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When the boss is irrational–and so is HR

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in Your Office Coach

Q: “My supervisor, ‘Rhonda,’ keeps getting involved in my personal life. For example, she has been pressuring me for two years to go to her church, which is very fundamentalist. She talks constantly about saving sinners.

“Recently, Rhonda learned through one of our managers that I have been having some issues at home. Although this is not affecting my work in any way, she felt a need to ‘advise’ me. She even came over to my house.

“I tried to respond to Rhonda’s overtures diplomatically, but she was not pleased with my reaction. She said that my life is going nowhere and she is fed up with me. When I replied that I had not asked for her help, she got angry and stormed out of my office.

“Now Rhonda is giving me the cold shoulder and making snide remarks about me. I tried going to human resources, but the HR manager said I should apologize to Rhonda because she is just trying to be my ‘sister in Christ.’ Quitting is not an option, so what can I do?”  Innocent Victim

A: This situation is wrong on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin. Your supervisor has absolutely no business promoting her religion at work or inserting herself into your personal affairs. Your appalling HR manager obviously doesn't understand her job, because any qualified human resources professional would immediately tell Rhonda to stop these intrusive activities.

All this unprofessional management behavior also makes me wonder about the competence of your top executives. If you can identify a reasonably sane manager who is willing to help, perhaps there’s hope for change. But if everyone is as nutty as these two, then you need to start planning your escape.

Until you can leave, concentrate on developing survival skills. Cultivate allies by being friendly and helpful, but never talk about your personal problems. The less these folks know about you, the better. Don’t bother getting angry with Rhonda, because she clearly isn’t rational. If you need to blow off steam, vent with friends outside the office. Finally, start polishing up your résumé, because you need to exit this weird workplace as soon as possible.

Think you might be in a toxic organization? Check out these clues: 13 Signs of a Toxic Workplace.

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