My Job is Awesome, But My Boss is Evil

Last Updated Mar 21, 2011 7:05 AM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady,
The company I work for is very small (6 of us in total including part-timers). The founder and my boss are also father and son respectively. My boss is a bully and true to your advice I have been trying to offset his negativity by rising above it, concentrating on the task at hand, and confronting him where necessary. However, nothing seems to help for very long. I have even started creating a log of all 'misdemeanors' in case I ever need to substantiate any claims. It would make for rather hilarious reading if it wasn't happening to me.
I love my job - the work is great and I feel all the things I should feel when satisfied with the content of my day. It's just I can't seem to keep my boss happy. I do a universally accepted great job (customers all over the world send very positive feedback) and when it comes to appraisal time, he will nix all my efforts by something like (and this is genuine) forgetting the sellotape. He doesn't communicate much, he engages in politicking, he tells half truths which I discover later when talking to other colleagues, he's never on time for meetings and often just blows them off at the last minute, complains about everything under the sun when everyone else gives a glowing report, shifts the goalposts, undermines my authority (gives me responsibility, takes it away and dumps it back last minute if it's not going well for me to pick up the pieces and clear his name), all my ideas are rubbish in his view... need I go on?
Please don't ask me to update my CV and prepare to look for a new job - it really is a great job, I get a fab work-life balance as it's a mile from my house, all my other colleagues are lovely and genuine, I have a fantastic rapport with all my customers and I am doing a great job earning money for the company. I just need to know how to handle my boss. It is a tricky situation, and I guess there's no simple answer to the problem but I'm hoping you are able to enlighten me with some golden nuggets of wisdom.
Hmmm, I'm all out of golden nuggets of wisdom, so I will tell you a story.

I used to have a one hour commute down the Pennsylvania Turnpike and then onto the Blue Route. If you're unfamiliar with this area, just picture your most crowded interstate and add a touch of Pennsylvania/New Jersey attitude to it. It was crowded. Drivers would cut in and out. Tailgating was par for the course. Every day I would try to get to work a little bit faster. I would change lanes, trying to get into the fastest moving lane, try to figure out which toll booth was moving fastest, and become generally frustrated with conspiracy theory folks who wouldn't just get an EZ-Pass (an electronic device so your tolls are just charged to your credit card). Stress, stress, and more stress. I would arrive at the office all flummoxed because of the awful, awful traffic.

Then I came to a realization that this is just how the traffic was. It was never going to get better. People were still going to drive like idiots. I would always hit the maximum number of red lights. And you know what? This realization changed my life. I stopped trying to shave 30 seconds off my commute time and instead listened to the radio. I found out that by traveling mostly in the right hand lane, I got to work just as quickly as I did when I was trying to pass people and squeeze into whatever lane was going the fastest at that moment.

My point is, sometimes your boss is going to be rotten. The reality is, since this guy is the owner's son, it's extremely doubtful that he'll ever be fired or disciplined. As long as you are keeping the customers happy, his father has no reason to make his son change. The son has no reason to change since the customers are happy and daddy is the boss. The only way to change this little dynamic is to make the customers unhappy, which will benefit no one. Plus, you'll be blamed for it and sonny boy will just hire someone new to torment.

Accept it. Life is full of trade-offs. If you've tried numerous different things to get your boss to stop being so awful, and none of it is working you just have to accept that you've got a bad boss. This will remove an enormous amount of stress from your life. Just like I had a bad commute you've got a bad boss. I loved my job, so I stayed. You love your job, so you'll stay.

If the good things do outweigh the bad things, then you stop fretting about the bad and focus on the good. Your boss criticized you over tape? That's what I like to call hilarious. So, before your next appraisal, get your friends to all make bets on what trivial thing you'll get dinged for.

I also suspect that he's an equal opportunity jerk and your other coworkers are just as annoyed. The advantage of this is that while he's attempting to undermine your credibility with them, they know that he's doing the same to them. Therefore, no one believes him.

Your best bet is to just outright decide that you have chosen this path. No one is forcing you to stay there. The world won't end if you decide to get a new job. Therefore, you aren't stuck. Get in the right hand lane and drive.

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Photo by Urban Woodswalker, Flickr cc 2.0