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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

my boss acts like I'm on-call day and night

In response to an earlier post about calling coworkers at night or over the weekend, I wrote that (a) it can be okay if you know they're fine with it, which some people are, (b) you should avoid doing it if you're a manager, even if you know/think they're fine with it, because most people will be less comfortable telling you "no," and (c) it's never okay if you're not sure where they stand on receiving such calls, unless it's an extreme emergency. One commenter wrote this in response:

While I agree with everyone who said "just don't pick up," what about working with coworkers and managers who just don't get that? My boss and a coworker (who has been with my boss for a long time and modeled his behavior after hers) have a nasty habit of calling at ALL HOURS. I've gotten calls at 3 a.m. on a Friday, midnight on a Tuesday, 6 a.m. on a Wednesday, you name it. And if you don't pick up, they just keep on calling and calling until you do! In fact, I once had to field calls from my boss, who was in a complete tizzy, one weekend day when the part-time employee who I supervise wasn't picking up his phone, despite the fact it was his day off. Turns out he'd gone to the beach, again as it was his day off, and his phone was out of range -- but our boss was livid (how dare he not pick up).

It's never an emergency, but the culture in my office is EVERYTHING is urgent. Seriously -- I was lectured once because, after working till 9 p.m. I mentioned to my boss that I was glad we'd finished that project, even if we had to stay so late, because I was hosting a Thanksgiving dinner at my house the next day (a weekend). And she asked me what made me think I could have a party on a weekend -- she might need me.

Same goes for vacation: I was on unpaid leave at home when my grandmother died, and received almost hourly emails, texts and calls. When I was unable to answer or reply, as I was in the hospital while she was dying unable to use my cell, I was berated for having my priorities out of wack. However, god help the person who calls my boss on her weekends or vacations: even if we need approvals from her to continue the work, if we interupt her we're going to be screamed at.

So my question for all of you: if office culture is so important, how does one change it? 


There are two different issues here: the question of how to change an office culture, and the question of your crazy, out-of-line boss.

Because let's be clear: Your boss is completely, 100% over the line, unreasonable, deluded, and a jerk. You were berated for having your priorities out of whack when a family member was dying? You were told that you couldn't have a party over a weekend because she "might" need you? What is this job exactly, member of the president's cabinet? 

Did you knowingly sign up for this? When you were hired, were you told that you'd be expected to be on-call 24-7? I'm betting not. This is not reasonable. This is not even approaching reasonable.

You know, some bosses really don't understand how this is supposed to work because no one has ever taught them that it's not okay, and it's possible to get through to them if you approach it correctly. And if that were the case here, I would advise talking with her and explaining that the vast majority of people need to have actual time off, time that's your own, time when you'll only be contacted by work if it's a true emergency (and make sure you define what that is). And that your company will have trouble retaining good employees in the long-run if they deny them this type of quality of life, because what good person with options wouldn't rather go somewhere that respects her personal life? Some bosses do respond to this conversation, especially if it comes from someone with high value to the company and/or influence.

But her problems go beyond that kind of naivete and bad judgment -- because she's also a jerk. And thus, while you could attempt this conversation, my expectations are not high that it will get you anywhere. She is a tyrant, and she's likely a tyrant in other areas too, not just this one. So my advice is to get the hell out. Start looking for an employer who understands that your paycheck does not buy your life, and that treating people badly is not a long-term strategy for success.

Now, on the more general question of how one can change office culture: It can be done, but it's really hard. It requires a serious commitment from people at the top of the organization, or at least from someone in a key leadership role with a lot of credibility and influence, and even then it's hard. When the culture you want to change is really the boss, the odds are so against you that I would again say to leave and find somewhere that operates in a way more aligned with your values. I know it's easier said than done, but once you do it, you'll wonder why you ever waited.

47 comments:

Kimberlee Stiens said...

Its truly astounding to me how many terrible, terrible managers there are out there. I haven't even been in management 6 months, but the benefits of reading this column have been staggering; I cringe every time my managers do just about anything because they clearly have no idea what they're doing.

Of course, management is harder than it looks. But I just can't believe that so many get it so wrong. This manager must have had an employee (maybe this protege that OP mentioned?) that was truly on call 24/7, and now she has that expectation from everyone except herself?

