By Linnda Durre, Ph.D., Author of Surviving the Toxic Workplace – Protect Yourself Against Co-workers Bosses and Work Environments That Poison Your Day published by McGraw Hill, February 19, 2010.
As a business and corporate consultant and psychotherapist, I’ve analyzed, worked with, and consulted with many difficult bosses over the years. In order to cope and deal with them, you need to know why they act the way they do and how best to deal with them, in order to earn their respect, get things accomplished, change negative situations to positive ones, and preserve your sanity.
In my column, I will help you cope with a different type of boss, whether male or female. And remember – all of these toxic bosses in all of my columns can be of either gender. Toxicity does not discriminate according to the sexes. The previous ones include: Dick the Dictator, Bashia the Backstabber, Sewell the Sexual Harasser, Carl the Control Freak, Paula the Passive Aggressive, Clayton the Clueless, Greta the Gossip, Susie the Sugar Coater, Ian the Idea Stealer, Al the Alcoholic, Nancy the Narcissist, Donald the Deal Maker,Vernon the Verbal Attacker, Bobby the Boss’s Relative, Cynthia the Silent Treatment Torturer, Phil the Philanderer, Ned the Negligent, Sal the Slave Driver, Porter the Political Soap Boxer, Michael the Micromanager, Wade the One Upper, Betty the Battle Axe, Phoebe the Phony, Peter the Pig, Bill the Big Picture Boss, Dan the Detail Boss, Ellery the Yeller, Sandy the Snob, Blaine the Blamer, Winnie the Whiner, and Eric the Erratic.
Hy is a hider. He makes you do all the work for him – dirty work and otherwise – yet takes all the glory. He locks himself in his office and orders you NOT to disturb him. He may also leave the office and you never know where he is or where to find him. Or he does both. Does he take three hour lunches? Is he having an affair? Does he have family emergencies? Is he constantly out of town? Perhaps he’s married and his wife constantly calls you wondering where he is. You don’t know and you tell her so. Maybe she suspects you’re having an affair with her husband because she can’t get in touch with him either. How do you help her, set limits, and keep your job?
Hy may also be a hider of documents, files, and reports. How can you assist him if you don’t know where he puts things? Whether you don’t know where he is or don’t know where the paperwork is, Hy puts you in double binds – you have all the responsibility but none of the authority. He blames you when things go wrong, but since you don’t know where he is, it’s impossible to call him and tell him of emergencies that he has to know about and solve. You can text him and leave him messages on his home and cell phones, but he never returns the calls. What are you to do? You can’t win with him. The situation gets crazier and crazier and you feel more helpless. You’re thinking of quitting and finding another job, but in this economic climate you are fearful of doing that.
Hy may have learned avoidance as a coping mechanism when he was a boy. He may have been beaten, severely or unfairly punished, and he learned to just keep quiet and say nothing.
Hy may be elusive, sneaky, and/or shy. He is an avoider of conflict. Yet behind the scenes, you don’t know if he is manipulative, ruthless and keeping you out of the information loop, or just shy. He might even be both. He may be afraid of facing the facts or avoiding a crime. He may be frightened of taking action for a pressing matter so he just hides and keeps avoiding it.
He may have been promoted to the position by someone who likes him, or it may be a family business and he is in his position because he was the next in line, and yet he may be totally unqualified for the position. But he’s in the position and doesn’t seem to be in danger of being fired, promoted, or transferred. No matter what, you feel frustrated, angry, and lost at sea. If it’s a family business, his boss and/or the HR director may be a relative of his and you’re hesitant to report him or express your dissatisfaction. You’re also afraid that they won’t do anything about it. No matter where you turn, you feel helpless.
The first thing to do is document everything – all of the times that Hy has been absent from his job, when you could not find important documents, and every time he has avoided making a crucial decision – as well as all the times you tried to contact him on his cell phone, home phone and through emails and texts. Print out all the text messages and phone messages. Make sure you call him from your private cell phone as well so you have documentation on your own private cell phone bill. Many times corporations circle the wagons and destroy your documentation, like corporate phone records. Don’t let that happen. Protect yourself.
Make copies of everything he gives you and start your own filing system that has a lock and key that only you can open. You may also want to keep another set of files at your home so no one can get at them. Be careful if the company accuses you of taking “confidential” material home with you.
You can report it to Hy’s boss and also to HR. Go to them with copies of your records so they can see how many times you have contacted him. Ask them to speak to Hy. Ask for a transfer to another department or division if you like the company and want to keep your benefits and 401 K. If you feel that Hy’s boss or HR is covering for Hy, you may still want to report it to them and then follow up with an email, cc’ing everyone important.
Be careful if Hy tries to make you his scapegoat. Document everything so you don’t get blamed for his negligence and avoidance. Print out all emails, text messages, and keep it for your records in case you have a legal issue, have to sue them in a law case, or if someone sues the company because of Hy’s incompetence.
If you decide to leave your job, you should probably have another job lined up or at least have made contacts to other companies. Have good letters of recommendation from others in the company to bring to your next job application.
I hope this helps in dealing with Hy the Hider.
—Linnda Durré, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, business consultant, corporate trainer, international speaker, and columnist. She has hosted and co-produced two live call-in TV shows, including “Ask The Family Therapist” on America’s Health Network, which was associated with Mayo Clinic and aired from Universal Orlando. She is the author of “Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against Co-Workers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day” (2010 – McGraw-Hill). The book’s website is: www.survivingthetoxicworkplace.com Her book interviews include Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Investors Business Daily, Inc Magazine, Monster, AOL, Yahoo, and others.
She has been interviewed on Oprah, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Daytime, Good Morning America, Canada AM, and The O’Reilly Factor (twice), and the national and/or local news on ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, Fox and CW. She has written for Forbes, CareerBuilder, Monster, A&U Magazine, Orlando Business Journal, and American Cities Business Journals. For more information about her consulting or speaking, contact her at Linnda.Durre@gmail.com and 407-739-8620 or 323-333-1393.