Rookie Mistakes I Made When My Boss Had It Out For Me

March 25, 2015  |  

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It was 2011 and I was coasting.

I had an amazing boss, I was happy with my job and I was getting paid well. I was receiving great reviews, bonuses and tons of praise. My manager was even preparing me for a promotion. I felt like I had arrived.

But it all shattered when my amazing boss got an awesome opportunity and left the company. Within just a few months, working with her replacement shifted my position from a confident worker into an anxious mess. Sure, I had dealt with difficult work situations before, but none felt like an assault on my ego each day.

The new boss butted heads with the entire staff, but she directed most of her aggressive behavior toward me. She made me feel small in meetings and undermined me constantly. She micromanaged me to the point where I had to report on each task as I did them throughout the day.

She influenced customers to take complaints about me to the corporate office and of course they came back to inform me. She crept around hallways to spy on me and my coworkers (and we caught her). She even rearranged her desk to be behind mine in the office so she could monitor my computer screen. In the back of my mind, her bizarre antics made me wonder if I was secretly on Oxygen’s series Snapped.

Walking on pins and needles at work began to affect other parts of my life. I stopped eating and lost 15 pounds. I went to bed right after work and just slept through the weekends.

I reported it to human resources, but proving her bullying behavior was tough. Upper management made an effort to help intervene because of my past track record, but their hands were tied since she wasn’t directly breaking any policies. Now that I’ve moved on from the situation, I can look back and identify three major mistakes I made while dealing with this terrible boss.

Mistake #1: I let her influence my character and work performance.

While working for her my personality changed. I became edgy. I jumped at the “ding” of each email or phone call, assuming the worst. I didn’t perform to the best of my ability because my mind wasn’t there. I was pretty much a zombie.

Most regrettably, when frustrations boiled over I confronted her. After our conversation she started using the “angry black woman” or “unprofessional” card to defend her actions. She kept pushing me hoping I would break. And I let her win.

The only thing in life you have control over is how you react to situations. And when you hand over that control, you lose a piece of yourself. It took me a while to regain faith in my abilities after letting her influence my mood and performance. And I never intend to lose it again.

Mistake #2: Thinking her bullying was my fault.

Even though she despised me, I desperately wanted to get in her good graces. I wanted to prove to myself that I could win her over if I did exactly what she asked. But I know now it’s impossible when dealing with a bullying boss. They will always find an error to point out.

Later I found out that her bad managerial skills were well-known in the industry, so there really was no hope of me winning her over. I did a phone interview with a competitor and somehow we got on the topic of my boss. Come to find out she worked for that company and they pushed her to resign because they disliked her so much. Well, what do you know?

Mistake #3: Trying to compete with her.

When all else failed, I attempted to meet her with the same attitude she gave me. I became sarcastic in my face-to-face and email interactions with her. I attempted to point out the flaws in her work just to get back at her. But at the end of the day I felt icky inside and realized she would always beat me at her game. Someone who’s passive aggressive because of their own insecurities will play the innocent victim or come back worse. I should have laid out my concerns directly instead of mimicking her innuendo.

Ultimately, I was urged by friends in higher places to transfer to another location within the same company. Now that it’s over I’m at peace with what I’ve learned from the experience, but one thing that always frustrates me about being bullied at work is feeling powerless. Especially when you’ve already proved your worth to the company before stuff hits the fan. As a result, I’m always fiercely loyal to my own well-being before an employer.

What are your thoughts? How have you handled working with a boss who had it out for you? Do you wish you handled it differently?

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  • Gypsy

    Master Manipulator!

  • Delora Brei-Short

    I wish people would stop with the “bullying” word…It is ABUSE at the hands of one’s peers. In some cases, your bullying peer is a supervisor or manager. To me it is no different than the effects of an abusive romantic relationship.

  • Network News

    I’m a go getter, so when I perform people notice. They notice that I’m bright, professional, hardworking, and they’re happy I’m around. So, I was promoted – an opportunity I would’ve taken elsewhere if a door hadn’t opened at my present company. My job had become unsustainable. There was consistent drama, bullying, and emotional abuse from two out of my three bosses. I’d tolerated this for two years as I obtained new credentials and repackaged myself. Everything came together when I was offered employment elsewhere and presented these facts to a lead executive at my company who paved the way for my promotion.

    I hate to entertain the idea that being a black woman makes me more of a target, but the behaviors which contributed to my need for change and the reactions to my promotion say otherwise.

