How to deal with a bad supervisor
March 12, 2007 2:24 PM   Subscribe

How do I help my husband to leave his work (and his incompetent supervisor) behind when he leaves the office?

Biased opinion: my husband (DH) is very good at what he does and part of being good is that he thinks about work all the time. That normally doesn't bother me, but he's now got a new boss who's adding red tape, then blaming others for the holdup, or actually justifying his added bureaucracy and paperwork. So DH has become a little short-tempered when he's at home -- this is tough because he's normally a super easy-going guy.

All I want is for DH to outlast his new boss. DH has outlasted other bad supervisors, but that was before we had very young kids who also eat up all of our energy at home, so we have no "down time" to relax and try to de-stress.

Looking for a new job isn't really an option at the moment (though that's what I've been advocating). Because he's been with the company for so long, he can drop everything and rush home to take care of a sick kid. This is a huge perk to lose if he had to start with a new company and had to "pay his dues" all over again.

So, how do you leave work at work? Got any good tips to share?
posted by wenat to Work & Money (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest that you and he make some planned dates, like really making the effort to get tickets to some cool things in town, and then get a babysitter for the night and give the both of you some much needed personal time. Everyone gets a bad boss once in a while.
posted by parmanparman at 3:04 PM on March 12, 2007

Hmm, I'm in DH's boat myself and will become a father soon. I'll be interested in what other people suggest...
posted by snarfois at 3:15 PM on March 12, 2007

He probably needs to rant, so when he gets home, set the oven timer for 10 - 20 minutes and let him get the day's annoyances aired. Listen and nod so he knows you're listening as you both prepare dinner, and when time is up, it's time to pay attention to other things.
posted by theora55 at 3:29 PM on March 12, 2007

Consider recommending your husband sit down with his boss and present a schedule that line items all the steps needed to complete his project. Make sure the red tape items are there. Then go over the schedule and ask him if he thinks it's reasonable. If not, review the line items. This could be a good way of communicating how much time these red tape items are eating up.

In terms of decompressing, exercise at the gym or meditation of some kind could be helpful. Looking for other job opportunities is not a bad idea either. One can wait a loooong time for a manager to leave or be let go. I also think the planned dates idea mentioned above is a good one.
posted by xammerboy at 3:36 PM on March 12, 2007

If the gym or meditation sounds like a bit much, try even a walk up and down your street.
posted by xammerboy at 3:38 PM on March 12, 2007

Wow. Whew. I've gone through therapy, alcoholism (of the tongue-in-cheek rather than 'I have a disease' kind), law school-at-night and pretty much everything else to try to deal with this problem.

First, the regurgitation of advice that was always given to me: 15-20 minutes of quick, easy exercise (a quick run, walk the dog, something) to switch the brain over. Maybe taking that walk together (can you leave les bebes with a trusted neighbor for 10 minutes? Up to your comfort level of course!), or even with the little ones to decompress, bond and enjoy the springtime. I believe "they" say the exercise leads to mass release of seratonin which leads to more energy, emotional control, less emotional volatility and reduced cognitive sensation of anxiety. My therapist was a big proponent of taking QUIET TIME the second I walked in home - 15 minutes where NO ONE talks to me (I'm on the phone all day at work), and I quietly answer AskMe questions and chill the hell out, it really brings me back to center (sometimes). My man works later than me now but when that wasn't the case, he was always doing something nice for me right away when i got home from work or law school - dinner would be ready, or America's Next Top Model taped and ready to watch (yeah, yeah I know - but everyone has a weakness, or two, or in my case, about 10), flowers - something to make the transition pleasant and understand "Home is NICE, this is where I want to be, work is over, it's done". I once or twice listened to relaxation/anxiety tapes - the messge was 'once you leave work, you can't help it so let it go for your emotional health'. All I can say is for ME (and this is speaking without children, which I understand add so many layers of exhaustion to the equation), when I think I'm so tired that the stress makes me too exhausted to go anywhere, a little walk and some nice quality time with Mr. Bunnycup perks me up rather than makes me more tired.

I'm not saying I'm encouraging heavier drinking here because I know that is a loaded question (no pun intended, I guess?) but an after-work vent session over Manhattan(s) for a particularly bad day/week does wonders. I won't drink EVERY day after work (a little bird told me that was neither healthy nor constructive), but I've learned to take the let-it-go help when I really deserve it. Mr. Bunnycup has just drilled it into my head not to worry about work when I'm not there, that they don't worry about MY wellbeing over the weekend, and that I'm only a useful employee if I'm sane and healthy - which requires me to WORK HARD while at work and PLAY HARD while at home.

