How to survive a vindictive boss

Stephen’s mistake was not knowing who the new senior executive was. She knew who he was, though, so when she ran into him in the hallway and asked him for a detailed report he responded, “And you are?” The executive walked away, and later Stephen found himself in huge trouble for not immediately recognizing a woman he’d never seen before.

Granted, the proper thing to do in that situation would have been to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met. My name is Stephen.” Still, although his “and you are?” question, while perhaps not the kind of introduction favored by etiquette experts, is hardly a reason to destroy someone’s career — but that is exactly the path that this new executive chose.
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15 thoughts on “How to survive a vindictive boss

  1. Another benefit of email is that you can often as for a ‘receipt’ – confirmation when the recipient has opened your email. Then you can forward it to your home address as well. They can’t then say that they didn’t receive or read your email.

    1. Many email programs are, shall we say, “Odd” about sending them back. Example: If I read my email in the “preview” pane, as I do, it won;t return the receipt. I’ve read the mail but never actually “opened” it.

  2. 1. *ask
    2. there is usually a function within your email that does this when you select it…. you don’t have to ask the recipient themselves because that would be silly:)

  3. After reading through the story twice, I struggle to see how the boss was vindictive. Aside from walking away from Stephen, which is impolite, I read of no vindictive acts. As the tale says, Stephen endured “several years of misery.” Why suffer for so long? And was the executive the source of the misery? As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Within the boundaries of this post and the facts laid out within, it seems that Stephen is more responsible for his situation than the executive.

    Is Stephen a fictional character used as a literary device to set forth the points for surviving a vindictive boss? Maybe so. And the points are useful.

    1. Stephen’s not fictional and I agree that it was not the best decision to stick around with an executive who set out to make his life miserable.

      But, I figured just writing that she set out to make his life miserable was better than detailing what she did.

    2. Actually, I didn’t need to hear the details about what the executive did. What supervisor, manager, or executive just assumes that everyone knows who they are without proper introductions? That’s what jumped out at me right away.

      Yep, I like your answer as to how Stephen should have responded instead of that “and you are?” However, I am assuming that he asked in a polite, professional manner and not sarcastically.

      Can I venture a guess that many middle managers and supervisors there walk around with the same narcissistic attitude because they see their own boss behave that way?

      How many of them would then be willing to “go to bat” for Stephen? How many of them were too busy defending their own careers against her vindictiveness to do much else? If the answer to these two questions is more than zero that is no way to run an organization.

      While I like all of your suggestions; I think the best would be to leave.

      Perhaps I am projecting my own experiences on Stephen’s story? Several years ago I was doing temp work for someone who was out on maternity leave. It was suppose to be a short one month assignment. The second day on the job I got a call from someone named “Joan.” After telling me that she needed to speak with my boss and I replied that I would look at my bosses calendar to find an open slot Joan got all huffy and said that she will be right down. She then hung up.

      A few minutes later a short. middle-aged woman walked by my desk and walked right into my bosses office, opening the door without knocking. Oh, and BTW, “Joan” made a snide remark as she walked past my desk: “I’m Joan, the President of Name of Company; you should know that! When I ask to talk to someone they MAKE room in the calendar for me!”

      Will I get into trouble on this blog for calling Joan “bossy”?

      1. You won’t get in trouble with me. In fact, sometimes I think about starting a counter website called Bring Back Bossy. Because seriously? Bossy exists.

  4. The advice given is helpful, but if you didn’t do those things at the time, it’s not going to be possible to go back and change that. In that case, what should you be doing now to recover from the situation?

    1. The last two things from the article are specifically for people who have already lost their job due to a vindictive boss. Get people who like you to be your reference–don’t just hope they won’t call you former boss. And if the vindictiveness carries on, get a lawyer.

    1. Part of the reason for high EEOC violations is that people who have jobs don’t sue, and those who don’t, do. It’s more of a reflection on the economy than reality. It’s not like all the racists suddenly sprang up in 2012.

  5. Oh I agree and studies indicate the 38,000 claims are actually much higher as you indicate. It’s a symptom of a much larger problem. Companies willing to overlook employees eeoc rights are far more likely to engage in far greater illegal activity.

  6. I have recently begun to report all incidents of bullying on our company’s Safety Quality System. I complete an incident report and report it to my manager. I not the extreme stress, and immediately take my blood pressure and record it on the incident report. It now has gained momentum and others are adopting the same tactic. If the company finds it acceptable to endanger my health by not getting their shit together and creating a safe workplace, then it needs to be reflected in the insurance premiums they pay for workers cover. That way, good organisations are not subsidising poor managers and poor organisations.

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