My emo boss wants to talk about "our relationship" and I would rather not...
September 24, 2007 5:31 PM   Subscribe

My boss wants to talk about "our relationship" and I would rather not...

A couple of weeks ago, my boss and I were having a perfectly practical check in meeting where I let her know how all my projects were going and we went over a few details. Then, suddenly, towards the part of the agenda I had called "Professional Development" (I meant to ask her if the nonprofit could reimburse me for a seminar I was hoping to attend) she launched into me and accused me of being disengaged and socially awkward...or something at this team meeting we had the day before. It really wasn't the case, but I couldn't dispute her. It was like she was making stuff up to support her opinion.

I'm not entirely clear on what it was, but I picked up the anger, disgust and hate in her voice. She finally said she couldn't read me and didn't understand me... I was utterly humiliated and defeated. I thought everything was going well.

She's a really new boss, the CEO and founder of the organization. I just took the job and the woman who had hired me actually decided not to work there anymore after 8 years. I decided to take the job anyway because it seemed like an interesting organization.

I didn't know that the new boss would dislike me so much right off the bat. She's a year older than me and seems to want a lot from me emotionally. I'm really bad at caring about weddings and cutesy, gossipy stuff...

My friends and boyfriend say she was probably projecting her pre-wedding jitters at me (she got married the following Saturday) by yelling, but I think she hasn't liked me from the start. I don't know why, but she hasn't and so far, even though she praises my work, but she really doesn't like me. Every time I open my mouth she looks like she wants to hit me. She never even apologized to me.

So she wanted to continue the horrible "discussion" we had before (I had to leave because I was deeply hurt by the personal remarks she made about me) and sent me the following email:

"I'd also like to see how you'd like to follow-up on the discussion that we had on the 12th about communication, team dynamics, our relationship, etc. I'd prefer to find time this week so that you can have my full attention before things get busy. I'd be more than happy to plan something out of the office. I don't think it has to be an epic or a painful discussion, but, as I told you when we spoke, I do think that we need to reconnect. What are your thoughts?"

I really don't want a follow up discussion, frankly. It took me awhile to recover after the first one. I want her to leave me the hell alone and let me do my work.

How can I get her to not pursue it (put a clean stop to it) or should I leave this job since this is probably a huge red flag?
posted by onepapertiger to Work & Money (49 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
People join a job and leave a manager. Doesn't sound worth your time.
posted by kcm at 5:38 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

She humiliates you with comments of a personal nature and then sends an e-mail offering to meet "out of the office" to continue the discussion? Sounds pretty fishy to me......maybe she wants to apologize to you and can't bring it off in the office setting. More likely, she's a nutjob and it's just becoming apparent. You can't really tell her you don't want to continue the discussion, but you can certainly tell her that you wish to hold business meetings only during working hours and in the workplace. Personally, I'd be dusting off my CV as this doesn't sound like a situation with a rosy future. Good luck.
posted by FredFeral at 5:41 PM on September 24, 2007

If the boss wants to talk, the boss will talk, even if they have to hunt you down, which they will do and when they find you (and they always find you), their craziness will be to the nth degree.

Leave now or feel the pain.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:42 PM on September 24, 2007

For the record I am more like you in this situation, but I think you're going to have to suck it up and do it, at least a little bit. She should be the bigger person about it (being the boss) but I'd say at a minimum go out for a drink or coffee and say how much you like doing your job, how you're just a quiet person by nature, how it doesn't mean you are disconnected, it's just a different 'work style', etc. She could be thinking that you are pissed off at her and think you deserved her job (true or not) and as long as she sees you through that filter you're screwed. I think the key is that she didn't like you from the start - if you can figure out why and try to address that it will probably work itself out. Or she'll continue to be a pain, in which case you'll probably have to leave.
posted by true at 5:43 PM on September 24, 2007

Holy crap, what the fuck does any of that shit have to do with your job? This person sounds obviously crazy (to me). Quit.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 5:54 PM on September 24, 2007

I seriously think I might know the woman in question.

Regardless, I would be very uncomfortable with the idea of meeting with her outside of the workplace to "follow-up on the discussion". It sounds like she may be feeling a bit guilty about how she treated you, and that she may be trying to absolve that guilt by tearing into you in a less emotionally-charged way, so that she seems less insane.
posted by arianell at 5:55 PM on September 24, 2007

Leave. She's a horrible manager, she'd done you the favor of demonstrating it, and anything you do there will only prolong the amount of time until you get fed up or fired.

