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A Genuine Real Live Boss Answers your Questions!!
(though his identity is concealed to cover his ass!


FOR 2009!


Do YOU have questions for our new

Mystery Boss?

Write to him at

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CLICK HERE to read the "Previous Bosses of the Month"

Meet our brand new real live Mystery  Boss:
A Brief Profile

CEO "MR. X" is the kind of boss that, well, if you didn’t get to know him really well, you’d want to push him into moving trains… or at least key his BMW when he wasn’t looking. I mean, he’s a totally success story… the kind that really pisses most of us off! Mr. X started working about twenty years ago in Chicago at a small “embroidery” company… you know, the kind that make those logo’s on T-Shirts and Hats for company’s who give them out as presents and for promotion. At the time, they employed about thirty seamstresses who did all the work by hand. Mr. X was starting to get into computers and while watching an obscure musical called “What A Way To Go”, wherein Paul Newman played an artist that employed computer controlled robots to mass produce paintings for him, Mr. X got the idea of perhaps using computers connected to specially tooled embroidery machines to do the work. He approached the boss with the idea who thought it was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard and fired him! Mr. X then moved west and went into business for himself, and found a huge market in Hollywood “Cast And Crew” jackets, bags, T-Shirts, hats, etc., and using his computer idea was able to make large quantities of very intricate logos and designs at very competitive prices. He not only bought out most of the other companies in town, but also the chain of stores in the mid-west that his old boss owned… and from there, went into development, creating entertainment malls, buying restaurant chains, chic clothing stores… and even dabbled successfully in movies and TV. He now lives in Maui most of the year where his world headquarters are located, and has just acquired a well known computer company software firm as part of his “empire”. The worse part (and don’t ever told him I told you this)… he’s actually a real nice guy when you get to know him (unless of course, you’re on the other end of the “stick” when he wants to buy your company!)… and our own investigation uncovered that he’s actually really great with his employees, giving them stock options, and extremely generous health packages. He wasn’t always that way, and learned the hard way how to be a good boss (admittingly having lost some of his best people by his own stubborn ego and thoughtlessness)… so who better to hear your problems and talk “turkey” with you! So welcome CEO "Mr. X"… OFF THE BOSS’S newest mystery boss and first for the new year!

Let the complaints begin!


So... Fire away!

Dear Mystery Boss,

I work for a major pizza company.  Everyday my boss is always saying in a loud voice "no excuses!!"  for example,  if I forget to put my name tag on and he asks why don't I have it on, before I get done saying it is in the car I will go and get it, he is blurting out "no excuses."  no excuses for this or that.  He sees any kind of explanation for anything as an excuse.  It is driving me nuts.   And that's another thing he keeps telling me to drive faster.  Drive faster?????   The company policy says all pizza delivery drivers shall drive approx.  5 Miles below the speed limit,  but here is Mr.” no excuses" yelling at me to drive reckless.  How do I get it across to him that under no circumstances will I put my self in the position to get a ticket, in a car accident, or worse?  Not for a job that pays the min. Wage.  Not even with tips included.  Who do I go to or what do I do?  


Springfield, MO



Dear DDC,

A great question. Actually I had delivery man who worked for a courier service our company used, name Jerry, who had the exact same problem. Your boss is what we call a "reactionary"... these are people who find a "talking point", and use it for everything, thus never having to really face decisions. I guarantee that this guy is a very small minded person, tipping towards "loser" status. He's found this "no excuses" phrase like an infant finds their security blanket, and feels sadly smug with themselves that they think they've found the answer to the really problem which is he has no idea what the hell he's doing. I suggested to my messenger Jerry that he call his local police or highway patrol office, and tell them what's going on. They all have "traffic safety educators" who go to schools and organizations to inform them of the traffic laws. Ironically enough the one here had as it's slogan: "Drive 55 - No Excuses!" They love coming to places like delivery services (food, messenger, shipping, etc.) to let everyone know that what is posted is LAW! There is no "grace" mileage (many people think that you can add 10 miles per hour to whatever is posted, and be okay). I would "innocently" call them and ask if someone can come down to talk to your employee's... letting them know exactly what the law is. My messenger friend Jerry did that and an officer came down with videos, charts, etc., and really gave them a talk (and yes, with those gory speeding accident clips we all know from driver's Ed and traffic school!). You can suggest that he make it clear that there are "no excuses" to break the law, and that any employer that pressures you to do so, can be personally libel for any accident you cause during the course of your job! Now if nothing else will get him, that will, since I'm sure this guy either still lives with his mother, or lives in a tiny room above a garage or something. Since he obviously tells all his drivers to drive fast, and "no excuses" there's no way he can trace this to you, and you can even confined in the police what he is doing (you can talk to them on the phone, or send a letter without letting them know who you are), and telling them: "I have always been a responsible driver, and I respect both the laws and the police who enforce it, and I think it would be a great lesson for us all if you can come and educate us." They could come to your place of business as a "courtesy call", like the fire department does, and your boss would never know that he's been "outted"! For no other reason that to see the look on his face with an officer in uniform comes in and asks to talk to everyone about speeding, etc., would be worth all the trouble!

Mystery Boss

Dear Mystery Boss,

I am a Furniture Store Manager in a small town in Tennessee.  I have worked there for 2 years.  My starting pay was $8.00 an hour. After 2 months he raised my pay to $9.00 an hour – no commission.

I receive 2 weeks paid vacation and 3 paid holidays. There are no insurance benefits offered.

I work 42 hours a week, or more overtime if needed. My regular days off are on Mondays and Tuesdays. I have to work most holidays and I take my vacation days here and there,

The company also manufactures bedroom groups, so he has about 40 employees that work in the factory. 