I realize you may be looking for more solutions to deal with and restrain the new supervisor, but I am a nutcase when it comes to interpersonal work situations - so I'm not even going to open my maladjusted mouth on that one other than to sympathize.
posted by bunnycup at 3:40 PM on March 12, 2007

is it possible for DH to take public transit to work? it adds time to the commute, but I find that for myself the time on the train to read a book or watch a movie on my laptop completely distances me from the day's trials.

as far as what you can do? so many answers are going to sound like asking you to submerge your own feelings in favor of his, which will lead to more problems down the road, so be wary of that. (just my opinion.) but sometimes it helps to just come home to someone who pampers you and speaks to you sweetly, no matter the gender. Just remember that you're both each other's best and most valued supporter in the world, and that nothing counts so much as knowing the person you love has your back.
posted by shmegegge at 3:43 PM on March 12, 2007

I have had many DH tendencies, and cutting off the data plan on my Treo was a huge help.
posted by 4ster at 4:01 PM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Check this lifehacker article for some suggestions.

For me, the biggest thing is changing clothes when I get home from work...pants/shirts/socks, everything but the undies. Even if he works in a casual dress environment, it's still something that makes a difference (for me)
posted by blind.wombat at 4:02 PM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I've had a spouse or a roommate, a 15-minute rant session about work right after coming home was de rigeur for both of us, but after that was over, we would laugh and say "well, we're home now". So, your situation might either be, hubby doesn't let himself rant, in which case, give him an acknowledged space to do so, or else, he rants but can't let it go, in which case, set another activity up for half an hour after he gets home, so he'll have to move beyond it when the time comes.

For the person who listens to the rant, not trying to "fix" things (because you usually can't), but just saying "man, that really sucks", "you deserve to be treated better than that", "I hate it when someone does that to me", etc., is really helpful. The purpose is to validate the other person and make them realize that they're better than all that. If you think the situation is fixable, give them the opening to make their own suggestions instead of trying to solve it yourself - say: "If you could change one thing that might make this better, what would it be?"

I'm surprised that no one else has suggested yet the option of having some sex when he gets home. In all seriousness, I think this would serve both the purpose of exercise and of making him feel appreciated. Since there's a kid around, maybe it doesn't have to be a full-on lovemaking session, but since he's a man, I bet he'd appreciate even a 5-minute grope behind a closed door.
posted by matildaben at 4:22 PM on March 12, 2007

I have a stressful job, and sometimes have had issues leaving it behind.

I strongly suggest mild exercise, and a little relaxation.

I definitely recommend against a rant. If I complain about work, even modestly, it just makes me re-live any stress or frustration. I greatly prefer concentrating on the things that are good in my life, reminding myself that work is just a thing I do so my kids can go to college, and relaxing.
posted by PEAK OIL at 4:23 PM on March 12, 2007

Oh, and if he can lose the blackberry/treo/whatever, I really suggest it.

I had to fight hard not to have a blackberry (all of the other people at my level have them), but it was worth every bit of the concession I made in return.
posted by PEAK OIL at 4:26 PM on March 12, 2007

Also, if his commute goes past a driving range, or something similar, stopping by daily can be a wonderful and inexpensive way to unwind.

I used to do that, and it did wonders for my game, while also making it so by the time I got home my mind was utterly clear.
posted by PEAK OIL at 4:27 PM on March 12, 2007

I like what bunnycup said.

Either that or have him get a new job. I know you THINK that is not an option. But, trust me, it is. Life is too short to spend 1/3rd of it working for assholes. The best thing I ever did was quit a job I SWORE I couldn't quit.
posted by tkchrist at 4:33 PM on March 12, 2007

I'm just about in your boat -- same variety of husband, same variety of supervisor. (And a baby on the way.)

"What actually helps?"

There was a sigh and long pause.

"Time to unwind."


we have no "down time"

Sigh. Good luck!
posted by kmennie at 4:35 PM on March 12, 2007

When my father got home from work, my parents always disappeared into the living room (which was more "adult" than the family room) with a drink, and they talked about their days for an hour or so. Then my mother started cooking dinner, and my father started talking to my brother and me about our days (and/or watching tv with us).

I always liked that as a vicarious ritual. The adults do the debriefing and relaxing, then they deal with the kids. (Granted, I remember this from middle school and beyond, so it may not work exactly with young kids. But I think there's still something to be said for "Time period with an adult who supports you (for both of you)" every day.
posted by occhiblu at 4:37 PM on March 12, 2007

Using the commute as the breaking point between work and home is excellent advice.

