Q: The verbal abuse that I receive from my boss has been escalating for several years. About once a week, he begins shouting, cursing and banging on my desk. He starts criticizing my work, then brings up issues from my personal life.
Every time this happens, he eventually calms down and wants to work things out. We always reach an agreement about how he is going to change, but before long he blows up again. His erratic behavior is beginning to affect my performance, which only makes the situation worse.
I have tried to resign for the past three years, but he always talks me out of it. He owns the business, so there is no one else who can help. I am feeling very depressed and don't see how I can endure this much longer.
A: Has it occurred to you that this relationship is exactly like an abusive marriage? Your boss bullies you, you threaten to leave, he promises to change, you agree to stay, then he bullies you again.
The big difference, however, is that leaving a job is much easier than leaving a marriage. Therefore, the real key to your problem lies in the statement, "I have tried to resign for the past three years." In reality, you are free to depart whenever you like, so staying must provide some kind of emotional payoff.
Perhaps you have developed an enmeshed relationship with your abuser. Or maybe he has made you feel so worthless that you fear no one will hire you. But regardless of the reason for your reluctance, you need to screw up your courage and get out of there, because no one should tolerate that kind of treatment.
'F' word keeps ruining interviews
Q: Six months ago, I was fired from a company where I worked for two years. My co-workers were a tight clique of women who blamed me whenever something went wrong. The supervisor supported them, and human resources didn't seem interested in my side of the story.
Before this happened, I had a good work history for 30 years, but I have not been able to find another job. When I tell employers I was fired, they never call me back for a second interview. How can I convince someone to hire me?
A: If you worked successfully for three decades, then the last job was obviously an anomaly. Perhaps you were unsuited for that particular position, or maybe the office drama just spiraled out of control. Regardless, the key to re-employment is highlighting your earlier record.
Ask your references for permission to share their names and contact information, then prepare a summary sheet to give employers. You must also make a concerted effort to sharpen your interview skills. A strong personal impression, combined with glowing recommendations, will help to offset any concerns about your termination.
Speak up to stop workplace copycat
Q: I am extremely angry with a colleague who keeps copying my work. When "Jody" was hired three years ago, I let her use my project documents as a model. But she is now quite capable of creating her own.
Although I have hinted that I don't like having my work copied, Jody continues to do it. We used to be friends, but now I try to avoid her. How can I stop this without creating a conflict?
A: I hate to break it to you, but if you are angrily avoiding a former friend, then a conflict already exists. The problem is that your refusal to communicate directly makes it impossible to resolve. Like many timid souls, you drop "hints" about your feelings, then become resentful when no one picks up on them.
Since you originally allowed Jody to copy your documents, she may have no idea that your feelings have changed. So instead of continuing to send subtle signals, try expressing your concerns like a mature adult.
For example: "Jody, I gave you permission to copy my work when you were new, but now I feel sure that you can do a great job on your own. Although I prefer not to have my documents duplicated, I will be glad to help if you should run into any roadblocks."
If imagining this conversation makes you queasy, then you will have to choose between taking an emotional risk and accepting the status quo. The only unacceptable alternative is to continue acting like a passive-aggressive child.