I’m the only one that works in the retail outlet. 

I love my job and my boss is very good to work for but…He promised to give me a raise over a year ago, his idea by the way. I have made improvements to the company, and took on more responsibility. Customer service, purchasing, bookkeeping, inventory and the list goes on and on.

Well I found out that the boy on the end of the production line in the factory that has worked there two months makes the same pay as I do, he has allot less responsibility, get weekends off, no overtime and get to take his vacation a week at a time.

Also there is a 14 year old boy who works just on weekends that gets paid cash. He makes $8.00 an Hour!   I was shocked!  So he works ten hours on Saturday and clears $80.00 I work ten hours on Saturday

And clear $79.33 after taxes are taken out. What the hell is going on?  I’m 39 years old with over 20 years experience, never miss work, totally dedicated to the company, treat my customers like I’m getting paid a commission! And that 14 year old boy is making more than me!  I am so frustrated!

Well, I have got my sales figures together, and I am getting ready to make an appointment with my boss.

I know that I cannot bring up the pay situation of the other 2 guys but if he gives me the wrong answer I don’t know what I might say.  What do you think about all this?


Tyler, TX  


Dear IC,

What's going on is that you are being taken advantage of! Sadly, it seems that when I get this kind of letter about someone being "passed over" for a raise, or is underpaid, or has been promised a raise which never materialize... the person writing always seems to be the only one in the company who knows what they are doing! The clue here is how you talk about how you love your job, how loyal you are, and how good you are at what you do. And I believe you. And I'm sure your boss does too. But people like you... who are really a treasure, also tend to have an amazingly strong sense of pride in their work, and a terrific work ethic. 

With that comes something called respect and class... two elements totally missing in most bosses (and politicians, but that's a whole other discussion!). And with that respect, class, and that other great talent: professionalism, comes a quality in which you are not apt to complain. First, you need to really understand your worth. If you read any of the Off The Boss manual online, you will see that so many of you are worried about the "F" word... (that is being "fired"). At thirty-five, you are still young enough not to let this trouble you. And in fact, I really don't think any one of any age should either, but especially when you're younger. You already said that you have your "notes" in order, which would have been my first suggestion. Instead of showing him all the things you've done, as if to say: "where the hell's my raise"... what I would do is come up with one or two improvements... not big things... just some suggestions. 

The reason for that is you can then give him a list, and say: "Here are all the improvements I've made in the last year, and here are my sales... so you know how well those suggestions of mine worked... so here are a few MORE ideas of mine, which I believe could help as well as the others did. In that way you are showing him all you've done, but sugar coated the "pill" by making to more as evidence of how well your other ideas worked in order to give you foundation for some more improvement. He's have to be totally out to lunch not to see how much you've brought to the company. After that, if he doesn't take the hint, there's nothing wrong with "helping" him remember. 

But here's a nice way of doing it: "Listen, I could really use your advice. My rent (or mortgage, or whatever) is going up, which is really going to put a strain on my finances. I need to make a decision by the end of the month if I need to give notice and find another less expensive place, or if I can stay where I am, which is what I'd love to do. You know, Mr. Boss, last year you mentioned that you were gong to give me a raise. Can you let me know when that's going to go into effect, so I can decide what to do about my living situation. I mean, if things don't change, I may have to move away from here to find less expensive housing... I do have some prospect in (name a city or state), with a possible job that will pay more... what do you think, Mr. Boss?"

In that way, you've shown him your worth, and you've "reminded him" of the raise you were supposed to get, and you've said, in a very subtle way that if he doesn't give it to you, he may end up losing his best worker. Of course he could say: "take the other job". I doubt it, but you must always be prepared for anything. However that's not a bad thing, for if he does say that, what he's saying is: "I have no intention of ever giving you a raise, you are in a dead end job, and I'll exploit you for as long as I can, and then dumb you." Knowing that, you then have to ask yourself... do you really want to be working there? If you know he is exploiting you and has no intention of giving you any advance... why stay?

Mystery Boss

”IC” took our current Mystery Boss' advice and wrote us back with an update 

Dear Mystery Boss,

First of all thank you for responding to my e-mail.  You gave me encouragement and helped me realize that I was being taken advantage of.

So here is the update.  I met with my boss on Friday.  I gave him a sales report, a list of my responsibilities, updates I've made for the company since hire date, and future goals I had in mind. 

He read the papers I gave him and said, "okay now that I know how great you are, what are you wanting? How rude!  I told him I was not trying to show him how great I was, I was just trying to be professional and show him updates I've made to the company and my future goals.  Then I said you mean you don't know why I'm here? He said "I have a pretty good idea."  I said well I want a raise. 

 He asked how much of a raise I wanted. I asked him what he thought, he said "You called this meeting" Which pissed me off!  I said okay I thought it might be better for you to pay me a salary of $600.00 a week.  He said he could not do that, but he would give me a dollar raise on the hour. Which that took my pay from $9.00 to $10.00 an hour.  I was not satisfied with that.  So I calmly said that "I know I shouldn't say this to you, but you know I'm the type of person that says what's on there mind and what's is really bothering me is that I just can't believe that a 14 year old boy is bringing home more money than me,  and if I need to take over his responsibilities in order to get my raise then that's what I'll do" Again, how stupid of me to say that when I have more than enough to do.   Well, needless to say that made him mad. So then he said "Well that's what I get for letting people know my business", I told him that that was just an small example of why I thought I should get my raise.  He said well I'll just get rid of him.  I guess he was trying to make me feel bad, but what he doesn't know is that I could care less about that 14 year old boy that lives at home with mom and dad with no bills to pay.   

