How to Get Your Boss Fired

Last Updated Mar 4, 2011 10:48 AM EST

Dear Evil HR Lady,

My coworkers and I are all miserable because our manager is, in a word, terrible. While I'd love to list her shortcomings (they are many), I'll just say that in the seven months she has been here, she single-handedly ruined what used to be a fantastic, high-functioning group.

Finally, one of our coworkers (we'll call her Tanya) approached HR about the problems we've been having. This launched a little investigation into our team. Over the past eight weeks or so, HR has been meeting with each of us individually, Tanya and our manager together, and the manager's boss (who visibly bristles every time this woman talks) separately. We were sure this investigation would culminate in our manager's termination. Yet, she persists.

As far as we can tell, our manager is railroading us at every turn, and HR is blaming Tanya for being insubordinate. They also seem to think the rest of us are all on edge because Tanya and our manager don't get along. Dumb. It seems completely infeasible that they don't see what's really going on, but they've shown no indication that they're going to do anything but develop more "process" for us and mediate the conflict between Tanya and the manager. We're feeling pretty helpless right now.

We're all actively looking for other jobs (and helping each other look), but we'd really love to salvage the situation here if at all possible. Is there anything you recommend we can do as a group to tactfully communicate, "You're about to lose an entire team of people if you don't get rid of the boss"? We're vaguely considering approaching HR as a group, but we're not even sure how that conversation would go. Any insight you can give would be greatly appreciated.

I put some phrases from your email in bold. "We were sure...As far as we can tell...They also seem to think..." Notice that you all are sitting and hoping that your brave coworker, Tanya, solves the problem for you.

If the HR person and the manager's manager thinks it's just because of a conflict between Tanya and the direct manager, it's because none of the rest of you have given them any reason to think otherwise.

Yes, I frequently tell people that if they hate their jobs, they should look for new ones, and you're doing that. But in the mean time, you're miserable even at the same time you have someone from HR actively looking to help you.

Do you know how many people would love for a response from their HR department? Heck, just an acknowledgment that someone, somewhere, is actually concerned about the success of this department, would be welcome.

So, get off your rear ends and all of you who are helping each other look for new jobs, instead help the HR person know what is going on.

I know you want to make sure you do it the "right" way. This desire for the perfect, risk free solution where bad manager goes away and everyone else lives happily ever after is not likely to happen. If you wait until you have the perfect solution, you will miss all of the good enough solutions. Here are 5 things you should do.

Document, document, document. You said you had a whole host of complaints about your manager. Document these, but not just as a list of faults, but as a list of examples. So, you don't write, "Manager is rude." You write, "On March 1, Manager interrupted Tanya 6 times in a five minute discussion. She raised her voice and called three people idiots."

Talk directly to the HR person who is investigating. Don't rely on Tanya to relay information. Don't assume the HR person will come to you if she wants to hear your side of the story. Make your own appointment, or grab the HR person in the hall, but go and talk to her now.

Encourage your coworkers to do the same thing. If all of you explain what's going on, the powers that be will be better able to understand what the true problem is.

Make sure you are direct and clear. People tend to downplay the problem when asked directly. So, when you go to the HR person say clearly, "This is not about a conflict between the boss and Tanya." Then refer to your documented list of problems. Do not sugar coat it with words like, "sometimes" or "I feel" or "maybe." You don't say, "I feel like the deadlines she gives are unrealistic and that causes stress." You say, "The deadlines she gives are unrealistic. For instance..." 

Be prepared for nothing to change. The manager's manager isn't taking care of the problem. One of the reasons why this happens is that this person made the hiring decision. If she acknowledges that this manager is an idiot, she also has to acknowledge that she made a poor hiring decision. People don't like to admit their faults, so they tend to ignore this type of problem for as long as possible.

    I know it's unpleasant and scary. But, it's clear that the "wait and see" method isn't working. Speak up and speak up now. And keep your resume up to date.

    For further reading:
    Have a workplace dilemma? Send an email to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.
    Photo by familywmr, Flickr cc 2.0
    • Suzanne Lucas On Twitter»

      Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate Human Resources. She's hired, fired, and analyzed the numbers for several major companies. She founded the Carnival of HR, a bi-weekly gathering of HR blogs, and her writings have been used in HR certification and management training courses across the country.

    Comments