I heard an interesting story from a coworker this week that sparked the idea for this post:
My coworker Bruce has a great rapport with his old company and recently heard that one of his former colleagues found a job somewhere else. The boss was apparently so offended by this employee's resignation that he told him not to come back the next day — even though he'd still be paid for the following two weeks. As a result of this hotheaded move, the boss became frazzled by projects the newly-lost employee left behind, and called my buddy Bruce to bail him out by doing some contract work for mucho buckos. Yay for Bruce — but not such a great move for the boss.
Many of us have felt the wrath of a boss's hotheaded decision. Here are some cases where the boss shouldn't have taken it personally but did, and how you can handle it if you face a similar situation.
The "Two Week Notice" Denial
Offering to stay two weeks after resigning is standard practice, but not legally required. Giving notice means you are being mindful of your boss's and company's needs, not wanting to leave them with a handful of incomplete projects. You can tidy up loose ends and/or train the person who'll be filling your spot after you're gone. But sometimes, as in the case above, he takes it personally and tells you to cram your two weeks' notice and leave immediately.
How to Handle It:
Rejoice in a paid vacation! But, if you've always been on good terms and would value his reference when you leave your next job, then don't let yourself be shooed out so easily. Double-check that there's absolutely nothing you can do in the next two weeks to help soften the blow.
If he's still stuck on sending you on your "disgraceful" way, just smile, wave, and clutter up cyberspace with comments about how terrible he was. It's guaranteed to blow off some steam and feel refreshing, but PLEASE don't use the real names of the boss or the company. That's simply bad taste (not to mention unprofessional and potentially libelous).
The "History Repeats Itself" Problem
I've personally dealt with this one before, and it sure isn't fun. You get a boss who, by their own poor management, let another employee walk all over them. Then they realize what happened, fire the bad employee, and become steadfast in never letting history repeat itself. Suddenly, someone who used to be a great, laid back yet assertive leader turns defensive and distrustful.
What does that mean for you? You get to deal with the new micro-managing, passive-aggressive management style, which can make you feel like crap even if you're doing a great job.
How to Handle It:
It may just be a temporary, knee-jerk reaction to getting burned, so give it a little time to see if she chills out. If you have (or had) a good relationship with her, try talking about it. If nothing changes, it's time to switch departments or get a new job. That kind of boss can cause more stress than your biggest project ever did, and no one needs that negativity in their lives.
The "My Problem Is Your Problem" Dilemma
Let's say your boss is up for a big promotion but gets overlooked. Or your boss's boss is unhappy with the department's performance. Or a big project your boss was working on falls to pieces. Now her problem becomes YOUR problem. So she feels like scum for whatever went wrong, and deals with it by delegating all the menial, soul-sucking, "I-don't-want-to-deal-with-it" stuff directly to you.
How to Handle It:
Sorry to say, your only survival method here is to take the backseat and hope she gets over it sooner rather than later. A good boss is one who helps you grow — not one who forces you to drag your heels in their mess. But we're all human and can have a bad week or two. Suck it up and bolster her flagging ego for a week or two. And if it looks like your formerly good boss has turned permanently bad, it's time to move on.
Get Past the Hot Air
I'm sure there are numerous other scenarios where bosses make hotheaded decisions that leave their poor employees floundering for help. If you have a great boss who remains rational, dedicated, and doesn't take things personally, consider yourself lucky. If not, brush off your resume, start networking, and get out before you turn into (fictional) Brent Quigley, who wants to leave his boss, but can't figure out the perfect way to say it in a letter.
Got a bad boss story? Share it here!