But then! he turned around and said he would also pay me 5% on everything over $12,000.00 gross profits.  So I thought, well I better be satisfied with that.  It sounds fair to me I guess.  He tries to make me feel bad about this, but he is the one that brought up the idea to give me this raise over a year ago, and I promise he would not have made a move if I would not have approached him.  How stupid of me to think that I was in the forefront of his mind.  He was not even thinking about me!  After he gave me the raise, can you believe that I still feel sorry for him at times, but then I think he must not care about my feelings or he would not of tried to make me feel so bad for asking for what he promised me.  I swear I think he went to some sort of school for intimidation.  He is really good at intimidating people, I mean he tops the cake in intimidation.  Well it all worked out thank God. You know he is no different than me,  except for his big ass ego and intimidation that I refuse to ever let bother me again! End of story!

Well mystery boss,  thank you for being there for me, I appreciate it!


Dear Mystery Boss,

Hi- I work in a factory which uses the employees in many departments and situations(skills).  Most of the equipment is critical to the production line.  If one piece goes down, the line goes down.  Anyway, we have had a certain same piece of equipment go down 3 times in two months for the same reason - misuse.  Anyway, while I was in my dept. I noticed something going on across the way in another dept. with this certain piece of equipment.  It was a new person so I inquired as to his knowledge of his job and he replied he had not yet been instructed though he was told to do the job.  I promptly went to the boss who said he couldn't send help to that site so I returned to the site and instructed the guy go get the supervisor over all of them and get the correct and full instructions BEFORE using the equipment.  They did this and in the meantime the plant manager arrived to learn that the supervisor and lead person had once AGAIN permitted operation of critical equipment to be misused simply by instructing employees on the operation of it. 

I stay in hot water because I catch things like this!  I am just a lowly employee - and one of the oldest ones in the whole plant yet when I am put on the production line I am also told to take up the slack of others.  At times I am running 3-5 times more product down the line until I can't function.  I KNOW my supervisor and lead person both have to be the most incompetent pair I've seen in a long time yet they say I am the one that is out of place.  What am I to do?


Salmon, ID


Dear LB,

Okay, so let me get this straight, you say you are "one of the oldest ones in the whole plant yet when I am put on the production line I am also told to take up the slack of others.  At times I am running 3-5 times more product down the line until I can't function..." You also say that those above you are totally incompetent (rule of thumb, having done this for so long... all those above everyone are incompetent... they don't want anyone who knows what they are doing, because if they did, the "bosses" would be found out and out on their asses!). This is a hard answer, since the obvious one is to get out of that job while you still have your sanity, and health. You'll see on this page a lot of my answers have a theme about knowing when you're in a dead-end job and getting the hell out now. However I also know that the job situation is this country, especially in the last five years has been so abysmal that it's not that easy. If you live, for example in Flint, Michigan, and have are one of the lucky few still working for what's left of GM, and you're getting kicked around for low pay, and you have a wife and kids and a mortgage, some money is better than no money. So that advice of "then... quit!" doesn't always wash in these days. The next best thing then is to take a "priority inventory" on your own life. You need to sit down with a piece of paper, and really make two columns. In one you put the things that make you happy, and that make life worth living, and in the other, you put in your goals. Be honest. Not what you think you should put, or what your mother would like to see you put, but really... what you personally want out of life. I mean this. There are a lot of people out there, who, once they do this inventory, realize that they do indeed get a great amount of pleasure going to their favorite watering hole at night and jawing with their friends, watching some ESPN, drinking a few beers, and having some hot wings and fries, maybe some pool, going out on a friend's boat on weekend, or dirt biking... or whatever. And they are also just fine with living in their small one bedroom over the power lines, or the trailer, or with their in-laws, and tinkering at night in the garage on that remote controlled airplane, which they take out to the field with their son on Saturday, and frankly they really don't want to end up a millionaire, or a big boss they like their life just the way it is. And that usually means they have to deal with a crap-job, with crap people above them. 

But the trade off is worth it. Hey, most of us have crap jobs, But they allow us the little pleasures in life. I've said this before, but one of my favorite lines is: "weep for the little things that make you glad". Which simply means... we need to learn to celebrate the little simple gifts of life, and if it means dealing with a silly job and an even sillier boss, then so be it. It's a means to an end. If that's the case, if you really see that you can have all the things in column "A" that bring you happiness with the job you have, and in column "B" you see that you really, honestly, deep down inside, have no real desire to move upward... then "Zen" out. Don't take the job so seriously. Stop trying to improve things. Just do your job, and laugh at all the asshole around you, since they are allowing you to have the kind of lifestyle you truly enjoy. And there's nothing wrong with that. Of course on the other hand, if you find that you are not enjoy life, and you really want to evolve, or grow, or move up the "ladder", then you have to take the initiative to get out of the rut. 

You can look around where you are and see if there's a job you'd like to someday have, and begin the process of letting it be known and working towards that, or you can also start looking around for a job that does give you pleasure, and more important will bring you to the goals you want. As you get older, you find that having lots of money, or fame, or a big car, really, truly does not bring happiness, or a great quality of life. What does is being a peace with yourself, your life and your surroundings. And if you can have that in your job, then use that as a weapons to laugh at those who bust you at every turn, since even though they get your goat, they are also giving you that peace. If the peace isn't there, then you have to fight the war to win it!