    Working for one of the key executives’ daughters made it particularly difficult to break away. Look up spoiled, vindictive, rich girl in the dictionary and you’ll find her picture. She tells her father everything, real or imagined, and would throw me under the bus without reservation. She constantly watched me from her office, as if wanting my attention, but for nothing specific. The girl drained me with her fear, anger, unwillingness to take responsibility, and entitlement issues. Her behavior went unchecked. My other boss was hostile, insecure, blaming me whenever possible, claiming he’d provided instructions when he hadn’t, etc. The third boss was prone to demeaning outbursts over petty misunderstandings. Jeckyl and Hyde. She’d become very hostile at the drop of a hat. She might as well be foaming at the mouth. Her attacks would catch me off guard, having me backpedaling without knowing what I was apologizing for. She was best friends with Ms. Entitled who got her the job. The two together were straight out of Mean Girls, gossiping about anything that got their panties in a bunch, assessing blame through each other’s prejudiced convictions. I felt silenced, powerless, and became more depressed each day. I hadn’t gone to a five star university to be enslaved. How could my situation be invisible to others? I asked for help but was ignored by HR.

    Once my promotion became public, I realized the harassment had just begun. I’ve had to, and continue to, walk through a lot. The HR wench has it out for me. The idea that anyone would stand up for themselves and seek a sponsor is a major threat. It showed independence. That I was granted respect showed power. It also begged the question why the higher ups didn’t hear about my wishes from her.

    Two of the three ex-bosses are still engaged in a passive-aggressive campaign to bash my reputation through gossip, innuendo, and haughtiness. The other boss expressed his hostility by being totally disrespectful to me my last week and sending me passive aggressive emails to record negative criticism he’d misrepresented. This is the same person who was upset I didn’t share with him my interest in the open position, claiming he would’ve recommended me. But I know him too well. He couldn’t be trusted to speak for me. He can’t even speak for himself.

    I’ve been treated with various forms of hostility from other employees too, specifically women. The brownnosers took their expected place, expressing distance, avoiding eye contact, etc…

    So I’ve learned firsthand that black women are expected to take whatever they get at work. When you ask for what you want, you risk isolation, retaliation, and the rest of the ilk, but there’s really no choice. Too many people sacrificed for me to be free.

    I’m so grateful for my promotion. I’m on a completely different side of the building now. My new bosses are demanding, but mature, and need a problem solver like me. There’ll be more work but not emotional abuse in my way. I hope my replacement succeeds but I also hope that in time it becomes more clear that the standards I established were exceptional. In any case, I’m blessed. Every day, I say, ‘Thank you, Jesus,”

  • too_real

    Go teach at an HBCU.

  • ibdw

    I noticed that many people were addressing issues they had with women bosses however, I have experienced both sexes being bullies. I don’t think it matter the sex.. just the person.. if a person has insecurities about your abilities and feels you are getting too many accolades he/she might put a target on you.. I have definitely learned from all those situations.

  • Markita @SweshFit

    I also just came out of this situation. I worked at a company for 14 months and suffered through 2 horribly insecure, bullying managers. Both were men. I learned over time that this organization promotes this kind of behavior because you’re rewarded highly on having good upper management visibility and there’s little consideration of your reputation among peers or your reports. Also little consideration of whether you actually do any work. It was a good experience, however, because it pushed me and my hubby to move to San Francisco, which is something we have wanted for a while. The next job is with a much more forward thinking tech company, and I have high hopes!

  • TheWireHangerByWinnie.com

    This article is everything!! The reason why I put in my two weeks at my job! 4/1/15 is my last day…its sad when your job feels like an abusive relationship…on to bigger and better!! Amazing write up

  • Elasangs

    Why do they do this mess???? Went through it too, and when mine saw that I was getting my work and self back on track, he fired me….and gave me some BS ,,,,God not sleeping or is even sleepy!

  • Dee

    I can really relate to this article. I too was in the same situation and I could not see the light of day. I thought that as long as I performed well then all would be good and I thought that I could win them over. My mistake. Although my job performance was excellent she got rid of me before my probation was over without reason. Bigger question I have is why are these terrible things are being done mostly by women? Its a shame but seems to be true. Sad to say but give me a man to work for any day over a woman. Men seem to have/cause little to no drama.

    • Nicky

      Some men act up too ( see my comment above). They can’t stand to see a sistah with the same educational background or higher doing their thing. But overall, I would prefer a man who is secure with himself as a boss any day.

      • Dee

        You are right about some of them acting up. I have found though that they do not cause as many problems and if they do they don’t really try to hide it. As for the bumping I would have started to carry a small sharp object in my hand and let’s see how long they will continue to bump me then. Just kidding. I hope all works out for you.