Ugh.

Ask a Manager said...

Kimberlee -- "I cringe every time my managers do just about anything" cracked me up.

I might write a post on "why so many managers suck" at some point. I think it comes down to (a) a stunning lack of training for managers, (b) the fact that people get promoted to management positions because they were good at the thing they're going to be managing, not because they're good managers, and (c) the fact that there are incompetents in every field, but it impacts sooooo many people when their field happens to be managing.

Ask a Manager said...

Oh, and also if someone has a serious personality flaw (such as narcissism or jerkiness), being a manager provides a platform for that flaw to be hugely amplified.

Kristin said...

One question that's sort of related to this topic:

I just started a new job at a tech/social media company. On my first day when they were setting up my computer, I was asked what kind of cell phone I have (a blackberry), and then they sent me instructions for how to get my work e-mail on my phone.

I asked why that was necessary, and they said it was optional, but would be helpful in case there's something I need to see outside of work.

I don't really want to fill up my personal cell phone with work emails (because I will get them twice- online and on my phone), and I don't really feel like anything in my particular role is THAT urgent. I also don't want to be expected to instantly respond to every single email I receive, because I frankly don't look at my phone that often, and it's usually on silent. However, I don't want it to look like I don't care about my job.

What's a good way to set boundaries between personal life and work life?

Anonymous said...

I guess it depends on the expectations. I am in IT and when I hire people, I let them know that they will be on call on a rotating basis. I let the know right up front that when you're on call, you're available 24x7. When you're not on call, you will only get called if the place burns down. I've had several people pass, even in this environment, but don't complain to me after you've been on the job for 6 months saying that your wife doesn't like you being on call one week every other month because it wakes the baby. Sometimes its part of the job.

Anonymous said...

We had a company meeting yesterday where they announced that they were piloting a training program for managers. The first one in the 78 year history of the company. I guess they were just winging it before?

Cassie said...

Doesn't being "on call" 24/7 also factor into overtime? Assuming you are a non-exempt employee, if you spend a substantial amount of time outside of your 40 hour week (meaning like more than just 5 minutes)? I remember seeing news articles about stuff like that.

Ursula said...

A number of years ago, I was doing the legwork for a campaign that my friend's mother was running. I lived in a studio apartment (which she knew) and was called at 2:30 a.m. I answered, worried, and my friend's mom's response was that she never imagined that I would actually answer. Do we really need to have two numbers, one for personal calls and one that we provide to our place of employment?

clobbered said...

Laying off people: hard. Dealing with under-performers: hard. Stretching a small budget: hard. Not being batshit crazy? Not hard. Or so I thought.

This is a very simple issue, how can people get it so wrong? If the business needs 24/7 coverage, there needs to be an on-call schedule, fixed weeks (if not months) in advance so that people can plan their lives. If the business cannot justify staffed out-of-hours responses, it needs to have some very strict guidelines on when people get called (like "website has been down for more than an hour and the off-hours crew can't handle the problem").

If you keep having to call your people out-of-hours for emergencies, you are a lousy, LOUSY manager. A good manager doesn't deal with emergencies, she averts them before they happen.

Sheesh.

Charles said...

AAM - you've used the right word in one of your comments here:

NARCISSISM

Yes, narcissism, that's what most of these jerks are making us suffer from. They cannot (and I believe, will never) see how their behaviour affects others. Because others do not matter. Only they do.

True story - I worked for a small company many years ago - I only stayed a month, and believe me it was a loooong month - the owner of the company felt that Christmas should NOT be a federal holiday (here in the US) because it was a "religious" holiday. To make his point he would call every one of his employees (about 12 of us) on Christmas to ask some small detail about work; none of which were emergencies. Luckily, I was not at home, but there were three messages on my answering machine when I got home on Christmas night!

I should also point out that I was employee number 45 or so in a company that had only been in business for a little over a year with only 12 employees - now that's not what I would call employee turn-over; it is better known as "staff hemorrhaging." All because the owner was/is a narcissist.

Anonymous said...

