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Admin Pro Forum

How do you work for someone you personally dislike?

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Disagreements or mild conflicts in the office are un­­avoidable, but they don’t often become disruptive. But, what happens if you work for a boss who is rude and mean to others, but gets bottom-line results? That’s what one reader asked recently on the Admin Pro Forum:

Question: "Five months ago I was hired as an admin at a telecommunications company. Recently I've come to realize that while my boss and I do get along, he's kind of a classic jerk—and everyone warned me about it. He's rude, condescending, argumentative and sometimes just plain mean, but he seems to get away with a lot because he's apparently terrific at bringing in profits. Does anyone but me feel there's something not right about working so hard for someone you find personally offensive, even if you need the paycheck and your work relationship is perfectly functional?" - Valerie, Administrative Assistant

We talked to Mishri Some­sh­­­war, a career and commu­ni­­ca­­tions coach at Elevating Com­­mu­­nication, to get her take on what to do if your boss is unpleasant. She had several tips:

•  Identify the problem. Someshwar encourages people to specifically identify what the issue is with their boss. It could be that he’s un­­pre­­dict­­able or mercurial, that he’s rude in person or via email, or in­­decisive. By knowing what your trigger is, Someshwar says, you can manage your response more effectively.

•  Make a plan. Say your boss has a habit of assigning work at the last minute and isn’t very good at planning. In that case, Someshwar says, you can manage the issue by asking more questions that anticipate upcoming projects: “What’s in the pipeline? What will we need to be focused on next month?” When you tailor your response to the trigger, you can manage the situation more effectively and keep emotions out of it.

•  Know when to fold them. Someshwar says there are two warnings signs you should watch for when working with a difficult boss: “Either you care so intensely you’re making yourself sick with frustration, or you’re completely apathetic,” she says. “It’s important to care enough about the situation to be able to do your job well, but not so much that you drive yourself crazy or so little that you stop ­caring.”

If you’ve hit this stage, it’s time to move on.

See comments below, and send your own question to editor@adminprotoday.com.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Cyndi April 22, 2016 at 3:45 pm

I too worked in a situation very similar…except it was a woman and not a man. She found me very threatening to her job and made my life miserable. Everything she would throw at me, I did above and beyond, which probably fueled the fire. I did not want to feel that she pushed me out of a job, but looked while the harassment continued. Seems like every job interview I went on, I was “over-qualified”. I finally went on a “long-shot” for a television station where I thought I was too old, definitely not a TV personality—my expertise came up and — although they were looking for an Exec. Admin for the President, those interviewing me wanted to know why I wanted the position. I am one who lives by being honest is the best, so I told the President “I just wanted to be happy”. He immediately offered me the position. When I went back and handed in my resignation (I gave 30-days as I was required) she was devastated and did not understand why I was leaving and actually asked who was going to handle everything…I had been with the company from day one. That was the first time I ever saw her show any real emotion…she sobbed and begged me to stay, but I had to do what was best for me.
Although the salary is less in my current position, my happiness does not have a price tag. My boss (his family) and I are not only great co-workers, but he is a great friend. You can do it…just take the step and do not let anyone belittle you or make you feel like you are worthless…good luck!


Barbara April 7, 2016 at 7:22 pm

It can definitely be a challenge working for someone that everyone views as a jerk, but I have found that on the other side of the table is someone who has to take responsibility for their staffs’ mistakes or lack or productivity. I have also found that my working relationship and the working relationship of others with the boss is two different dynamics. I would recommend to not get into conversations with other staff about your immediate boss as this will jade your relationship. As long as they treat you with respect then how they treat others may be a direct reflection on what kind of work they produce. If it begins to be directed at you then of course there is no amount of money that can make me stay in an uncomfortable work environment where I spend 9-10 hrs a day. Get out and find a place where you like coming to work.


