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Back away from the keyboard — email isn’t the place to decry a boss

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in Your Office Coach

Q: “After joining this company six weeks ago, I quickly learned that my new boss is a tyrant. ‘Doug’ constantly makes insulting and demeaning remarks, to the point that I am almost in tears every day.

“When our department vice president asked me how things were going, I didn't reply immediately. He then said, ‘Well, I guess I have my answer.’ A few days later, he asked to meet with Doug and me to discuss our working relationship. I avoided saying anything negative, but the vice president said to call or email him if I had any concerns.

“Since then, many people have told me that Doug is a monster who drives away talented employees. He is apparently abusive to everyone. I am considering sending the vice president an email with the truth about Doug, but I'm afraid this might backfire. What do you think?”

A: Criticizing your boss in an email is a highly risky proposition for several reasons. Painting an accurate picture in writing can be difficult, so written comments are easily misinterpreted. An email also creates a permanent record which you might later regret.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the vice president will be the only one to see your complaint. You have no way of knowing who might view this email on the company server, nor do you know what the VP may do when he receives it. He could decide to forward it to his boss, to human resources, or even to Doug.

But perhaps the biggest drawback is that an email from one individual cannot adequately convey Doug's widespread reputation as a chronic abuser and toxic manager. Therefore, a better strategy would be to ask some of the "many people" who share this perception to join you in meeting with the VP. Going as a group will not only increase the impact, but will also lessen the risk.

Fortunately, the VP's inquiries about your experience would seem to indicate that he already has his suspicions about Doug's management style. If so, a group intervention might be the final piece of evidence needed to spur some long-overdue action.

Volatile bosses can be tough to deal with. Here are some suggestions for coping: How to Handle a Hothead Boss.

© Marie G. McIntyre, All rights reserved.

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