@Cassie: Problem is most positions that require 24x7 coverage are federally exempt positions.. mine included :(


I've had my boss tell me once that working 7 days a week was required by the company when I first started. We were pushing (read: rushing and hoping for the best) a huge project and required us to work 10-12hr days, 6-7 days a week. I said I can't do that anymore on the 2nd or 3rd week and I was told that I signed an employment contract stating I would work whenever the company required it.

Yeah right.

Mike said...

It's my understanding that there are rules which require people to be paid for "time on call". This may be a state or non-exempt rule, but this the case or am I misunderstood?

ImpassionedPlatypi said...

Wow... I cannot imagine putting up with this. The first call I got from my boss, or anyone I worked with really, at 2am that wasn't an emergency? Yea, they would be informed immediately that it is in no way acceptable and then be hung up on and my phone turned off. You don't screw with my sleep. And the next work day would bring a more polite, but firm, explanation of why this is a problem. And if it didn't change? Buy a cheap alarm clock, keep phone on silent and start looking for a new job.

On a completely unrelated topic, AAM I love the new user picture :)

Anonymous said...

The simple reason managers do this crap is _BECAUSE THEY CAN_. If you don't like the 7 day work schedule, the 16-hour days, the holiday, vacation and middle-of-the-night calls, they will find someone in no time flat who will take your job, probably for half of what they were paying you. It's an employer's economy, and they're peeing themselves with delight over the fact that there's unemployed people lined up around the block who will take the worst work conditions at the lowest wages and only say "thank you, may I have another?" As soon as you give a 24-7 oncall IT job to someone who's making $7 an hour, another job seeker will pop up saying "but I'll do it for $6, and you can cut my benefits!" As long as workers are this desperate for work, bosses will keep pushing the envelope of outrageous expectations. Because they can.

Anonymous said...

I think it's premature to jump to the conclusion that the boss is a jerk without knowing more about the job and what tasks are so critical. Who knows, maybe the op supervises 911 operators. But I would never advise going to the boss to tell them they won't retain good employees. That may be true, but the boss will probably say "I don't need you to tell me how to run this business." if you do want to speak to the boss speak for youself only.

Ask a Manager said...

Kristin: They might be offering the instructions for your blackberry because enough people have asked for them that now they just proactively offer, but it's no big deal if you choose not to use them. (That was the case at my last job.) Or, they might be offering because you're expected to use them. I'd wait a couple of weeks and just observe the culture; I think you'll get a feel quickly for whether this is an expectation or not (but it very well may not be).

To all the people who have mentioned the concept of being on-call at specific times: The difference there is that there are specific times when you know you're on-call, whereas the OP is being told she's on-call all the time, with no off-time, simply because the boss MAY happen to decide she wants to ask her something.

With "real" on-call time, it's true that there are laws governing when you need to be compensated for the time (if you're non-exempt). But this isn't really official on-call time; it's just the boss expecting employees not to have any personal life.

Charles, that Christmas story is insane. I'm glad you only stayed a month!

ImpassionedPlatypi - Thanks! I figured it was time for an update.

Anonymous at 9:59 (you guys need to start using fake names so we can easily make it clear which Anonymous we're responding to!) - Even if the OP supervised 911 operators, a good manager would find a way to structure things so that people weren't expected to be available 24/7 all the time, taking calls at 3 a.m., or lectured for being with a dying family member. Like Clobbered pointed out, if the business requires constant coverage, they need to schedule things better! Even 911 operators get personal lives.

Jamie said...

Those who mentioned being on call in IT are totally correct - there are times where it doesn't matter if it's 3:00 AM or Christmas Day...dealing with an emergency is part of the gig.

However, in a good company they understand the definition of emergency. As the only IT for a small company I'm on call 24/7/365 - but any call I get an odd hour would absolutely be a true emergency.

For anything that requires working into the night or on a weekend I am expected to take comp time to make keep the work-life balance intact. Then again my bosses also say "thank you" when this happens...the more I read this blog the more I realize how uncommon this can be.

To the person who was asked to set up her personal blackberry for work emails - I think this is a totally unreasonable request. Personally I don't allow personal devices to access email from our server because of the security issues. If your position is such that you need constant communication then they should issue you a company smart phone.