Good singing music is key to this experience for me. I can't think about work if I'm busy singing, so maybe make him a CD (or a carefully crafted playlist for your music player of choice) consisting of all his favorite sing-out-loud songs.

I used to take the bus to work, and that can actually go either way. The downtime is nice if he can make himself use it, but if he has to trick himself into forgetting about work, public transit isn't really distracting enough. Plus, if the public transit in your city isn't great, that will just tend to add more stress to his day.
posted by natabat at 4:41 PM on March 12, 2007

I have found that having a baby really helps the situation. You walk in, your priorities are clear. Any time spent thinking about the job while at home is robbing your kid to pay your boss.
posted by DenOfSizer at 5:25 PM on March 12, 2007

well, it's hard to put away something that's important to you. that's where the stress comes in--it's not just a day at the factory, it's something you've invested yourself in and are proud about doing well. it's counterintuitive to just turn it off like a switch. you're hopped up and thinking. slamming on the brakes is jarring. i don't recommend it.

you need an active transition to channel that energy into something else, not dead time to let it fester. for me, it was cooking dinner. i love to cook, and i found that i thought and talked about work while i prepped, but by the time the actual cooking happened, i was too absorbed in the task to worry about work. exercise, sports, yoga, and sex all accomplished similar things.

the public transit idea is a great one. forty minutes alone with a book or a magazine was a great mental cleanser. i can still obsess about work while i'm listening to music, but not while reading. if hubby drives, maybe a good audiobook will do the trick. or language tapes. something to make you concentrate on something else, not just zone out.

later in the evening, if my thoughts wander back to work, i just write them down on a notepad. that way i don't obsess over them or worry about forgetting an idea. i write the idea and whatever action steps occur to me. then i put down my pen and go back to my night. i take the notepad to work in the morning to follow up.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:37 PM on March 12, 2007

One of the military brats books talked about this. The problem was drill instructors (DIs) were coming home and treating their families as though they were recruits. A lot of nasty things happened as a result, mainly centering around depression, spousal abuse, and alcoholism. There was a off hand comment that made sense to me though: the one family that was ok was a DI who would get home, not say a thing to anyone, and proceed directly to the bedroom. There he would change from his uniform to civilian clothes. The process became a sort of passage for him, literaly shirking work off of him and 'putting on' his family idenity. After that he was a run of the mill guy till the next day when he changed for work.

At first the strategy sounds terrifying and has shades of muliple personality disorder but I like it because we do this every day in one form or another when we deal with different people or are in different environments. This guy was working in an extreme environment so the change was just as extreme, but not all that different than what we do. Consider how you would talk to the boss of a company vs. your friends down at the pub, etc. I think one facet would be finding an outlet for the aggression left at work though. Maybe he could go to a ball park for an hour early some morning with a bat and a bucket full of balls... always works for me.

As for the lack of uniform, a suit or khakis is the business uniform, and jeans and a t-shirt are just about opposite of that. My one caution to this is for the times when he needs get dressed up in work clothes for a family event. Wear a t-shirt as an undershirt, etc.
posted by jwells at 5:22 AM on March 13, 2007

I take the suggestions about changing clothes after work one step further and take a shower immediately after I get home whenever I've had a stressful day.
posted by jmevius at 8:47 AM on March 13, 2007

This may not work for you/your husband, but I bike to work and it helps a lot. I get enforced exercise, and it's downtime, but it's active enough to keep my mind off of work.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:34 AM on March 13, 2007

Be on your knees like a trained seal the second he walks in the door?

Ok, if you don't want to do that, then the 15 minute of "Him Time" is a good idea. Then go for a walk around the block. Do some push-ups. Exercise for 15-30 minutes.
If there's household stuff, don't bug him with it as soon as he walks in the door.

Does he have an iPod? If not, think about one. Putting on some tunes on the way home is a great way to chill out too.
posted by drstein at 10:54 AM on March 13, 2007

Has he noticed that he is being short-tempered at home? This may be super-obvious, but he has to be the one who sets the goal of leaving work at work. So to get him to notice the spillover, there might need to be a little "hey, easy there... I'm not your mean old boss" sweet talking.

I wonder if he feels totally hassled if he's going from stressful-work to hectic-home. In his shoes, I could imagine getting home and wanting to lie on the floor in a dark and quiet room for 10 minutes, enjoying the feeling of doing absolutely nothing, remembering my life belongs to me... then being able to go out and join the family much more refreshed.
posted by beatrice at 5:13 PM on March 13, 2007

« Older headphone hiss   |   Why is this sale hitting a snag? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.