Mystery Boss

Dear Mystery Boss:
What do you do if you come to work everyday and your boss never talks to
you. She doesn’t acknowledge if your early, dressed well, handling a
situation well, or anything else. Everytime that she talks to you she huffs
and puffs and takes all of her frustrations out on you.? She changes all of
her plans and doesn’t tell you when your next meeting is, when she is out or
in for that matter. She doesn’t communicate with you at all? the only
time that we communicate is when i go to her, but if i do she just shoots
off orders for me, and if i tell her about something she does that i dont
like, she tries to turn it around on me and say that i have an attitude or
problem, i dont talk right, or react right.?

Maywood, CA


Dear RR:
Well, heck... I don't know what you are complaining about... you've just described 99% of the Bosses in the world! Seems to be a boss, you have to have all the attributes of your boss! Really. But hey, that doesn't make you feel any better. I've written this before, but since this is the number one complain of employee's, I think it's worth repeating. Your boss sounds like most of them (hey, I'm one, so I should know)... in that they have no life outside their jobs. And in fact, like most bosses, they are terrified that they will lose their power position, and since it's all they have... they are doubly terrified. I mean, we all know where elephants go to die, but where to do bosses go? It's scary for them! Really. If you even dig a little bit you will find that a boss that acts like yours has a miserable home-life. Either they are single, or in a dead-end relationship. They get to love... not physically or emotionally. So they create their own vicious circle... they lash out at others, or worse, go into their own protective shell. And tell me... what happens to people who lash out or stick their head in the sand? They are ignored by others. People around them make a real effort NOT to be around them. So they are more isolated, which only exacerbates the situation. So how to you break that circle? As I've said before... the big questions: have you ever smiled at your boss? I'm not talking about kiss-ass or brown nosing. But have you ever come in and truly made them feel good. Gave them a good hello? Really asked them how they are and listened and cared? When was the last time you asked them to join you for lunch? Or asked for their advice. Not only for something in the workplace, but also maybe something in your own life. Nothing drastic... maybe, if they are male, about a car you are thinking about, or tires, or a computer... and if a woman... maybe something you need to wear to a function, or about something in your home. When was the last time you thanked them for something, or complimented them. Yes, YOU are the one who should get the compliments, and most bosses have an almost psychotic aversion to saying anything positive to their employee's, but again, when does anyone say anything to them, unless it's obvious they want something. I mean, how about including them in a social thing... again a lunch or something, or say something nice. How about, when you go somewhere, you bring some little thing back as a gift... just saying: "I saw this and thought you'd find it fun". Nothing elaborate or expensive. And the big thing here... you don't ask for anything in return. Not a favor, not more time off, not a raise. Believe me, as a boss, they know the difference, and if you do something positive and ask for nothing in return, it may take a little time for it to soak into their very thick skulls, but evidentially it does. They think: "wow, that was a nice thing, and for no other reason than they were being nice!" Really... it does finally get to them. And the huge bonus to you... they become nicer people, and your job environment becomes something you can tolerate, or even enjoy! Try it! You'll like it, and so will they!

Mystery Boss

Dear Mystery Boss:

I work for a large nationwide company who contracts rehab services out to long term care facilities. I do physical therapy and have worked in long term care for several years, having worked in other rehab settings before that. I love my work, enjoy the staff in all four of the buildings we are in at our immediate area, and look forward to going to work everyday. Around the first of November, our rehab company's state manager appointed me as "Point Person" for one of our four buildings, one that I already provided daily P.T. services in (and still do). So I already knew the staff and most of the residents in that building, and it was a very good "fit." Then our rehab state manager announced that our area was getting a new speech therapist who would be managing the building I had and another one of our four, effective immediately. This person had no long term care experience and her management experience was with the newspaper years ago before she was a therapist. Things have never been worse. This person stayed with our company about six weeks and now has taken a job as rehab manager with another company, giving only 2 wks notice. For some reason, the state manager has passed me over for this position not once but now twice, even after I thought I had shown I could do the job well. Am I missing something, or what is going on here? Does the state mgr just have poor judgment, or is it something about me? Short of leaving, is there anything I can do or should I just mind my own business and hope for a promotion in the future sometime?
North Carolina


Dear J.:
I never liked the expression, "there is misery in numbers", but sometimes it is good to know that at least you are not alone in this very common complaint. Of all the questions we get, the concept that a very qualified, experienced, hardworking individual is passed up for promotion, when a total nim-rod gets the job comes to us at least a dozen times a week. But let's cut to the chase here. You say that you have been passed up "not once, but twice" by this individual. First off, you must ask yourself, what kind of relationship do you have with this person? Have you created a professional "friendly" relationship with them? Have you talked to them about the work, asked their advice, complimented them (hey, I'm not talking "brown nosing" here, everyone needs a pat on the back now and then... especially bosses!). Have you made it a point to maybe have a lunch with them? Or to talk to them about their own life (for example: "so, how did your son's soccer game go this weekend?"). So many times in life, when we get what we believe to be strange or inappropriate reactions for people that there is something wrong with THEM. And in a few cases, that's true (see our "Bag Lady Effect" as just one example!). But you say this has become almost chronic. You need to look hard, and with extreme honesty into yourself to see why you are being passed up. Yes, as I said, it's true that the crap rises to the top in all businesses, but for the most part, when you stick with it, and you truly are good, and have good people skills, you get your reward as well. In your case that doesn't seem to be happening. Frankly I think this person does have a problem with you. It could simply be jealousy because they are threaten by you... you are better than them, and they know it, and fear that if you are given more power, you may eventually over take them! They'd rather go down with the ship, than have a captain that drives it better than they do! Look around and see truly how people react to you... fellow workers, those below you, at your level and above. But most important, analyze what your relationship is with this individual. And if it is that important to you, slowly try to fix it. As I said, without being obvious, let them know that you respect them. Talk to them about things outside business. Ask them for advice in your personal life... nothing that important, just something that makes them feel like you respect what they have to say. Don't be needy, just be friendly. 