It's just rude to expect an employee to use their own devices and their own dataplans for work related emails - totally unprofessional and cheap.

Ask a Manager said...

Jamie, absolutely! I think that ties in with what Clobbered said about setting very clear guidelines about what does and doesn't constitute an emergency.

On the blackberry thing, it's not clear whether they actually expect her to get work emails on a personal device; it sounds like they may have been offering the info in case she wanted it, because others had wanted it, but not expecting/requiring it. But I agree with you that if it's a requirement, the company needs to pay the cost.

Joey said...

is the boss also the owner of the company? I think it would be best to propose a realistic solution to the boss. I know it's not your job but since the problem is impacting you most if you can propose a solution like developing a rotating schedule or somthing you will make it that much easier for your boss to fix the problem.

Anonymous said...

@Kristin- I have fellow co-workers that choose to access their work email via their own smart phones, but a higher-up frowned on it and said, "If the company isn't paying your personal phone bill, don't use it for work."

GeekChic said...

I work in IT and have for almost 20 years. I work on-call hours and will work late into the night and up to 72 hours straight when necessary.

However, I will not take calls or read email after I leave for the day if I'm not on call and there is no such thing as an "emergency" if lives are not at stake (I have been a first responder in the past). This has been made crystal clear to all of my employers over the years and I have never had a problem getting or keeping a job.

My personal motto - framed and hung on my cube wall: Your Failure to Plan Does Not Constitute an Emergency for Me.

Jamie said...

"My personal motto - framed and hung on my cube wall: Your Failure to Plan Does Not Constitute an Emergency for Me."

Brilliant. I want to learn to embroider so I can stitch this on a sampler!

Anonymous said...

clobbered said "A good manager doesn't deal with emergencies, she averts them before they happen."

So true.

And it's not an emergency if the building is burning down, either. Clear the place. Call 911. Start 'When place is burning down' plan (you have one,don't you?) Done.

Lois Gory

PS Also worked as an emergency responder-

1) Not all light and siren calls are actually emergencies

2) We have shift change because no one can do it 24/7/365.

christie said...

I had a boss like this once who nearly sent me over the edge of sanity. She called me at all hours of the day and night, nothing was ever an emergency, except in her mind. She called me once while I was in the hospital and told me I had to get to work as soon as possible and that being in the hospital was no excuse. She did not want me to have any kind of a life because she thought I should be working every day of the week.

She also thought it was great fun to call me stupid, a moron, incompetent, a loser and any other degrading name you can think of. I am none of those things, nor was I bad at my job. She was just bat-shit crazy.

The best part? Ninety percent of her phone calls were made while she was sitting on her laptop at the beach ("working" from home). True story.

I quit (without another job lined up) shortly after the hospital incident, and I never looked back.

Waldo said...

It's funny the ideas that spring up...

I'm in IT, also, and being on different levels of "On-Call" is to be expected. There's the "You're On-Call", but there is also the "OMG-Everything-is-broken-and-we-can't-reach-the-On-Call,-PLEASE-SAVE-US,-SUPERGEEK!-You're-our-only-hope!" kind of On-Call. (Which is known to the rest of the world as "non-work hours"...) Sometimes, they really do need you, and you're the only one who can help. But then they should expect that you may be at the beach (in what would not normally be considered work attire), and perhaps in an "impaired" state. These things happen; they'll have to deal with reality.

If your company expects you to be on-call 24-7, then your pay should reflect (though this could be considered servitude...), and they should be prepared for diminishing work quality and a high burn-out rate.

My first civilian job had a very insular and interesting attitudes towards their employees in various departments. I would bet that the respondent's company, her boss had worked there forever. It's funny the kinds of attitudes that can develop in isolation. (Kind of like the fascinating kinds of moss and molds that will grow in the isolation of a cave...)

And Alison, I believe that the term that you're looking for is "The Peter Principle", where everyone is promoted to their own level of incompetence.

Jess said...

As a job seeker, how do you prepare yourself so that you do not get burned? In an interview can you ask "What is the expectation regarding being availible on evenings and weekends?" And when does the topic of Comp time enter the discussion? Lets face it, a $60,000/year job with 40 hrs per week of work is QUITE different than a job with the same salary but with a 60+ hrs of work per week and an expectation that you will be at the office at 9am in the morning when you were at the office until 2am the night before.

