you, fast.
posted by cribcage at 12:28 AM on January 24, 2007

You have no future at that company.

It's easier to get a job if you have a job. So, start looking, seriously, and line up something before you quit.

And by the sounds of it, it will be a race between you finding a new job and your boss finding a way to get rid of you.
posted by krisjohn at 1:00 AM on January 24, 2007

nthing everyone else:

I'd document his behaviour, just in case you're absolutely forced to go to legal channels, or in case someone else in your company does - you can back them up with evidence.

But seriously, it will only make you miserable and damage your career to take them on unless you have to. Minimize your contact and look for another job as your top priority.

I've been there.
posted by crocomancer at 2:04 AM on January 24, 2007

Document the hell out of everything (write it all down in a formal tone, as though you were filing a complaint), and line up a new job. Complain to the uber-boss, or whomever occupies some uppermost level of responsibility. Supply them with the docs you've accumulated, making it clear that these are only a COPY and that you're retaining the info (eg: type "Copy 1 of 3" at the bottom of each page). Thank them for their time, inform them that you're quitting, thank them for their time, wish them the best (smile when you say this) then leave.

...a clever uber-boss will realize that you've made a veiled legal threat, and should attempt to stop your asshole ex-boss from trying to sabotage your future endeavors.

Do not actually initiate any legal action, do not make any actual threat of any kind about anything. The only reason I'm suggesting you bother with documentation is to give you ammunition to fight with if they try to impugn your reputation in any way.
posted by aramaic at 6:21 AM on January 24, 2007

nthing the GET OUT comments.

Still, anildash has me wondering:

SUBTLE use of camera phone + anonymous gmail account + video clips sent to corporate = ?
posted by 4ster at 7:11 AM on January 24, 2007

In many companies, if you went to HR with this, this guy would be fired, and how, fast. Do write down everything. Then, make a decision. You can always go to HR, and then if things don't work out leave. At least you tried.
posted by xammerboy at 8:19 AM on January 24, 2007

In many companies, if you went to HR with this, this guy would be fired, and how, fast.

This is sadly often not the case. Upper-level management are often given the benefit of the doubt long, long after unprofessional or even illegal behavior is known, particularly in smaller offices.

Go to the supervisors at your office before you go to corporate, or you will be painted as a disgruntled employee. This is usually called "going through proper channels" and is politically important to your reputation if you bring a complaint. It says that you made reasonable efforts to try to have your concerns addressed before escalating.

The other reason to document carefully is to protect yourself in case your creepy boss gets wind of any plot to overthrow him. Jerks like this are experts at passing the buck.
posted by desuetude at 8:58 AM on January 24, 2007

I'll chime in on the other end of the spectrum - the one who fired people. Documentation is key. Keep super duper detailed notes on every little thing thats actionable, and stick with it until you've got enough to put the asshole out on his worthless butt.
posted by ducktape at 9:31 AM on January 24, 2007

To chime in, and repeat what others have said:

Document and publicize. If there is a 'human resources,' go to them with this info. There are times to go over the 'supervisor's' head; this is one of them. Do it now.

If you're genuinely sure that this can't get any better, then document, publicize, and quit.
posted by koeselitz at 9:42 AM on January 24, 2007

It's at or below the minimum number of employees.

Is your "15 person paper" owned by a larger corporation? If so, take it up with corporate. Document the hell out of it, put together a package, and send it (or have an attorney send it) to corporate.

It's that or get out.
posted by alms at 3:29 PM on January 24, 2007

I was right there with you up until the "looking at the history of his browser" thing, when suddenly I started questioning your judgment. I no longer felt sure that your opinion that the guy is "inappropriate" and "unprofessional" could be trusted, since apparently it's appropriate and professional to sneak into someone's computer when they're away and find out how they spend their spare time.

I mean, you may very well be right about him, but this seems more likely to be a clash of cultures and a messy fight than a streamlined excision of one bad apple in an otherwise rule-abiding office. Your follow-up comments make it sound like he and the upper mgmt have gotten used to a certain casual attitude which you and the newer employees find distasteful, rather than that there is a clear breach of stated protocol that can be legally or formally addressed. I would agree with those advising you to find a new place instead of attempting to overhaul this one.
posted by mdn at 6:50 PM on January 24, 2007

Document everything he's done and you've found.

If you can get someone to back you up, ask them first.

Submit an anonymous email/letter to HR

PS: You can say you "heard" porn being played. It's pretty distinctive and can't be confused for something else lol. Don't put up with it. i've dealt with things like this in the past too.
posted by PetiePal at 9:06 AM on January 25, 2007

3. I don't have exact time and dates of sexual harrassment. Should I just start documenting it now?

Sit down this weekend and write everything you can recollect. Put that days date on it, i.e. something like "Today is 25th January and this is what I remember happening..". Then continue documenting everything going forward, preferably the day it occurs. Have your co-workers do the same but do it seperately and don't discuss it, so you won't look like you're sitting around talking and blowing things out of proportion.

This way you won't misrepresent the data, things that happened in the past won't be as well remembered or detailed and will be marked as that, but it will also show an ongoing pattern of behaviour. He didn't suddenly start doing this stuff, there is history there. The advice so far about how to document stuff looks great.

Your follow-up comments make it sound like he and the upper mgmt have gotten used to a certain casual attitude which you and the newer employees find distasteful

Having a temper tantrum and throwing things around the office? That's not just 'casual' and is never acceptable behaviour from anyone no matter where they work. Also, lying about sales numbers and stuff is fraud. He can get sent to jail for that one.

None of this stuff is acceptable or normal and it all should be reported regardless of if you keep working there.
posted by shelleycat at 9:07 PM on January 25, 2007

Having a temper tantrum and throwing things around the office? That's not just 'casual' and is never acceptable behaviour from anyone no matter where they work

If he breaks a mug by hurling it at a wall, that's unacceptable. If he balls up a piece of paper and throws it into the garbage can in anger, that's an old fashioned casual newspaper office, IMO. As I said, I initially thought everything sounded terrible, and then I began to question the OP's judgment and reinterpreted the description. But apparently I'm the only one who is bothered by the snooping, so maybe I'm being overly sensitive & thereby too generous in my reconsideration. Still, it seems to me that the if he were behaving in an inarguably unacceptable manner rather than a culturally disagreeable manner, then he would not be defended by his peers in mgmt.
posted by mdn at 6:13 AM on January 26, 2007

Also, lying about sales numbers and stuff is fraud. He can get sent to jail for that one.

If it was illegal to fudge sales numbers to make oneself look better to the boss, the entire concept of a marketing/sales departments would crumble. I'm not saying that everyone does it, but a certain amount of spin is commonplace. You're not risking jail time unless you defraud stockholders about the value of the stock, or embezzle, or the like. (If your boss checks your numbers, you might get reprimanded, though.)

mdn, the snooping bothers me, too. It's a shame, because it's not only not good for the dearest's credibility, but it will color ever other incident that he/she witnesses.
posted by desuetude at 9:18 AM on January 26, 2007

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