The rest of the commentary on this post is icing. Barring major personal issues that you don't seem to actually have, no job is worth her insanity.
posted by ellF at 5:59 PM on September 24, 2007

I'd be walking out the door, but then, I'm a quitter like that. Really, unless you're grossly exaggerating, it sounds like a) she's batshitinsane and b) it's really getting to you in a way that work shouldn't. Unfortunately, when the boss uses magic words like "team dynamics" and whatnot, she's begun the process of justifying her need to "fix" you.

So yes, red flag. Though I'm taking it for granted that you're not actually so disengaged and socially awkward that your coworkers have a difficult time interacting with you. Could you get a sanity check on your behavior from someone else who attended the team meeting in question?
posted by mumkin at 6:06 PM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: Ok. Thanks everybody. I was pretty much feeling kind of weird about this organization anyway. I'd better leave before it's too late.

Thanks again, all.
posted by onepapertiger at 6:06 PM on September 24, 2007

Best answer:
Dear Boss:

Thank you for your email. I am always happy to improve my communication skills, my contribution to the team dynamic, and our professional relationship. I would be happy to hear any constructive suggestions you might have about how I can do so, as well as to answer any questions you might have.

I understand that this is an important topic, and I believe it will be most productive to hold this conversation in writing, perhaps over email. Would that be possible?
This in-writing strategy holds the (longshot) possibility of proving she's insane and getting her fired. Meanwhile, start looking for other work. Also, start demonstrating your competence to other managers within the company and/or her higher-ups.
posted by salvia at 6:08 PM on September 24, 2007 [7 favorites]

If you're in a state where you're allowed to record the conversation without the other person's consent, I would do it. Just to be on the safe side.
posted by rileyray3000 at 6:10 PM on September 24, 2007

nthing batshitinsane

RUN! Run for your life!
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 6:13 PM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: @Mumkin: Oh, I asked other people if they found me disengaged during the meeting and I asked a reliable source at my company if she found me socially awkward and she said no...they thought I was just quiet in really big groups, which I was, because I was listening.

But I do get the sense that she would love to fix me. It's embarrassing.

But maybe there is something off-putting about me that makes some people react strongly against me. I'm definitely going to ask around.
posted by onepapertiger at 6:14 PM on September 24, 2007

I vote for leaving. Once a person in that position feels comfortable enough to lose it like that, it will happen again.

I am in a similar situation as you. My boss blew up at me a couple of weeks ago. I was ready to give my resignation and was asked to stay by his boss. Maybe you get past this and keep the job. It isn't working for me; I'm resigning in the morning.
posted by mamaquita at 6:16 PM on September 24, 2007

I'd take her up on the offer. It's certainly possible that she realizes what she did was inappropriate and is taking the first steps to an apology. People do make mistakes, and if the job is otherwise OK, I would give her the chance.

If however it's clear that she really is hostile and nutty, then a rehearsed, calm "I quit because . . ." speech would give you a lot of comfort in retrospect.
posted by Neiltupper at 6:20 PM on September 24, 2007

the CEO and founder of the organization
Time to go.
posted by bonaldi at 6:40 PM on September 24, 2007

Run from the crazy lady. And please tell us if anything exciting happens.
posted by LarryC at 6:42 PM on September 24, 2007

Maybe it won't work in this situation, but you could agree that your interpersonal skills need some work and mention that you have been intimidated by her at times, then ask her for advice in improving to meet her expectations.

Even if this isn't true, it may help you both to meet somewhere in the middle. In theory, agreeing with her, attempting to see things from her perspective, etc, will diffuse the tension, give her room to back away from what may have been an overly emotional outburst, and put the pressure on her to take an active role in your success rather than bringing you down.
posted by sophist at 6:50 PM on September 24, 2007

Best answer: Dear Boss,

While - as you're no doubt aware - I found our conversation last week personally challenging, I'm willing to continue it. I believe it would be helpful to have a member of our human resources department take part in the conversation, too, to lend some perspective and to help ensure the tone is constructive.

Your employee.
posted by deCadmus at 6:57 PM on September 24, 2007 [13 favorites]

deCadmus has it on the nose! Do not go into this situation a) alone or b) outside the office. Stay on the grounds and get a mediator!
posted by gsh at 7:04 PM on September 24, 2007

Best answer: Founder/CEO syndrome.