Kristin said...

Just to clarify, I don't think I'm REQUIRED to set up work emails on my personal Blackberry, but I'm trying to gauge if I should. Our e-mail is set up so that I could easily access it at home if there was a (real) emergency and someone called me about it. I work for an IT company, but my role is more customer service/message board moderation. I do check the message boards I manage sometimes when I'm at home, but usually it's just so I know what I'm going to have to deal with when I get into work in the morning.

I was told that if I used my phone for work phone calls, I would be reimbursed for the minutes. I have an unlimited data plan, so using it for email wouldn't cost me anything (other than my priceless personal time...). I just don't want to be viewed as someone who isn't dedicated to her work.

Jamie said...

Waldo brings up a great point - the impaired state.

I'm not talking about getting hinky with the servers when we've had a few too many - like we know when to let someone else drive home, we know when it's a BAD idea to key in the admin passcodes...

But emails are another story. At my previous company the culture was such that emails were immediately responded to by those of us who had blackberries and they would come at all times of the day and night.

I've been on email threads where some of the responses were definitely enhanced by adult beverages and they could be wildly amusing - at least to those of us who didn't have to explain themselves in the morning.

I once saw someone's career self-destruct when he told the boss what he really thought of him - I have never been so entertained by a 'reply all'.

Andrea said...

Jess:
There is apparently no way to avoid getting burned. I personally ask a lot of questions in interviews about overtime and typical work week and expectations for off-hours availability and work/life balance. And you know what? The three times I have done this in final interviews, the company has lied to me. After it happened once, I asked the same questions at the next interview. They answered, and then I asked if I could speak with someone else in the same job that I was interviewing for before I accepted their offer. The employee came in and lied, too, because (as I later discovered) workloads were enormous and they were all desperate for a warm body so that maybe they could sleep more than 6 hours per night. There's no one holding employers accountable--they can lie through their teeth in interviews, and they do. And yes, AAM, I know, I know--good, talented employees have other options and can go elsewhere and they don't have to put up with that. And that's what I've done. But that's not always possible, especially in a small city, and anyway, it doesn't make it right.

My husband is in IT, too. He's a senior network security engineer and also does server support (and other stuff that I don't understand and won't try to list. He's kind of a rock star in his department (you don't have to believe me, since I'm biased, but that's how his colleagues and bosses refer to him), meaning that even though he has too much seniority to be on call, he gets called a lot when the on-call person can't fix something or when no one else can. (Sometimes it is an emergency, sometimes not, but either way, someone who is not on call shouldn't get called like that if the manager is halfway competent. I mean, it's IT--you've just got to have backup and plan B and all that.) That "no one else knows how to do this" scenario is very, very common in his department, which is run by people who are short-sighted at best and "challenged" at worst. (They also lied to him about training and certifications, and now refuse to send anyone or to reimburse for the tests.)

indefinitelee said...

I think this is indicative of a larger problem in the US. (and it is specific to the US, by the way, witness this article from The Economist http://www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=3856663&story_id=16846330

There is no such thing as a 9-5 anymore, at least in much of the white collar world. Pagers, email, cell phones, wifi, smart phones, etc. have each allowed work to impinge just a little bit more on our personal time that there is hardly any distinction anymore. And there certainly has not been a commensurate increase in salaries.

At my firm the volume of weekend emails is about 90% of the weekday volume. It is not urgent, it is just normal business. Someone emails at 3am on Saturday asking when a report will be finished. There are replies at 8am, 9am, and 11am, and of course 6 or 7 people are cc-ed so everyone knows who has responded and who has not.

Since he has a blackberry at his fingertips the CEO fires off emails when he is in California or China at a whim.

I resent being made to think about mundane work activities on the weekend. Don't these people have lives, friends, and family themselves?
Go to the park, ride a bike, fly a kite, teach your kid to hit a baseball and come back to work on Monday refreshed, relaxed, and let your employees come back to the office on Monday refreshed, relaxed, and happy instead of tired, depressed, and resentful at never really having left work.
/End rant.

