My backstabbing 'boss from hell' makes me hate my job

The Star
Sunday, Mar 26, 2017

"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.

Dear Thelma,

I have been working in my present company for more than three years. I have lost all passion and interest in my job because of my boss. He is the typical boss from hell.

He does not lead by example, and does the very things he condemns.

It is all right for him to turn up late for work, but when the workers come in late for one reason or another, he will haul them up and grill them. And he is selective in penalising workers. If he dislikes a particular worker, then he will give that worker a hard time. However, he will turn a blind eye to the faults of those whom he likes.

He hangs out with T, a colleague, but behind T’s back, he will badmouth him. He even tells me to stay away from T!

I am very sad that this is happening in my workplace.

My boss sidelined my colleague, S, because he does not like S. He makes life difficult for S and has even issued warning letters to S without doing any proper investigations.

Favouritism and apple-polishing are the order of the day in my office.

I cannot tolerate this any more. It makes me hate my job. The unhealthy work environment is very demoralising.

I am hanging on because of financial commitments. I know this is a bad time to look for a new job. What should I do? I have reached breaking point.

– Wretched Worker

Dear Wretched Worker,

Like you, many a good worker has been affected by bad bosses. Oftentimes, it ends up in workers leaving the organisation, or worse, becoming severely demotivated which in turn affects productivity.

Your frustrations are understandable. Bad bosses typically lack the ability to see how their bad attitude and behaviour are affecting everyone around them.

The best bet for any change to happen is for their superiors to take notice and set into motion a plan to mitigate that kind of behaviour. This usually happens in large organisations where there are mechanisms to detect these problems and manage them. It also requires a human resources department that is empowered to take the necessary action.

Very little can be expected in terms of the bad boss changing their behaviour. They may not have the insight to effect that kind of change. They may even become worse as they are now aware that their job security is at stake and they may take revenge on the staff members.

Many people in your situation are left with two choices. They can play the “game” with their superiors. They may appear to not care about what is being said or done, and learn to make the situation work to their advantage.

While this may seem like a good thing to do, it does have some disadvantages. For one, people who do this quickly lose the trust of their colleagues. They are seen to be manipulative people who would do anything to get ahead and do not care about hurting others. They don’t make friends at the workplace. You are seeing this happening already with all the office politics you describe.

The other option, sadly, is to leave the organisation and find work elsewhere. This is unsettling for everybody. The organisation loses a potentially good team member and has to find a replacement and train this new person.

The employee who decides to leave has to find a new job, settle into a new position, and learn new skills. There will be a lot of changes. But change is not a bad thing. Change may actually be good for you and your mental health. Change is scary, and that may be holding you back.

You have financial responsibilities. But these are not burdens. You can develop a new plan to address these commitments.

Of course, you don’t want to leave immediately. You will have to plan your exit carefully. Find and secure a new job first.

If you don’t want to leave, however, there are other steps you can take. Your colleague is right – you do not have to please others. You can decide to take action to address your boss’s behaviour. You could bring the matter to the attention of your boss’s superior. You can also lodge a complaint with the Human Resources department.

You and your colleagues can band together and put up a united front against your boss. If all of you agree not to play the games your boss plays, he will have no incentive to do so. You may not be able to be upfront with your boss, but you can inform your colleagues how you feel about the new culture that is permeating the workplace.

All of these would require you to take some sort of action. You will have to actually do something. This is the prospect that makes many people uncomfortable.

Of course, there is always the option for you to ignore all that is happening around you. Keep your head down and focus on your work. This is very hard to do. Being in a toxic environment is very detrimental and debilitating. There will be consequences – mainly to your own mental health, well-being and productivity. But it is still considered a “safe” option.

Every option has its advantages and disadvantages. You will have to analyse each one and decide on the option you are most comfortable with. Top priority should be given to your well-being. All else comes second.

– Thelma