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Hi,

I work for a small company with four permanent employees and and some contractors. I love my job and my immediate coworker is one of my best friends. However, I have a dreadful boss who looks over my shoulder, criticizes me for everything I do, presents my work as his work to the outside world, and keeps demanding more and more work. He also makes sexual jokes which are highly inappropriate and seems to be a narcissist. I am also gravely underpaid. 

Now my question is, it makes me feel very anxious. Every time I see a car that is the same color as my boss's car, I feel dread. Every time the phone rings, I am worried it is him. The problem is I still do genuinely love the work that I do, and I need this job. 

My mental health is suffering and I am not sure how much more of this I can take. Do any of you have any tips at all on how to feel less stress and still be able to do the same job?

Thank you so much for listening. Even writing writing this down makes me feel better. Not for long, though. 

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Ugh! That sounds like an incredibly, incredibly tough situation! Anyone would be stressed!

If this is a small company and your boss is its owner, which by the sounds of things he is, that makes things even harder. Though this is in a sense a mental health topic because this situation is definitely messing with your sanity, it is not like you are dealing with an anxiety disorder or something that arises internally, from within yourself. The cause of your stress is external and very clear. 

In your case, no matter how sad it is, I think I would be looking out for a new job. That would remove this man from your life and by the sounds of it solve your problems. 

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I have been in jobs with a negative atmosphere coming from above before, but they were with large companies and if I had the impression that my immediate supervisor was being unfair towards me in particular or was not doing their job properly, I would eventually work it out with HR. I did this twice. Once it was completely solved afterwards, by being moved to a different team. That was more of a personality clash than anything. Once I felt my boss was incompetent and nothing much happened, but since I was not personally affected I just sucked it up and focused on making positive relationships with coworkers. In this case I do think that if your boss is in your face all the time and you are feeling this much dread, you should look for a different job.
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Hmmm... I do agree that your feelings are caused by a definite external trigger and aren't "in your head". That does not mean that how you handle the situation from here on out does not influence outcomes and the atmosphere at work, though. It sounds silly to even ask this, but have you tried calling your boss out on his behavior? When he takes credit for your work, for example, can't you just matter of factly state that you were the one to complete that? When he makes inappropriate comments, can you not say that those are inappropriate comments?

Rosie

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Thanks you for your advice. I already called him out on his behavior, but I just get nasty input back. Like, "Oh well, you are in my employ so basically what you do I can take credit for, because I pay you". And then I get some inappropriate gender comments back along the lines of, "but I would like to sleep with you". Did I mention he has a wife?

Unfortunately I am not sure I can just get another job because the work is very niche and although I am quite versatile I am also formally underqualified. And when it is just me and my coworker I do really love the job and I don't want to miss out on that. So I would ideally want a way to make this job work. But with a big ego like my boss's it's pretty hard to shut him up.
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Hey,

If you are determined to stay in your job, the only common-sense advice I can give you is this, and you already know it, too: you cannot change your boss. He will stay the same. Nothing will do anything to alter his behavior, at least as far as you can influence it.

Could you try to simply ignore the things he does and says, focusing on the enjoyment you do have in your job as you mention? Do a good day's work, enjoying the interaction you have with your coworker and perhaps clients or the work itself?

It's the same with many of us who have difficult relatives. My mother, for instance, I suspect of having Narcisstic Personality Disorder, but whatever it is that she has or does not have, there is nothing I can personally do to influence it. I have chosen to be in her life and have her in mine, albeit on a more limited basis, and I try my best to let it slide off me. Her behavior towards me does not reflect on me personally.

Rosie
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Your boss sounds like a right piece of work. I am sure that your feelings that you have to stay in this job are making you even more stressed as well! Can you at least start working on separating work and the rest of your life mentally, leaving your feelings about the job at work? I am sure that worrying constantly about the effects of your difficult situation at work are mentally exhausting to you and in worrying about your workplace stress, you are creating even more stress.

Maybe check out the book "Declutter your mind: How to stop worrying, relieve anxiety, and eliminate negative thinking" by SJ Scott and Barrie Davenport? It helped me.
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Ugh. Workplace stress is familiar to me but not due to such a hostile environment. It's just that things get crazy busy sometimes and I feel stressed, which is pretty normal but not pleasant.

For that kind of workplace stress, I found these tips help. First off, no matter what, make sure you always have some time to yourself, time to recharge those batteries away from thoughts about work. This makes you a much more productive worker and is good for your employer as well! Some of that away from work time should be spent on activities that actively reduce your stress levels. Those include exercise, meditation, spending time in nature, and family dinners at the table really do work. A healthy diet also greatly contributes to overall feelings of wellbeing.
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One thing that I have learned is that you cannot keep on doing the same and expect different results. A certain famous person said that this is the very definition of insanity.

Can you change your behavior? Let your boss know that you are not standing for this any more? He seems to think you are totally at his mercy. Is that true? I don't think so.

Treating you that way will not be so easy when you bore your boss every time he says or does something that is unreasonable, will it? Every single time. Say something. Stand up for yourself.

It will make you feel good and it will break this cycle.
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How much time do you spend at work, what are your hours?

From your post I can tell that your work has really hit you hard, it's been a huge blow to your morale. If I was in your boat, which thankfully I have never been but I have had jobs I did not enjoy so much, I would spend the time outside of work, if you have it, doing a course that would increase your future employment prospects.

If your work is so niche that hardly anyone has the skills you have, then the course I would take would be related to business, with the goal of starting my own business in the same field. I would move to avoid being competition to my old boss and start a new life.
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