As to your point about why so many managers suck; at my firm the reason is because many managers were once lower level employees. On the one hand it is great that people can work their way up. On the other hand, just because you are a great programmer, or planner, writer, etc. does not mean you are good at managing a team of programmers. It also depletes the firm's talent. Instead of having your most senior people involved in the nitty gritty of a project they have become administrators, watching budgets, following up on invoicing, schmoozing clients, etc. When you have someone with a professional degree and 10 years of experience spending most of their time not practicing their craft you are kind of setting things up to fail.

Richard said...

Eugh, this reminds me of a tech support gig I did; you were expected to work all day, then every now and again, you were 'on call' from 10pm till 7am. When I first started out, it was for emergencies; only for customers who had multi-thousand pound contracts who needed 99.99999% uptime. If you were unlucky, you got maybe 2 calls during the week, and 90% of the time those problems weren't actually on our end, so you could run through tests confirming that everything was okay, then recommend that they speak to their IT guy to investigate it properly, and head back to sleep within 5 minutes. We only got standby pay for this, but it wasn't a bad pay boost for what was essentially a small interruption in your weekly sleep.

Then they decided to 'expand' the support scope to include consumer level internet connections. We're talking thousands of DSL customers. Suddenly we were getting a bunch of calls right after the previous 10pm cutoff, which would hopefully die down at about midnight. Then you would likely get 2-4 calls throughout the night, constantly interrupting your sleep. Sometimes they were easy to dismiss, but other times calls fells into other categories:
- The Insomniacs: One guy called at 3am, and tried to keep me on the phone to help him configure his home built Linux router. By definition we don't support people's hardware configuration: We give them the common settings for most routers and leave them to it; obviously we bend the rules for hardware we had knowledge of, but there was no chance of this here. After 20 minutes I had to lie and tell him I had other calls in the queue to get back to sleep.
- The Complainers: People who had already called during the day, and had a problem logged, and weren't happy with the speed of their response. One person specifically called in the middle of the night because they thought that 'maybe then you'll pay attention!'. I told her that there was nothing I could do at 2am, her problem was already logged with the phone provider for investigation, and no, I couldn't contact them for an update, because they were all asleep, like other sane people.
- The Speedsters: These people would call up at all hours of the day to complain that they had lost 1Mb off their 8Mbps connection. Never mind the fact that they were still well within the speed range we'd expect, but usually the speed drop was a result of them constantly rebooting their router to 'get better speeds', which actually made the connection slower, since it assumed that the connection wasn't stable and needed throttling to stabilise it.

So constantly interrupted sleep, and then back in for a full day of work. One day one of my 'nightly reports' consisted of 'It was shit.'. I got a verbal for that one, but I really didn't care at that point, I was burned out and looked for other work. I found another tech support job that had better daytime hours, paid better money, and most importantly had NO standby time. I was only there for 6 months before going to university, but it was honestly the best decision at that point.

Peep said...

My boss called me at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night to assist her with a non-related work task. It was something to help HER out personally. Here's the thing: when I don't answer my phone to her, I pay for it by getting major attitude from her. She holds it against me. (and this is for calls that are non work related and not important.) Now I answer the phone to her all of the time so I don't have to deal with her being mean about it. As for the task... I ended up doing it. A completely personal task for her which is not required by my job. Why did I do it? Again, she would totally hold it against me at work. What do you do in these circumstances? (This has happened more than once.)

Waldo said...

Boundaries and Expectations. Set them.

Explain that when you were offered the job, you anticipated a roughly 40 hour work-week, and based on that quantity, you accepted your current position. Calls outside of strict working hours are understandable for truly urgent matters, however they should be the exception rather than the rule.

If it is expected that you be working and/or on-call 24/7, then a drastic change in description and compensation needs to occur, and those expectations need to be much more clearly defined. Point out that what was described upon hire is drastically different than your current reality.

It may help to work into any renegotiation a bonus or fee for after-hours communication. If they're going to be inappropriate about work-life balance, hit them where it hurts and make them realize that every call or email (that is expected to be responded to immediately) costs them money.