Everything having to do with the company is intensely personal, because her job is intensely personal to her. This disease is characterized by micromanagement and narcissism. Laughingly inappropriate and often hypocritical attitudes toward CEO-staff relationships are commonplace.

It's not impossible. You will have to learn some euphemistic language, and you will have to not let her get under your skin too much.
posted by desuetude at 7:21 PM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

How can a new boss be a founder or the organization? The only answer is that she must be a time traveller, sent from the...past?
posted by oxford blue at 7:26 PM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oxford blue, it could be a new organization.
posted by desuetude at 7:32 PM on September 24, 2007

That's been in existance for 8 years?
posted by oxford blue at 7:37 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

You say she's never apologized to you- maybe that's why she wants to have this meeting. You also say "she praises my work, but she really doesn't like me." She doesn't have to like you, anymore than you have to like her. I mean, you're not interested in her silly wedding stuff, but it doesn't keep you from doing your job, right? Friendship is not required for a professional relationship. I would do exactly what deCadmus suggests. It gives you both an opportunity to clarify your positions, and really figure out if you can have a working relationship. If the meeting doesn't go how you'd like, you can turn in your resignation the next day. Avoiding a possibly unpleasant meeting is not the way to do business. Anyone who plans to be employed for any length of time has to deal with them, so you may as well start practicing now.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:37 PM on September 24, 2007

posted by oxford blue at 7:37 PM on September 24, 2007

+1 deCadmus
posted by unSane at 7:40 PM on September 24, 2007

I agree with deCadmus. Call her on it and show her you're taking it so seriously you'd like someone to mediate the conversation, or that in advance of the meeting you'd like written details about the specifics of your performance that she has problems with. I mean, socially awkward?? she doesn't understand you?? C'mon, she'll have to do better than that. Peck her to death with bureaucracy since she's so concerned and she may back off on that note alone. Do not meet offsite. That just opens up a world of sloppiness. But if your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) is to leave anyway, I don't think you lose anything by taking the high road and asking her to prove her point. If she does ante up, it'll be clearer that you should leave.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:42 PM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: Just for clarification, the woman who hired me was the director of my dept. When she left, suddenly, there was no one to fill her position so when I entered the organization, my "new" boss became the CEO/founder. I meant my new boss, not the woman who left, also not a person who is new to the org. I am the newbie. The CEO/founder is old.
posted by onepapertiger at 8:01 PM on September 24, 2007

Is there reason not to take her feedback at face value? As your boss she certainly has the prerogative to discuss your behavior with you, and to raise concerns she has. Maybe she didn't use the best language to communicate, but it seems like shes trying to (perhaps a little clumsily) address an issue here, not pick a fight.

It doesn't seem odd to me at all that she wants to try to improve your relationship - its seems that both of you are in agreement that it is strained. Why not take her up on a followup conversation and her more about what she meant, rather than avoid it and let it fester.
posted by jpdoane at 8:07 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

helpful to have a member of our human resources department take part

once you get human resources involved you're fucked.

i think meeting offsite is not a bad option, sorta like neutral territory. don't let her intimidate you. be prepared to stand up for yourself. but also, be prepared to walk.
posted by brandz at 8:10 PM on September 24, 2007

Read your question again and noticed this:

I picked up the anger, disgust and hate in her voice

If this is real, then you obviously have a problem and probably should leave. But (giving her the benefit of the doubt a bit) it sounds like you two have drastically different communication and interpersonal styles. It it likely that she is totally misreading cues that you are giving off and vice versa.
posted by jpdoane at 8:15 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's doubtful that escalating this into a full blown HR-got-involved-and-documented-the-meeting affair is going to persuade your boss of anything except that you don't know how to take criticism well without overreacting. Instead of panicking you should approach this as a valuable opportunity to get real feedback from your boss. Make her explain, in detail, what you have been doing wrong, what you have been doing right, and how you can improve. Make her get specific and offer concrete milestones for you. If she accuses you of doing something you didn't actually you do then slowly and carefully explain that you have a different perspective of what happened etc etc. Once the meeting is over you thank her for taking the time to give you one-on-one feedback and set clear expectations and tell her you look forward to working with her in the future. Then you sit down and you write a long email to your boss that recaps everything that happened in the meeting and sets out in clear, concise writing the steps you agreed to take going forwards.