Take any fears they have about you, or misconceive notions away from them and throw them out the window. I had a friend who was a boss of a big company. She thought she was loved by her workers. One day she was doing some dictating into a digital recorder in the lunch room, and was called away suddenly. When she came back she realized she had left the recorder on. At first she heard her workers talking about the stuff you talk about in a lunch room, and then the subject of her came up. At first she thought "oh, how wonderful, I'm going to hear all these compliments!" Instead they went on with a plethora of complains about her, trashing her like Wednesday garbage! At first she was hurt, then furious, but then she realized that this was the best thing that could have happened. She was under the assumption that all was well, but then realized there was a lot she wasn't aware, a lot of things she was doing that was hurting others. We can't all bug the minds of our coworkers, but if there are problems, we must realize that something is not right... and to fix it, you need to do the next thing... start communicating.

Dear Mystery Boss,
I work in one of those “big box” stores in the stock room. My “exciting” job, which is the graveyard shift (12:00 AM to 7:00 AM) is restocking the shelves. We are given a half-hour lunch break at 4:00 AM. It’s a quiet time for me to eat my “gourmet” Top Ramen and work on my poems. Here’s my problem. My boss comes into the lunch room and stands behind me and claims that I am “sluffing” off by writing poetry. HUH?! This is my lunch hour, which is a joke, since it’s actually a lunch HALF hour. By law, or just common decency, aren’t I allowed to do whatever I want during my break? This boss says that if I keep writing poetry, she’ll report me. What’s your take on all this?  

J. Y

Colorado Springs, Colorado



Dear J.Y.,

My take is, for the sanity of all the workers in your big box store, you should all pitch in and get your boss a life! The fact that she’s even in the lunch room on your break looking over your shoulder’s and reading your poetry, let alone making an issue of it, shows not only a pettiness, the likes of which we here at Off The Boss have never seen (and believe me, we see lots of petty boss stuff!), but shows a total lack of people skills. However, finding bosses who have no concept how to do their job is what we’re all about! We have had our crack research team check out general rules of conduct in the work place, and we have found that even in non-union jobs (which I assume you have, since “big box” stores are virtually all anti-union), what you do on your break is your business. Of course if you were selling illegal drugs to our co-workers by the coffee machine, or were running a bookie operation from the lunch room pay phone there might be a problem! But believe me, sitting quietly at a table enjoying the wonders of Shrimp Flavored Noodle Soup, and writing poems, does not constitute, in any way, shape or form a violation of your work! I am serious when I say that this kind of behavior from your boss shows deep signs that she is a troubled person, who is using her job as the manager of the grave yard shift, to throw around some tiny bit of power, because she feels that, in her own sad life, she is powerless. 


We have also found that people who display special skills, whether it be in drawing, music, writing (as you have), or basically have something of interests outside their work are usually singled out by bosses who live empty lives. They are jealous of your ability to express yourself… to find enjoyment in something like writing poetry. So, first off… remember, she has no basis to jeopardize your job, and in fact, if she tires to fire you for such “behavior”, you have a wonderful law suit against the company… “fired for writing poetry on their break” would go over just dandy in a court of law!!! On another front, I was also serious about “pitching in” to get our boss “a life”. This is truly a lost person. She is to be pitied, more than hated. Here’s some suggestions: Try including her in on the break. Ask for her advice, ask her about her life, find something she is interested in. I’ll bet if she lives alone, she has fish or a cat. Ask her about them. Share jokes with her, or even invite her to a morning “breakfast” after work with you and some of your co-workers. It takes a very lonely, unhappy person to stand over an employee and bust them for writing poetry. I think you’ll find if you make her feel more a part of the group, give her some sense that you respect her, or at least listen to her, she will not only be a more decent person to have to work for, but your job in general will have less tension surrounding it. Hey, why not write a poem about her… one that is both complimentary, and maybe a bit humorous, (so you don’t sound like a kiss ass). Wouldn’t that be something if she asks you what you’re doing and you say: “I’m writing a poem for you!”. I think you’ll see a whole different reaction from her!


Mystery Boss

Dear Mystery Boss,

I am a nurse and I was recently involved in a situation where another nurse felt "stressed" and ended up yelling at her boss and stating "you may as well fire me now". Her supervisor has given her a written corrective action but the nurse has rallied support for her actions (of course, her version) and the other staff members feel she is being "persecuted". She has also elicited support from the physicians and therefore has been "airing our dirty laundry" to our customers. I am in a quandary because I was witness to the action and I believe the nurse was "out of line". I was also witness to her inappropriate interactions with the physicians. I believe we should always treat each other in a professional manner. But... I am in a vast minority. Am I wrong?

Vast Minority


Dear Vast Minority,

Well, first off congratulations on one of the best questions we’ve received all year! You bring up a very interesting situation. You know OFF THE BOSS is known to be the employee’s “safe house” against the onslaught of the horrific dumb-ass Boss… and it is just that… don’t get us wrong. However, it’s interesting just how many Bosses write to us, and even more amazing is that a good portion of our book sales of our OFF THE BOSS: A SURVIVAL MANUAL come from bosses buying them in bulk to give out to their employees. Point being… sometimes (and it’s NOT VERY OFTEN, and I’m a boss, so I can say stuff like that!)… bosses can be right!


