Bad Bosses: When Feedback Crosses The Line
Along the path of your career, you’re going to have some pretty great bosses. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that you’re also likely to run across a few varieties of bosses that will make you dread going to work. Among the worst I would count those who are rude, crude, or just plain socially unacceptable. Here’s what it looks like, and what to do about it.
If you’ve had those moments when a comment from the boss left you stunned, speechless, or angry, it’s likely your boss crossed the line. And the comment doesn’t have to be verbal.
There’s all kinds of passive-aggressive communication, and some of it is noticeably more aggressive. Taken too far or tossed out frequently, those can be just as much harassment as anything verbal.
In the area of verbal comments, remember and recognize the difference between what’s acceptable and what’s not. Here are some examples of actual comments that resulted in lawsuits:
· “You’re a woman of many attributes. You should wear that dress more often.”
· “The black jelly beans always fall to the bottom of the bag.”
· “I want to have Jim accompany me to the sales meeting. He’s a great asset on my arm.”
How to Respond
Keep in mind that the objective is to curtail or eliminate the unwanted and unwarranted communication. So you start by simply communicating that it wasn’t acceptable. “I know you may not have meant it, but that kind of comment really bothers me.” You’ve put them on notice that it’s NOT okay.
While some people will get the message, there are some who won’t. You’ll have to escalate your response each time until it stops. So, the second offense might be met with ” “That’s totally inappropriate, and I’m going to pretend you didn’t say it.” It’s a stronger statement, and you won’t be delivering it with a smile.
Third offenders are a more difficult decision. Do you take an even tougher stand, or do you simply take it up with HR or a higher level manager? It all depends on the type of comment and how much it’s affecting your work. Anything of a sexual or racist nature should be met with zero tolerance. For comments that fall within the realm of common stupidity, you might try “I’ve asked you before to refrain from comments like that, please know that I won’t tolerate it again.”
Remember, communications in a work setting should be about clearly work-related matters. While criticism is part of life, it should be given in constructive and positive ways that aim to build up, not tear down. More than anything else, you deserve to have a work environment that is free of unwelcome and unnecessary stress. You get enough of that just doing your job!
Editor’s note: The images in this article are from Most Outrageous Managers Greetings Cards, all from true-stories of bosses who make you cringe, hard.