Annabelle April 7, 2016 at 4:28 pm

I used to work at a company where the bosses were the owners. They were a husband and wife and they bring their personal issues to work and fight about them. If a person made one tiny mistake, they would yell at them or in some cases fire them. One girl learned she was being fired because she walked into the bosses office and looked down and read “fire (insert her name) today! She was fired for something the boss told her to do and then forgot she had authorized her to do it. Everyone feared when their office door closed and everyone felt so free when they were both out of the office for some reason. They caused me so much emotional issues that I wound up quitting. It was bad. I didn’t have a job at the time, so looking back it was pretty stupid. But I wound up in a far better job where the people are professional and treat me well. Been here for almost 12 years and happy as a lark.


Judy April 7, 2016 at 4:14 pm

Hi Valerie – I’m on the downhill side of my Admin career and I will tell you life is MUCH too short to endure this man’s offensive behavior each and every day.

Don’t believe for a minute that you can “save” him from himself. There is always some type of reward for bullies to use this type of behavior… satisfaction, attention, money, who knows? And believe me, the top brass know exactly what type of man he is but he bring $$$$ to the table so he isn’t going anywhere.

Do yourself a favor and find another job where you can feel proud of your situation and yourself. You never know with these type of people when you may become their next target. Good luck!


Mark March 31, 2016 at 11:19 am

In general, I don’t have to like someone to work for/with them. Sure, it makes life easier, but for me personally it’s not a job requirement. If someone was trying to undermine me like a couple commenters said, that would be a whole different story. But that being said, I know a few people who have left jobs because of bosses like that, and even though they took positions paying far less than they used to earn, they feel that their happiness was more important than the potential subsequent financial sacrifices. Everyone has a breaking point; only you can determine where your point is.


Eline M. March 28, 2016 at 1:04 pm

There is something wrong with this relationship. If he is rude, inconsiderate and a bully, he will not change his ways for you or anyone else. Things may be functional now but that can change at any time once he arbitrarily decides the relationship isn’t working for him. If that is the case, expect that he will turn on you, leaving you without a job. Let’s face it, he’s a manager who apparently produces results. Secretaries/assistants are a dime a dozen to upper management and ‘good’ managers take lots of effort to find.

Complaining to HR will likely not do you any good as well. Again, it’s easier to hire multiple assistants than it is to get rid of the problem. I’d see if you can get an attorney to do a free consultation to see if you have a case of workplace harassment and/or bullying. Document *everything* he does and says and *take it home with you* daily. If you do find yourself being called into HR to discuss your termination, you’ll have your evidence. While it’s tough to fight a termination in most states, your evidence may be enough to prove a hostile environment.

In the meantime, I would start looking for a better job or, if you like this company, a transfer.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I’ve lived through this very experience, multiple times. I have learned that no amount of money is worth being mistreated in a position and no company is worth it if they treat their admins this way. Sadly, there are a lot of these companies around. Best of luck to you.


Earl March 28, 2016 at 12:01 pm

I once worked for a place whose political views I strongly disagreed with, and I toughed it out for as long as I could, and I’ve worked for a boss who was kind of a louse and I toughed that out too…. and the lesson I learned from both places is that I just didn’t feel good about myself when I was working there, so I should have left earlier. I say always go with your gut and never let a job make it feel like you’re personally compromising your beliefs or your way of living. Life is too short to spend eight hours a day around people or systems that make you unhappy.


Jennifer March 25, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Ultimately, that’s a question only you can answer. What’s right for one person may not be right for another. The fact that you feel that “something isn’t right” is a clue, though, that this may not be the best fit for you in the long term. If I were in your shoes, I’d keep close tabs on my personal stress level and seriously consider looking for another position. I spent a number of years excusing the bad behavior of a boss myself – we got along fine, but it became too difficult to see the way this person treated others. I realized that no job was worth the stress that was causing me.


Lea March 24, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Unfortunately, many people in leadership roles feel they either have a right to act how they want or act that way out of fear of failure. If you have a “functional relationship” then you are fortunate. Many of us work for or have work with someone we could call a “jerk,” but have learned how to appreciate their point of view, their fears (spoken & unspoken), and their challenges. Once you begin to put yourself in their place, you are more positioned to become the exceptional Administrative Assistant. You can forgive spurts of anger and hard words and usually you can moderate those actions by a loving spirit and remaining silent until they are in a place to “hear” you. Humor and kind words go a long way in helping others moderate behavior. You have a good job in a bad economy. Count your blessings, walk in someone else’s shoes, and learn forgiveness.