I think I've met your boss' type before and the best way to deal with such people is to "over act." There's a mixture of insecurity and over ambition at work here.These sorts of people require grand gestures from other people that demonstrate the nature of the relationship. When such grand gestures are lacking they tend to assume the worst ("she must secretly hate me") or they complain that you're not a team player or indecipherable etc etc. So give her the grand gestures she needs. Make a point of saying hello every day and, heck, tip your hat and bow to her when you do. Stop in her office once a week to just 'check in' and let her know that you're still alive. Bring in donuts every Friday. Seize every opportunity you can -- birthdays, babies, and bad weather -- to put some flowers on her desk. You don't have to go overboard but the occasional gesture that clearly and unambiguously tells your boss "WE ARE FRIENDS. I DON'T SECRETLY HATE YOUR GUTS AND WORKING FOR YOU ISN'T TORTURE." If your boss is the type of woman I think she is she will really appreciate such gestures and duly reward you when the time comes.

For future reference, you should be able to handle criticism from your boss without getting so upset. Part of being a professional means suppressing such emotional responses in the interest of doing a good job. Even when your boss makes (what you think are) personal remarks she's likely doing so because she has (what she thinks are) valid concerns about your performance. The vast majority of bad managers out there are bad because they are simply incompetent not because they are the malicious, grudge holding types from 70's television. If your boss is really making you miserable then quit -- almost no job is worth being miserable eight hours a day for -- but if this is just standard 'friction' then learn to deal.
posted by nixerman at 8:24 PM on September 24, 2007 [5 favorites]

The reference to Founder's Syndrome up thread may be correct. It's endemic to non-profits but can proliferate elsewhere. This recent article led me to this site. Scroll down to the section titled "Founders' Syndrome: During Tenure of Founder". If the bullet points there are a checklist for what's happening then your organization's leadership has a problem – not you. The next question would be: do you want to help fix it? But that's another can of worms . . .
posted by quadog at 8:29 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

So much of the original question is subjective. I'm not saying that your interpretation of her tone of voice, etc., is incorrect, but you have not so far told us any exact words that she said. You say she "launched into" you and accused you of being "disengaged and socially awkward...or something" (italics mine); it sounds like the emotional valence of the meeting was so strong to you that you aren't really sure what her exact words were.

I think that people's gut feelings about others are often very valuable, but I am also aware that I am capable of being completely incorrect about others' feelings towards me based on "tone of voice," and other things. I'm not saying you're wrong; she may want to hit you every time you open your mouth, but is there any other possible interpretation? Could you be reacting to affect that she is not intending to project?
posted by thebrokedown at 8:35 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow Nixer, thats a lot of.... kowtowing? Any job that requires that much sublimation of personality better pay me a million or better. I consider criticism to be typos, things I do wrong, mis-filing, that sort of thing. Hers seems more like.. emotional breakdown ranting? I'd be interested to see how a second meeting goes, out of sheer, detached curiosity, if nothing else. I doubt boss' blowup is truly personal, though.
posted by Jacen at 8:56 PM on September 24, 2007

My wife has been going thru something similar with her boss for over a year now. After some minor work-related issues, she tried to distance herself socially a bit from her boss. Her boss got upset by this; in a meeting with her boss and her boss' boss, she asked (perhaps a bit bluntly) whether she was required to be friends with her boss. This did not go over well.

After this, they both started going over her work with a fine-toothed comb, making up problems, and piling huge new assignments on her -- all in ways that are documentably grossly out of proportion to the expectations put on other employees at the same level.

She tried to get HR involved at one point, but the HR guy turned out to be useless and weaselly. She applied for another job within the company; when they found about this, the workload and the scrutiny got even worse.

A few weeks ago, my wife lost her temper with her boss' boss, and said that she was being singled out and retaliated against, and that she believed she had legally sufficient proof of this. Within a few days, she was given a different work assignment (but still in the same department, working for the same people). Since then things have quieted down greatly, and the pressure has lessened somewhat.

Whether this is truly the end of the harassment or not, I don't know. Situations like this often don't end well. I don't know that losing one's temper and hinting at legal consequences is always the right course to take. It depends on your boss and the nature of your organization, I guess.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:00 PM on September 24, 2007

what nixerman said is good advice, in that it's a very detailed version of "one way to handle things if you really do want to hang in there."