Yours is a very good case in point. Now, first I want to say, that being in a vast minority is not a bad thing. In fact, if it wasn’t for the “vast minority” in this country, we’d all be working for one large oil-fed corporation, using our Constitution as packing material. As the recent illegal war in Iraq as shown, the mass majority who were climbing all over each other to support this oil-for-blood tragedy were wrong, and it was the “vast minority” who asked good questions, and felt there was something mighty fishy going on, who were shut up, stepped on, and otherwise called traitors or worse. In fact some horrific neo-nazi woman writer even came out with a book calmly saying that the “vast minority” who were opposed to the war and the way the government was carrying on should be executed! But what’s kept crazed criminal minds like that writer and her ilk from taking total control is the vast minority who speak out… they are the child who scream: “but the emperor has no clothes”, and make the mass majority wake up! Believe me, it's the vast minority who show just how wonderful our system called free speech and democracy works!

Okay, I’m off my soap box, but the point I’m making is that it takes great guts and courage to go against the out-of-control trail of mob mentality. Both in politics, and especially in the office situation. Until Ashcroft makes it illegal to speak your mind in this country… the worse that can happen to you (at least at the moment), if you go out in public and talk about the “Madness of King George” is you’ll get some mis-spelled e-mails from the “Lush Windbag” crowd. However, in the work place, if you speak your mind, either against, and actually more important FOR a boss, in a situation… it could be both a career, if not a literal suicide!

Yes, you are right, not only should we all treat ourselves in a professional manner, but in your case, when it literally IS a matter of life and death it is imperative! Now you say you witnessed this nurse doing some things that were not at all professional. Again, remember, you don’t work at a warehouse or at a supermarket, where, if an employee is unprofessional the worse that can happen is someone gets the wrong order, or a sale isn’t rung up. But in hyour case, you’re talking about an individual whose unprofessional behavior could cost lives!

So no. You are not wrong. You are both right and smart to say something about it. Go to whomever is in charge of such things, and as calmly and eloquently as you’ve e-mailed me… tell them what you know. And what you’ve seen. Be unemotional. Don’t take personal “swipes” at the individual. Just tell it like it is. And sleep well at night, knowing you have done the right thing, and perhaps helped keep someone else, especially those who put their lives in your hands from undue suffering.

Go to it! And yes, at times, even employees can be wrong and a boss (shutter), needs your help!


Mystery Boss

Dear Mystery Boss,

A question for you to ponder,

After telling me that I disappointed a customer in which he had me sign a write up(of course I deny the allegations and I always fess up when I mess up) I was really upset and was crying, 2 weeks ago 1 was past up for a position that someone else got( I have four years experience, and seniority they have 1) I also cried, I was so disappointed, anyway after the write up he made a comment to me about the times that I cried, I don’t cry just to cry, he said 'I don’t think you have a handle on your emotions' I should tell you that he is not my direct boss but my bosses boss . can he say that to me ? what would be the reasons that he can or cant? yes I am a female.

The Crier


Dear Crier,

Your question reminds me of the time a friend of mine asked me for a favor. She told me about a girlfriend of hers (we'll call her "Wendy") who was very beautiful, smart, sexy, had a good sense of humor, but couldn't seem to get a boyfriend or even have a date with a man that lasted more than once. She asked if I'd have lunch with Wendy, and see what was the problem, since my friend just couldn't understand why this girl was home alone on the weekends. So I met with her. My friend didn't exaggerate. Wendy was indeed very attractive, with a lovely figure. She was charming, and laughed easily, and was indeed bright. So there I was poking my fork into my salad, totally confused, as to what was wrong with the picture, just as my friend had been.. That was until about ten mintues into the lunch, when Wendy said to me: "So, do you want children?" I assumed it was a general question, so I said: "Yes, some day, with the right girl, I'd love to get married and have children". Her face suddenly turned hard, as if her evil twin took over. She said to me in a voice that would have scared Linda Blair: "I see, so 'some day', huh? Not right now, is that what you're telling me?" I thought she was joking and I said: "Well, no, not right here in the restaurant, we could get arrested!". She didn't laugh. Instead, she pointed her fork at me in a way that actually made me try to remember if I had mailed in my last month's HMO check, and said: "So, I'm not the right girl... is that it? You wouldn't have children with me? That's really what you're saying... I'm not good enough, you just want me for sex, and nothing else... but let me tell you something... I'm not just looking for a good time... my clock is running out of good times, and damn it, I need to know NOW if you are going to have children with me, because if not, I just can't waste my time!" For once in my life, I was actually a bit tongued tied, as I realized she was serious, and I guess the silence wasn't a good enough answer. She slammed down her fork, which did indeed fly only inches from my left cheek and stormed out of the restaurant. I sort of waited in there for another half an hour, terrified that if I left before I would have been jumped in the parking lot... and then, feeling a little secure that perhaps she had indeed left, looking behind me all the way, I ran out to my car and drove off... quickly. The next day my friend came over and said: "So how was the lunch with Wendy?". I tried to be diplomatic and said: "Ahhh, strange". She looked at me a bit puzzled and said: "Strange? But Wendy said she had a great time, and was expecting you to call her again!"