    • guest

      Don’t let the gender fool you! My director who is a man and not just any man an alpha male micromanaging D-bag who was in the military all of 5 minutes is one of the worse human beings I have ever encountered. He runs the dept like a boot camp and expects you to do what he says even though he doesn’t know what he’s doing himself. Reading this article makes me feel like the author was sitting in on one of me and my co-workers vent sessions. We have lost amazing people and this jerk still has his job. HR is beyond aware of his antics yet he has not been reprimanded. I have given up hope and am now focusing all of my energy on new employment. Best of luck to everyone going through this the struggle is real and I feel your pain.

      • Dee

        I feel your pain as well. When it comes to gender there are only 2 to choose
        from. When I read the article I noticed that most of the comments were writing about women. My tormentor was a woman. Hence my original question. My comment was
        not meant to be disrespectful to women, just my personal observation and preference. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • guest

    I was working a minimal job. Was told I was doing good work by supervisor. Later realized I was only hired for tempory placement bc co-worker was on medical leave. 2 months that’s how long I worked before I was told I didn’t make my probation time. What the F**K! Reading your stories helps me realize that some of the strange vibes and shading was not in my head. Everybody was in on the bs. It was a small department (10) peoples cleaning crew. I cleaned restrooms! !!

  • Amira

    I’m going through this right now. My manager was given a severance package & has a few more weeks left. We had a re-org & she didn’t land a role. She was a bully before the severance, and has turned it all the way up after the severance. I’m trying to decide what to do since it’s only a few more weeks. These people are so toxic.

  • Vdub2014

    I’m about to go through the same thing. But I’ve been in a work environment with a bully before so I got the jump on them. I’ve already “expressed my concern” with HR and open a file on them. Meanwhile I will be looking for a better opportunity and doing the bare minimum to get by on my job. We already had a status meeting and I pretty much laid it out on how they can and can’t speak to me. If they respect it cool, if they don’t my file will just keep being filled up with complaints. Your voice is important even if nothing happens with you. Report them so the next person doesn’t have to suffer. If enough people come forward change will happen. In the meantime I’ll collect my paycheck and keep surfing the web for a better opportunity.

  • DeepThinker

    I hope the author posts a follow up on how people in these situations should handle them specifically. Even the best mentors cannot prepare people for this bullish. That would be nice.

    • Nicky

      I am hoping for the same thing.

  • DeepThinker

    I went through the exact same thing, but going to HR seemed to annoy her more. She was so out of line that in our one-on-one meetings she would speak in a “black slang” dialect. (This was a white woman from Wisconsin that I knew did not speak that way.) She even stopped by my desk one day to point out that when we are in team meetings I should project my head upwards so that everyone will know I am paying attention. My last day at the job she followed me everywhere to make sure I did not pack anything up that did not belong to me. I was severely depressed. Several other AA employees had the same experienced some even filed a wrongful termination lawsuit which is still pending. In spite of what I went through, I am glad I had the experience early in my career, because it thickened my skin and I know exactly when someone is coming for me and how to deal with it without destroying me.

  • DivaonaDime

    I used to work for micromanaging religious nutbag that wanted to be in every aspect of my life and finally fired me after I got married and didn’t tell her. I wasn’t even mad because she let me go at 2 and I had another job lined up by 5 cuz I already saw it coming. Glad I’m not alone

  • HMMMMIJS

    When people do things like this to you they envy something about you. As long as you are performing well on the job then there’s. no other reason for that behavior but envy. So just look at that point and use it as ammunition to do your job.

  • Nicky

    I’m in this situation now. My supervisor is totally passive aggressive and she harasses me. I had to schedule a few private meetings with her to basically tell her I do not like it and that she needs to stop. I took leave on my birthday and she tried to act like she didn’t know I requested it and she called me like 10 times within 5 minutes and left a couple of messages to tell me something that wasn’t even urgent and then told me happy birthday before I got off the phone with her. I had other co-workers follow me in the bathroom and tried to pop up on me. I had male coworkers walk pass me and purposely bump into me. It’s crazy.

    But the way I am handling it now is I am just keeping a work journal of everything that goes on to document it and seeing a therapist

    • guest

      Quit. If this doesn’t get any better. I know money is an issue, but no job is worth your sanity. Good luck.

      • Nicky

        Yea that is exactly what they want me to do. They want me to run up out of there……But not until I get everything I came for.

  • This post was my life for 5 1/2 years at a company until I submitted an official complaint to her superiors (and yes, there was a paper trail for years about this), with support from people in various departments. Despite the fact that our department had 3 people leave in less than 3 months, I ended up being the 4th when my contract was suddenly terminated. The thing is I was totally ok with the contract ending. What upset me most is that I allowed myself to be so deeply affected by it to the point where I had an outward response (no yelling or anything like that, but the being on pins and needles, constant headaches, not eating, etc). It’s amazing how some grown folks get off on bullying, but at the end of the day it’s still never enough to satisfy that void they’re trying to fill.