But I still believe that if she really said "you're hard to read," she's incompetent to a degree that is not okay. A good boss would a) not care about your personal social style, recognizing that people of many social styles can succeed even in fairly "social" roles, b) if s/he found it so "hard to read" you that functional problems were arising, this person would take the fall, at least the first time, something like, "no, it's my fault, I just completely misunderstood you." Then maybe after another time or two of you being so "hard to read" that specific problems were arising, s/he would move on to specific requests like "why don't you send me an email when X comes up detailing Y," or institute a chart to record details related to X and Y. If it was really getting to be a problem, they might say something like "last week, three different people reported misunderstandings with you. What do you think is causing this? How can we avoid this in the future?" There are probably a variety of approaches. But it would never feel like a personal attack because good managers have already figured out how to avoid that by focusing only on specific outcomes that they want to have happen (easy-to-find documents) or have not happen (misfilings). They'd never say anything remotely approaching a personal statement ("you're scatterbrained" or "was your head just in the clouds?").
posted by salvia at 9:08 PM on September 24, 2007

Trust your instincts. Nowhere in your post do you go on and on about how awful your boss is, how incompetent she is, what a psycho she is or anything more personal than perhaps she wanted you to be more "gossipy" about her wedding plans and you were more interested in doing your work. That to me says you aren't the one with the axe to grind here. You get the vibe she doesn't like you and she more or less confirmed this by bringing up a personal style issue in a professional meeting. Yes, that's a red flag. It could be for any number of reasons, none of which are really relevant.

Good bosses ask for clarification from employees they may have difficulty "reading" intially. They don't whine to the employee about being difficult to understand or read. That's pretty adolescent and more than a tad unprofessional, particularly in a new work relationship.

I'd say you have a number of options. Quit, educate her how to best interact with you, or involve HR. I'd try option two first. Set limits, stick to them, and re-direct the conversation back to work-related matters. "Sure, Jean, we can meet. Does 9:30 in the conference room work for you? I'll reserve it from 9:30 to 10:15. And, actually, I'm glad you'd like to meet because there's a seminar I'd like to attend and I'm wondering if the organization covers those sorts of things." If she balks and insists on meeting outside of work, it's reasonable to decline. "Actually, I'd prefer to discuss work-related issues in the office. I'm sure you understand." If she still insists, well, that's more delicate, but I'd try something along the lines of "The offer sounds nice, but honestly I'd like to keep my personal and professional time separate. Again, thanks for understanding. Perhaps if you're too busy to meet in the office, you could e-mail me your specific concerns and we can find a mutually agreeable time in the near future to discuss them."

If it goes further than that, then figure out how important this job is to you and go from there.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 9:30 PM on September 24, 2007

Best answer: I wouldn't offer to improve your communication skills via an email conversation. That would basically prove you have no idea what communication skills are. (Not that you do, in fact, need to improve your communication skills, but trying to show someone that you're willing to increase your interpersonal skills by hiding behind your computer is not a good way to go.)

My former boss used to pull the "You're hard to read" crap as well. The reactions that defused it the most would be just to start asking for her help and advice more, even if I didn't really need it, along with general protestations of slight incompetence: "I'm feeling really overwhelmed with all these tasks. Here's a list of what I'm working on, can you help me prioritize?"

She never told me anything I didn't already know, but it seemed to make her feel like she was interacting in some way she needed.

As for the meeting, I'd just go, and feign as much wide-eyed naivete as you can, and make many protestations about how shy you are and you're trying to get used to the new people, and you're so glad she's trying to help.

It sounds like she just needs to flex her boss muscles a bit. If you can let her, you can probably make the conversation relatively painless. (But I'd still start looking for a new job.)
posted by occhiblu at 9:40 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

What you should really do is schedule that opportunity and immediately go on the offensive. Tell her that you found the content and tone of her comments in your previous meeting personal, inaccurate and offensive. Tell her that you believe she is essentially inventing problems where none exist to justify some sort of personality issue she has with you that simply isn't your problem. That you are completing your work in a more than satisfactory manner and that you are not having personal conflicts with any of the other staff. Tell her that if she doesn't feel like she can get beyond her personal issues with you, then you will be happy to work with her in managing an appropriate transition of an new employee to fill your role. Let the chips fall where they may.

Which may just be me: but I once had a real problem of a job with a real problem of a boss and it taught me a valuable lesson: if you haven't done anything shameful then your boss doesn't have the right to make you feel ashamed. "Can we do this in writing?" Sheesh, skip the passive avoidance and take the power back. There are worse things than being fired.
posted by nanojath at 9:45 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am familiar with three choices in this situation:

1. Have the conversation, keep a straight face, and engage in as much "fake sharing" and pretend taking-her-seriously as you can muster. E.g., "yes, I struggle with X." This is especially good for if you need to stay in the job for a while and you can handle a high volume of BS.