So what's the point of that story? Well, it's amazing how many of us act a certain way around people, not realizing the effect we have, and then are totally confused when they seem to act "strange" to us. You are obviously a sensitive person, and as you admit, cry easily. Then you wonder why you are passed up for promotion, and wonder if a boss's boss can "ride you" about it.(Yes, he can). If you cry, it also may mean that you take your job waaaaaaay to personally... give it way too much priority in your life. Like "Wendy" freaking out about having children, it becomes so important, that you come off desperate, and a bit "off" to people. Wendy's concern about her biological time-clock is a valid one. And she has every right, in her mind, to be thinking about someone in her life who would want a commitment and children. But when you meet someone for the first time, someone who actually was only there to help her, not even as a date, and literally ten minutes into the conversation you start wanting to check their sperm count, you must step back and realize you are wound a bit too tight! I mean, no one wants someone who comes off that "intense" around. You, like Wendy, need to chill out a bit. You need to find a life outside of your job. You need to try and see what it is about the job that effects you so much that it makes you cry. Crying is a good thing, and most people go to therapy for years so that they can let go. But like everything in life, there are moments for everything, and limits to how much... if you are simply an emotional woman, you need to learn how to hold those emotions in, and find a private place to let go. And as I said, you need to see what is affecting you in the first place. I have a feeling, as I said, that you don't have much of a personal life, or the one you have is unfulfilling. Change that. It's as simple as that. Unhook your "car" from the roller-coaster of your job. Those that hook their sense of happiness, and self esteem to their work are in for a very bad emotional roller-coaster ride, since each day has its ups and downs. By "unhooking" yourself, you can take those ups and downs for what they are... part of "life's ride", and not take them personally.


There's a wonderful movie called "Broadcast News". Holly Hunter plays a woman, who, like you, puts everything into her work. There's nothing else in the world. And she too is very emotional. However she's learned to deal with it by going to work before everyone else, sitting at her desk, when no one can see her, take the phone off the hook, close the door, and cry her eyes out. Then, getting that out of her system, she takes a breath, puts the phone back on the hook, opens the door, and can be a balance, and strong co-worker, who excels in her job, because everyone thinks she's in control. And that's what this is about. In our society, "crying" means, to those around being "out of control", and frankly, who wants to promote someone who they feel is not in control of the situation?



Mystery Boss

This question comes all the way from "MC" in LITHUANIA! Good to know that "boss-dumb" is a universal problem!

Dear Mystery Boss:

First let me explain you that I'm not working in the
States or Canada, so the employee's right here are not
the same as they are in States and Canada. I've also
worked in States few years back. But I had to came
back home because of my family.

I worked in a company who's involved in design and
manufacturing. The main problem of our company is the
financial problem. I'm in the middle management at
managerial position. Here we get salary at the end of
every month, not like every week as I used to get paid
when I was in United States. We are supposed to get
paid by the 5th of every month for the previous month.
But they usually don't pay before the 10th of the
month and every month it's getting late and late. Now
the situation is so worse that I'm afraid that someday
they will say that they can't pay this month because
they don't have money in the bank. They have also
committed at the time of hiring, to pay me one month
extra salary at the end of my first year. When I
discussed with them, CEO of the company agreed that he
committed and he himself gave me that offer, but he is
making excuse that he can't pay me because of the
company's situation. Besides they send me to different
customer's site and I also have to travel for
purchasing and the manufacturing site using company's
car which they have given me. They don't give me any
advance for the fuel or the maintenance of the car. I
have to pay from my own pocket which they reimburse
later. It also takes them a month or sometimes two
months to reimburse my money. They also owe me money
for some extra deduction of my tax, which they didn't
pay for last 3 months. After that I've applied for
another job, but because of small market here,
somebody from the other company where I applied told
my boss that I've applied there. My boss used his
links and I could not get that job. I don't know
what to do in this situation. I've talked to my boss
many times about my situation, but he always speak
good words but practically he does nothing. Please help me. It sounds more like a bad business deal I got rather than a working (employee's) problem.



Dear "CM",
After reading your very detailed question, you said at the end: “It sounds more like a bad business deal I got rather than a working (employee's) problem.” Well, yes, You said it! It reminds me of the joke of two men, Bill and Paul, who bump into each other after having not seen each other in years. Paul says to Bill: “Bill! How are you.. it’s been like twenty years?! Are you still acting?” And Bill says: “Well, Paul, it’s been tough. I did a few jobs and they never paid me, and I can’t seem to get any work, and I go from audition to audition and they say I am wrong, and every agent I’ve been with who owned me money ripped me off and I’ve never seen a cent, and my wife left me years ago, and I’m so miserable!” And Paul says: “I don’t understand… why not try something else with your life?” A Bill looks at him surprised and shocked and says: “Are you kidding… and quit showbiz!?”

I sort of feel the same thing reading your “life story” here. I mean, it’s obvious that you are not working for a company with a future, but a scam artist who is ripping off your life! I mean, they aren’t paying you, they are making you pay for company expenses, like transportation, they don’t pay your taxes, they have no loyalty or show any trust, you are naturally concerned that you will never see another penny and they will screw you (which, if everything you say is true… is something that will definitely happen!), etc., etc.

Hey, I’ll bet there’s a lot of company’s that would like an employee like you who will work for nothing, pay for all expenses, let taxes and other fees lapse… and continue to work, because you’re afraid you won’t get money owed, which to your own admission you probably won’t see anyway!

Are you getting my drift? Unfortunately your situation isn’t unusual. People get into a job situation, with a boss who mistreats them, screws them, literally and figuratively, holds back salaries, doesn’t pay (in this country), their FICA or SS or other payments that will afford the employee unemployment insurance, disability and social security, make them pay for company expenses with the promise of reimbursement, which they never see… and yet they stay at the job, because they are afraid to be out of work!

Sounds to me, you’d make more money being out of work, than working for this creep!

Working is very much like personal relationships. How many times have our friends spilled their guts out to us, telling us about their awful husband or wife, or boyfriend, or girlfriend who treats them like dirt, screws around on them, steals them blind, physically or emotionally abuses them… yet they stay in that relationship because “I don’t want to be alone!” When we hear those stories, we always think: “Why the hell are you still in this… get out now… cut your losses, though you think there is nothing out there, and being alone is a fate worse than death, once you get out from under this blind masked of a rut that you're in and see the real daylight out there, you’ll suddenly realize how stupid you were, and how much your life has improved!