Point out that a work/life balance is important, and that your time is your own. Point out that work quality will suffer, and attrition will increase. If you can subtly point out that that would mean that there is "one less former-[companyname] employee out in the world", so much the better.

Boundaries and Expectations.

(But keep looking. Chances are the climate is not going to change.)

Jeff Hunter said...

I'd like to respond, but I have to dial-in and fix a problem.

Kez said...

Oh geez. I would get out of that situation ASAP!
I remember when I was a cashier at a supermarket. I would get calls non stop on my days/hours off. If I didn't answer the phone, I would get a comment like, "Geez. Do you ever answer your phone?" or "You're so hard to get in touch with."

Truth was, I was always contactable. Just because I missed a call and returned it (despite not wanting to), I was labelled unreliable!!!

Sometimes I would tell them, "Sorry I've got plans."
In particular this would be if I had a day off and they had only called me last minute. As I had set hours to work on contract, I felt I deserved time off.

Other times I was made to feel guilty and would drag myself in. I am so glad that my life took me further than a job like that. It was a terrible culture.

Anonymous said...

Hi, OP here:

Thank you thank you thank you for calling her insane. After you've been in a job for a while, particularly when there are others (like her protege) who see insane behavior as 'normal' you start to think that she's right, and YOU are the lazy/unmotivated/disloyal problem.

I've actually already got another job lined up. I start in 24 days (yes I have a countdown). I'm a journalist, so while I was expecting long hours, small staffs, small pay, etc, there is a line and she has crossed it.

A few warning signs:

1)Upon arrival each day, she dumps her purse, laptop, and shoes with the receptionist, then expects this person to have the slippers she wears in the office ready, and to carry her possessions up the stairs to her office, like a dog.

2)You have to put your doctor on the phone to tell her that yes, acute asthmatic bronchitis requires at least a couple of days off, and no, if I go into the office I will give myself pneumonia. Also, the reason it got so bad was that i never had the time off to go to the hospital, or medical insurance for that matter.


3)She tells us the company is in trouble, takes back a coworkers raise he finally got after two years, cuts down staff, refuses to pay freelancers, phone stipends etc, but still has her drycleaning paid for by petty cash, and her salary has never changed (she owns the company)

4) When, late one night on deadline, an urgent fax needs to be sent out, but the machine is new and you don't know how to use it, and you ask the room in general if anyone can help, she glares and says 'I'm the CEO. I don't fax', it's a bad thing.


Ah well. She's insane, but at least I now have enough stories, after two years, to always win the my-boss-is-worse-than-yours game. Also, I learned how NOT to be a manager. Oh, and am the only 25 year old I know with ulcers :P

I think people nailed it in the comments; she's a narcissist who has too much power. She's a bully, she doesn't understand what we do, and she likes to feel important by making others feel small.

Rebecca said...

To OP... you could always write the sequel to The Devil Wears Prada, right? For those who read the book, this sounds just like the title character (she was less evil in the movie.)

Happy for you that you are moving on to something else soon!

Anonymous said...

Once the OP starts in her new position, I think this nutjob boss needs to be outed--she's that insane.

Anonymous said...

But how do you get rid of the company's owner?? Do they have a board of directors that would hear grievances?

Rebecca, I so had images of that movie when I was reading that!

Ask a Manager said...

Yeah, if it's the owner, you're pretty much out of luck. At that point, all you can do is move on.

Anonymous said...

Employer issue:
3 months after working for employer, an employee who has been working there for a few years started refusing to assist me where to find info on the BI server databases, yet at the same time he kept on assisting everyone else. Had no issue with employees on other divisions. After complaining to the HR lady and HR manager over a period of 3 months, I then emailed the Departmental CEO. A month after no reply from Departmental CEO I emailed the Director and copied the Departmental CEO. In my emailed I stated the issue mentioned relating to employee being spiteful, also that during the 3 months of the employee not assisting me it cost me 15 full working days in overtime for which I would like to be reimbursed either with time off or financially. Had a meeting with the CEO and Development manager. What puzzles me is how can an employee do such a thing for 3 months and nothing get's done about it. When trying to get to the reason the employee did it, the issue was brushed aside by Development manager (he said - I am sure he did not do it deliberately, besides what proof do you have that he did it. I told the Development manager that I would not go the 2 HR employees, to the ITS department CEO and Director with the issue if it did not happen (in an email I also notified him that during the 3 month period when then employee was being spiteful I mentioned the issue to a few of the employees in the DBA section). About 3-4 hours after emailing the director my manager and all the employees in the DBA department went outside (I assume my manager emailed them all to meet him outside). They returned after an hour. When walking to the seats I looked up and saw some of them giving me a real bad look.