2. Have the conversation, explain that you are very uncomfortable with such emotional communications, suggest slightly that it is some kind of (yes, pretend) problem you have, that you are shut down.

3. Refuse to have the conversation. Or challenge her bases for having the conversation. This is usually the short-term plan (leave in less than 6 months), though once in a while it scares the person away for a while.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:03 PM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I had a similar problem at a job several years ago. While not shy, I tend towards introverted. My boss (who had a bold sort of personality) found my quietness very annoying. It really bothered him that I wasn't into small talk. It bothered him so much that he ended up firing me.

At future jobs, I made a point of forcing myself to be more outgoing to my coworkers and bosses. Since this behavior isn't natural for me, a lot of the times I have to fake it.

On the other hand, if you don't love this job and the boss is just a flat out bully; it's probably time to move on. Life is too short to put up with this kind of treatment.
posted by pluckysparrow at 10:21 PM on September 24, 2007

The magic words are "hostile work environment." What this nutjob did DOES create a hostile work environment - and if she repeats the behavior enough - document it - it is legally actionable.
posted by medea42 at 11:21 PM on September 24, 2007

I once quit a job because a coworker kept badgering me about the fact that I rarely spoke to anyone there. (He implied that I was a serial killer.) If it was my company, I'd fire him for standing around and talking. Work is for working; that's why it's called that. My boss didn't seem to agree.

Anyone who completely prioritizes personality over productivity has no business running a business. Go ahead and hear her say her piece. If you're still convinced she's completely batty (she certainly seems intolerable from here), quit.
posted by Reggie Digest at 12:13 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nutjob, hostile, hate hate quit run psycho! *phew* Man, there's more space between those lines than I can see. Much of that - accurate or not - is irrelevant.

When it comes to work, there's two states: employed and not.

You can choose not to be employed there. That's pretty easy to accomplish, though how you deal with it may not be.

If you choose to stay, issues of blame are irrelevant. Maybe she's a nut. Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe you are hard to read. Maybe you're perfectly easy to read to everyone in the world... except her.

Whatever the reason, if you're going to stay then you should make it a good - or least-bad - situation for all involved. Trying to do this in email is just an exercise in failure. You need to be able to interact directly with your boss to be in the job, so even if that was a good idea (and I do not think it is) it doesn't really solve the problem.

Agree to a meeting but not out of the office - this is your professional life and you should address it in a professional setting. If she comes at you with personal observations, stop her and say, simply, "I want us to have a good working relationship and when you say things like that I feel personally insulted and that you don't respect me professionally."

Maybe you can never make it right. I just left a job in no small part because the leader had a personality I didn't respect and he was prone to screaming fits. But interestingly, in three and a half years he never once yelled at me. That's not a coincidence, that's a result of controlling the interaction and making it clear what the boundaries are. If he'd ever treated me that way I would have walked out of the room, and I think on some level he was aware of that. It was out of my comfort zone, but when he started to become confrontational with me I would come right back at him, respectful but firm and assured.

That isn't me and I'm glad to leave it behind. It wasn't where I wanted to be and isn't how I want to spend my days. But dealing with difficult people is an unfortunate fact of life and learning those techniques is key to success. You're in this situation already, use it to learn something new... even if it means all you do is learn what doesn't work and what you won't put up with. After all, you're there already.
posted by phearlez at 7:20 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If your boss wants to meet, you have to meet. But if it gets personal, I think you should say, "I'm uncomfortable analyzing my personality at work; can we focus on my job performance?" When she persists, as I expect she will, "What's the behavior you want to see?" Be overwhelmingly polite. Do assure her that you like her, admire her, etc., - whatever will give her the Founding CEO cred she seems to need. But protect your own boundaries. Either she learns to leave the analysis out, or you'll end up leaving. But don't say it to her that way.
posted by theora55 at 10:16 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and for the love of all that is good and holy, do not involve HR at this point. 1) This will be interpreted very, very wrongly by your boss. 2) HR departments in this type of organization are often not exactly the model of objectivity.

That said, if you enjoy the work and are not otherwise looking for a reason to leave, your boss's issues do not need to be a dealbreaker.

Feel free to e-mail me.
posted by desuetude at 3:05 PM on September 25, 2007

Response by poster: You guys are geniuses. I'm memorizing everything you all say. Lots of excellent advice that I will definitely be taking! Thanks to all!
posted by onepapertiger at 7:35 PM on September 25, 2007

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