Q: After joining this company six weeks ago, I quickly learned that my new boss is a tyrant. "Doug" constantly makes insulting and demeaning remarks, to the point that I am almost in tears every day.
When our department vice president asked me how things were going, I didn't reply immediately. He then said "Well, I guess I have my answer." A few days later, he asked to meet with Doug and me to discuss our working relationship. I avoided saying anything negative, but the vice president said to call or email him if I had any concerns.
Since then, many people have told me that Doug is a monster who drives away talented employees. He is apparently abusive to everyone. I am considering sending the vice president an email with the truth about Doug, but I'm afraid this might backfire. What do you think?
A: Criticizing your boss in an email is a highly risky proposition for several reasons. Painting an accurate picture in writing can be difficult, so written comments are easily misinterpreted. An email also creates a permanent record, which you might later regret.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the vice president will be the only one to see your complaint. You have no way of knowing who might view this email on the company server, nor do you know what the VP may do when he receives it. He could decide to forward it to his boss, to human resources or even to Doug.
But perhaps the biggest drawback is that an email from one individual cannot adequately convey Doug's widespread reputation as a chronic abuser and toxic manager. Therefore, a better strategy would be to ask some of the "many people" who share this perception to join you in meeting with the VP. Going as a group will not only increase the impact but also lessen the risk.
Fortunately, the VP's inquiries about your experience would seem to indicate that he already has his suspicions about Doug's management style. If so, a group intervention might be the final piece of evidence needed to spur some long-overdue action.
Language was off, but points weren't
Q: I disagreed with your column about the managers who failed to deal with a mentally disturbed employee. In today's world, you can't just have someone hauled away for being "crazy." This woman is probably harmless, so I believe you were wrong to call her "deranged" and a possible danger to others.
A: Thank you for writing to express your concern. In my astonishment at management's decision to ignore an employee who was clearly out of touch with reality, I may have used some overly colorful language to describe the situation. I certainly did not intend to be insulting.
But the other employees did have a valid reason to be fearful. People who believe they are being persecuted have been known to harm others in an effort to protect themselves from imagined threats. By disregarding this possibility, management was neglecting the welfare of both the troubled employee and the rest of the staff.
Dress 'one step up' for job interviews
Q: My son is about to graduate from college, so I need to buy him appropriate clothing for job interviews. However, I'm not sure what to recommend because I haven't looked for work in a long time. Is a suit required or would a sport coat be sufficient?
A: In a job search, the general rule is to dress "one step up" from the position for which you are applying. For example, if business casual is the prevalent attire, then a jacket and tie would be appropriate for interviews. But if the atmosphere is more formal, a suit might make a better impression.
For professional positions, most companies require more than one interview, so your son will need at least a couple of suitable outfits. If his current wardrobe consists largely of jeans and T-shirts, you could be in for a rather expensive shopping trip.