Anonymous said...

Employer issue (continued):

I started looking for another job, it seems either one of the agencies notified the HR department which notified my manager or one of the employees saw me disappearing every now and then and notified my manager, because after going to the 3rd agency for an interview, my manager moved out of his office and sat right behind me up to a week before I left the company. When I asked him if I can get 2 hours off during the day, he mentioned you were gone for so many hours this past 2 weeks already, you cannot get off today. This messed up the opportunity to go for interviews so I gave up job searching.

When it was time for our performance reviews, I stated on the review form that I was not very happy with my manager, that although there is only 2 employees in the BI department, yet I need to work on BI and fleet environment (the fleet environment workload is much higher than BI department). My manager said that if I removed what I stated, and removed all the tasks related to fleet environment - then he will give me a good review, else he will give me a bad review. I told him that I prefer leaving it on the review form. Afterwards I noticed my manager responded towards me sometimes in an arrogant, sarcastic manner.

Anonymous said...

Employer issue (continued):

The day before I left the company, at 16:15 he phoned me from his cellphone, said ‘why did you not do the task I gave you’, demanding I do it that day before going home. I only finished my current work at 18:30, went home, had something to eat, connected to the office network and started working on the issue. (the email he sent me about the task was not flagged high priority, it mentioned no deadline, so I categorized it by date the call came in, gave no priority to it). My manager kept sending me sms's, how far are you. Just after 11:00 PM I emailed him to tell him the testing is done on the staging environment, will apply next day to live environment. Guess what, at 02:45 AM he sent me another sms. I could not fall asleep after this. (there was no reason for sending me an sms at 02:45 AM, except for being spiteful). Not to mention that since I create reports for the client, I was very aware of the fact that there was no rush to do the update, if I notified them saying can I do it tomorrow they would say it’s fine, so why rush me after hours to do it still puzzles me.

Anonymous said...

Employer issue (continued):

I went to work the next day (Thursday), at 12:30 I went for lunch, while driving to a shopping centre to buy lunch I was thinking about what happened the past months, previous day and that morning, while thinking about it all I got angry, then after a few minutes I felt dizzy - then had a blackout. When I was back to normal, I drove around for a while, then I went home. (did not go back to work again (realized that since I cannot go job hunting, since he told the employees to clock-watch me, plus I cannot keep on working under the current working conditions, its best to leave). I got several phone calls the Thursday, Friday and week-end from my manager and 2 other employees, ignored them.
The next week Tuesday, the HR manager emailed me asking why am I deserting, plus a few other stories my manager told him, I replied to the email stating what actually happened and what caused me to desert, that I am resigning with immediate effect. The HR department emailed me stating that I must work my 30 days notice, I replied stating that due to the treatment I received, not being reimbursed either financially or with time off for the 15 days I had to work overtime due to someone’s spitefulness. (which was over a period of 3 months - nobody doing anything about it), I resign with immediate effect.
(During the 11 months working at the employer, I had so much work, most days I only took 5 minutes lunch, most days I worked 10 hours or more instead of the 8.5 hours the other employees worked, yet this is the thanks I get).
Now an employment agency has notified me the very same company is giving me a bad reference. What can I do ?

Ask a Manager said...

Anonymous, are you exempt or non-exempt? If your'e exempt, there's no entitlement to overtime pay.

On the reference issue, this may help:

http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2008/9/22/what-to-do-about-a-bad-reference.html

If you have follow up, it'll be better to email me directly rather than leaving anything lengthy here in the comments section (as this is the comments section for a different question).

Anonymous said...

Employer issue:

Hi, would like to email you directly, what is your email address ?

Ask a Manager said...

See the Contact page up top.