Directly Handle Your Boss or Let HR Do It

Lindsey Novak on

Q: I am in a high-pressure job with tremendous responsibility, and I'm afraid it is getting to me. I like my boss superficially but know I can't trust him. He has set me up a couple times in the past, wanting me to do things I knew were wrong and would trigger our human resources department to question my performance.

I am not good at politics and manipulation. I have always been a hardworking, devoted employee who would work until whatever hours were required. My position does not get paid overtime. Under this boss, there have been numerous times I have been assigned a project where I have had to work over a weekend and into the weekday evenings to meet his deadlines. He always wants things ahead of a due date because of the time it takes him to review the work and understand it. He is well-versed in some areas but does not really meet the requirements for a manager.

Recently, no matter what I do, he acts like it isn't enough or that I do things in a way he wouldn't do them, and I'm not being paranoid. I am at a loss as to what to say to him about this, but I know I have to confront him soon. He has been my boss for two years, and everything was going great before he started. He is now making me think about quitting, but I love my job and don't want to. I don't want to be pushed out; I refuse to let his abusive style win. It has been a good job for me for the past five years and I want it to continue. What do I do?

A: Your boss may have an agenda to make you miserable enough to quit the job, or perhaps he has a naturally abusive management style and cannot help himself in how he treats you. Either way, you must dig into this and find out what's going on. If things were good before he arrived, it's hard to know if he just doesn't like you (and you may never know why) or if he feels threatened you will take over his job if he falls short.

Your five years of loyal employment and high performance give you an advantage; you would do well to defend yourself. You have two choices: talk directly to HR, or talk to him. Whichever you choose, do it in a nonemotional manner with a well-organized presentation. Take the time at home to write an outline to serve as your rehearsal tool so you present a comprehensive picture of what took place prior to and since his hire.

This sounds like work, because it is. Defending yourself against anything is work, but you have no choice if you want this resolved. List all your successes on the job, major and minor. Hopefully, you have kept reports and a calendar of your projects, the hours for each one and the outcomes. Also list all hurdles on the job you have overcome successfully for the employer. Your past performance for those years prior to this new boss is critical. If you can provide evidence of his unreasonable and abusive demands on your time and work, plus a list of your assignments and accomplishments, you will be placing HR on notice of a precarious situation.


Yes, reporting this to HR means going over your boss' head, which can be worrisome, but your past successes with the company should speak for themselves. This is why it's important to always keep a record of your work as proof. No one ever knows when a job situation will change. What is known is that management changes can be for the better or for the worse. It's also critical to have confidence in yourself so you present your information clearly and in a positive light. If you falter, HR may question your performance in this current situation.

Confidence is more than a sales tool. Salespeople with confidence do far better than those without it, regardless of the product or service they are selling. Also, people who speak with confidence generally encourage greater trust. Practice your delivery of information so HR or your boss know you believe in yourself and your competence in the job. Whatever emotional upset you are feeling internally, be strong and hide it.


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