Debra March 24, 2016 at 5:29 pm

You and your boss have a “work relationship (that) is perfectly functional” and you are getting paid. If you were not getting paid, would you be walking into the location where your job is located? You find your boss “personally offensive.” How much time do you spend together outside of compensated hours? It also appears that the comment writers ignored most, if not all of, the words written in the original question. Yeah, this is the last time I visit this site.


Cheryl March 24, 2016 at 4:52 pm

I have been in your shoes. To be blunt, your boss is a bully. Bullying is a form of harassment, and it fosters a hostile work environment. Like sexual harassment, it is the effect of the behavior upon the individual that matters. Even if you exercise integrity and do the right thing, the situation can be highly stressful and take a toll on your mental and physical health. Nobody deserves to be bullied anytime or anywhere – including at work. It’s not your job to fix the bully. Look for other opportunities. I wish you the best!


Anita March 24, 2016 at 4:25 pm

Hi Valerie, it may be offensive to others to work for a boss like him but what is important is how you feel about working for him. As long as your boss is respectful to you and your relationship is functional, I do not see why you should not stay. It seems you can handle your situation fine, plus you are one who may bring decency to your office and may have a positive influence on your boss over time. Also important is how your boss treats you regarding opportunity for growth and accepting your input because he respects your intelligence. Some people can thrive in situations where others might crumble, you seem to be one who can thrive, so if things are working well for you, why not stick with it?


Anonymous March 24, 2016 at 4:23 pm

I know exactly where you are coming from. I worked for one supervisor for years and had no issues with anyone or any of my reviews. New boss arrives and suddenly I’m incompetent and he has been not only aggressively trying to make me leave, but has the rest of the brass feeling the same way. I cannot complain because there is nothing “wrong” with what he is doing, my options are to put up or shut up or find another job. Which i have been looking for, but unable to secure a new spot yet.
I put on a happy face everyday and choose to do my job to the best of my ability. I avoid conflict and make the choice to be happy until I can find a new location.


Tessi March 24, 2016 at 7:53 pm

“Anonymous” could have written that specifically for me!

I once had a boss who didn’t like me because I’m not a long-legged beauty. He bullied me, yelled at me, treated me like DIRT, and kept a little notebook on little things he could find wrong with me, then ambushed me all at once with them. The only way he could feel powerful was to make others feel miserable, and lucky me — I was right outside his door. He was a no-show at events, leaving me to try to cover for him when I got calls asking where he was. He would never listen to his voicemail. He told me he “demanded respect”. It was like walking on eggs all day, every day. I didn’t see why I should be the one to look for another job and leave the company when I had 20+ years seniority, so I toughed it out.

He eventually was fired for committing perjury during jury duty. It was the happiest day of my life!


SK March 24, 2016 at 4:15 pm

I am interested to see what others have to say.


Margaret March 24, 2016 at 4:09 pm

I don’t normally comment on these but this one I had to! Personally I would not work for someone who is downright abusive, and your instincts are true so please trust them and find a better boss & job ASAP!! No one deserves to work in a hostile environment – no one!! I don’t care if he does bring in tons of $$, he needs to get his life together and stop mistreating others. I’ve worked for a few abusive male & female bosses in my career, and each one I learned a lot about myself more than the abuser. I also learned how to stand up for myself in a mature & professional manner but most of all, I got out as soon as I could land a new position. If you continue to stay and take it, his abuse will wear you down despite whatever $ you’re making etc. At some point, you will need to ask yourself, is his sick abuse worth staying? Abusive people, whether male or female are truly sick people who need to seek counseling so they can be better people but so many don’t. Thank you for your courage to bring this tough topic to our forum. I hope you make the right decisions for you and please take care!


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