How To Practically Handle A Less Than Perfect Work Environment

By Mark Larson

Most people have unfortunately experienced the difficulty and emotional turmoil that is created from a bad work environment.   The problem you are dealing with sometimes can stem from an unfit boss.  Most of the time, there is nothing that can be done with regards to fixing the situation with this boss.  Meaning, this person/s is just a flat out #$%#$@!

There are many articles written on how to deal with a difficult boss.  They will give you different methods that assist you in dealing with your boss and his/her personality type.  This can include “identify your boss’s triggers” or “learn why the boss is being this way towards you.”  Why should you have to deal with a boss that is unfairly taking his/her anger out on you?   This article is for those people that cannot take it anymore and cannot resolve the issue with a simple meeting.

I have spoken to many people over the years and many of their stories start with an explanation of how they were so happy at work, then they got a new boss or boss’s boss.  Perhaps the company sold and there is a new regime.  Now things are terrible at work.

These people now suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, which includes increased disagreements with friends and family.  They have described their pain as radiating down from their neck and is now throughout their whole body with numbness and tingling.  This boss has literally ruined their lives, physically and emotionally.  At least this is the case for the time being.

There are different tactics one can take to remedy these situations at work.  However, it does really depend on the size of the employer.  For the sake of this relatively short article, I will break up into a large and small employer.  Small employers mean less than 50 employees, and large employer being more than 50.

The biggest difference between a small company and a large company is your access to the authoritarian that makes the personnel decisions.  If there is a boss, at a smaller company that is making your life miserable, first follow the usually pointless process of going to human resources.  Also, document and send written confirmations to human resources regarding your complaint.  This way they cannot say that you did not tell anybody and/or do what you were supposed to do.

In your written complaints to human resources, be factual and do not simply complain why this boss is terrible.  Use terminology that the higher ups will pay attention to, such as, this person makes it more difficult for you to get your work done.  You notice a slowdown in productivity when this person is around or does whatever the action is that makes you miserable.

Also, you should strategically work in some employment law terminology into your letter.  For example, if you are a different race than this boss, and you think maybe this could be a reason, state “I am starting to think it is because I am Hispanic and she is Caucasian.”  Age discrimination is very protected in most states, so say something like “I do feel like I am being treated this way because I am getting older and I am not familiar with their more modern techniques.” This will give them an indirect heads up, that they need to do something, or they might be sued.  Generally speaking, nobody wants to sue their employer unless they absolutely have to.  Remember, they are forcing you to do this, by not remedying the situation or taking you seriously!

People often ask me something like, “my employer can’t fire me because of my age right?”  I respond with “of course they can.”  I then clarify that it does not mean that you cannot sue them for what they did.  Anybody can do anything that they want, but it means that they will have to face the legal, criminal or civil ramifications for their actions.

Smaller companies are more concerned with work productivity and potential lawsuits, as it is harder for them to absorb.  An employment law case can cause serious harm them, depending on their insurance and financial situation.  However, if you, as an individual, sued Target for an employment law issue, their business is in no way harmed.  It is simply the cost of doing business.

Remember that strength is in numbers.  If this boss is making you and your co-workers miserable, notify the human resources and all individually serve neutral factual confirmation letters like discussed above.  If there are only 50 employees and 5 are complaining (10% of the company), there is a high likelihood the company will address the issue.  If you are one person complaining, you are viewed as a pain is the butt.  If more people verify your complaints, the claims being made by you, significantly increase in credibility.

With a big company, as a formality, you do want to bring the boss’s action to the attention of human resources.  Again, confirm in writing, the same way as I mentioned above.  However, the biggest problem is your access to the authoritarian that makes the personnel decisions is a problem.  For this reason, having multiple employees making a claim about this problematic individual is very important.  As stated above, one person is not taken seriously and most employers will think it is simply personality differences.  However, if multiple employees are complaining about this boss, the employer will usually look into this.

If you are starting to get written up for ridiculous reasons, or if you think that you might be getting fired, you need to start taking more aggressive, quick actions.  For example, I would recommend that if you are having significant stress, or any other sort of physical or emotional health issues, you report these to any doctor and notify human resources.  You need to make sure to mention that these are, in your opinion, related to you “work.”  Again, keep your written correspondence to human resources as objective as possible.  “I have stress due to a larger than normal workload.”  Not that “the new boss is a complete prick, I hate him/her.”

Recall that you are the innocent person in all of this, but you know if you are not!  If you have reported your boss and the applicable job related injuries to your employer, then in the event of a termination, you will have all your ducks in a row with regards to a workers’ compensation claim and/or an employment law claim.  However, if you never reported any problem and/or did not have a doctor’s report before termination, your claim against the employer is likely not that strong.  They will state that you are only bringing all of this up post termination, because you were fired.  If it was that bad, you would have seen the doctor or complained to human resources before you were fired.

If this unfit boss, is family or friends with the higher ups at the company, such as the boss or an owner/s, then file a workers’ compensation claim on your way out.  You are not going to get a friend or family member to change.  You are certainly not going to get them fired.  You should also review the employment protections for your particular state and make sure they aren’t violating any laws.

A couple closing thoughts for a large employer, perhaps you can transfer or maybe this boss going to transfer or retire soon?  Try to get a doctor to write you a restriction that takes you away from this boss or location?

I would also recommend to your human recourses department that the employees are allowed to review their boss or boss’s.  The boss reviews their employee’s, using many different criteria.  However, it should also be just as important for the employees to review their boss, anonymously of course.


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