I say “ditto” to your situation. Though I’m sure all you say is true, about it being a hard job situation out there… for the love of God… what good do you have being in a situation where you don’t get paid, they screw you around, and in fact, YOU are putting money into the company by paying for company expenses and not being reimbursed?

In the job situation, as in relationships, when you stand in one bad place too long, a kind of "chewing gum" ends up glued to your shoes, and you find you can’t move. You stay in that one place no matter how awful the situation. And it gets harder and harder to lift your feet and move on. But that’s exactly what you have to do. You have somehow convinced yourself that this is the only job in the world, and even though they don’t pay you, they abuse you, they lie to you… it’s better to be there than to “quit showbiz”.

You somehow think this boss controls your life. You looked for another job, and he found out, and you think that he is now somehow this all-seeing-all-knowing "Wizard of Oz" who throws out bolts of lighting and destroys all your other possibilities in life. So, tell me, does this mean that you just cower to him now? You never move, never change? Believe me, his power is only in your mind. (Read some of the wonderful stories in OFF THE BOSS online to help you with this problem, especially the "INNER BOSS"!) Get out of There, and put it all behind you. Being free of this “dysfunctional relationship” will force you, in a good way, to find a better job and life, and I promise you, in the end, though it can be rough at first, you will look back and say: “how the hell did I allow myself to be abused for so long?”

The hardest part is the first step. Literally. Pull out of that "chewing gum" stuck to the floor life, and free yourself of a monster that is controlling you. A monster that is made powerful only because you let him. There are no second acts in life. This is not a rehearsal for something later. This IS your life. And it goes by way too fast. So don’t waste it in “showbiz”… make it a life worth living!

Our next question comes from "JD" of Indianapolis, IN... ahh, back in the good 'ol USofA!

Dear Mystery Boss,

My Boss is a real asshole. I have worked for the company for 14 years and we  just got a new contract which was mostly due to the work I have been doing.   So what does the asshole do he hires a person with nine months experience and gives them the the new work. So to get revenge I am looking for a new job once I have one, I will visit the office and with pizza for all the staff. Once everybody is their including the walking talking rectum. I am going to stand and tell him to take his job and shove it up his ass so far it gets stuck in his throat.



Dear "JD",
Well! Good for you! I would hope that your great sense of being in control of your life has at least a little to do with reading through some of the "lessons" in Off The Boss! You really got it down right. Don't let your job or your boss rule your life... don't think that there are no more options in
life. Yes... find another good job... THEN, find a creative way to get your thoughts out to your boss... a nice way that won't land you in jail! That's the whole point of Off The Boss... you can get control of your life, and get "revenge" without spending the rest of your life with a cell mate named "Bubba". May we suggest if you do "off" your boss by telling him what you think... do it calmly... without a reason for them to think of you as just someone who has gone off the edge. There is nothing more powerful that
someone who tells someone else off in a calm, controlled, well-thought-out speech... showing them that they don't control or scare them any more. If you show anger, then you are saying that they still have a hole on you, that they still "effect" you. Nothing more wonderfully damaging is when a person realizes that they have no power over you, so that you can talk to them on an even level... they are not OVER you anymore. You'll find that the quieter and more eloquent you are in your "pizza speech" the more effect you will have! So go to it, and remember... hold the anchovy's!


Our next question comes from "Shocked and Confused" of Tightwad, MO...

Dear Mystery Boss,

I was fired from my job by the director of my company on the statements of the program director.  Instead of talking to me or asking me anything about her accusations (which I never heard) the director (who had been gone for a week previous to this) fired me for insubordination, I asked for proof of insubordination and she said it was the way I was treating the PD, and that I had to have respect for the PD, and that I just didn't seem happy there anymore. Now I have NEVER had problems with bosses before. I worked at this facility for two and a half years with no trouble, all of a sudden I'm called into the office, and fired. I had previously filled out a evaluation on the facility and it wasn't very uplifting, but it was the truth, and they had also given these evaluations to us. I think I was fired on this basis, not of insubordination. What do you make of this?
"Shocked and Confused" in Missouri


Dear "Shocked and Confused",

Someone a whole smarter than me once said: "Some of us can see the forest for the trees, others can see the forest WITHOUT the trees". Now what exactly does that mean? Simply that many times we state the obvious, we see the problem and the solution, yet we still say we're out in the woods! We think the solution, but we don't listen to ourselves!


You said it all right there in your e-mail. Yes, you WERE fired because of your evaluation. You bent some very sensitive, insecure and immature "children" out of shape, and they got back at you. Of course it had nothing to do with something someone said about you. Don't try to make any other sense out of this than what's right there. You seem like a very decent and honest person. That's a bad thing to be when you're swimming with sharks! Life doesn't work like an episode of Mayberry RFD all the time. The creeps, cons and crazies don't away get their fair-due at the end. Look at Enron and Anderson. We all know that when the dust settles a few low-level sacrificial lambs will be "slaughtered" with a kiss on the wrist (not even a slap for God sake!), and that the real "domestic terrorists" like Ken Lay will continue to laugh at the rest of us, living off the dead bodies of innocent employees he's raped and murdered. Fair? Not at all? Life? You betcha! As long as your boss holds the card, the table and the chips, he can cheat all he wants and there's nothing you can do about it.


Now... is that all meant to make you feel worse than you do? Of course not. That's not why I'm here. I'm here to try and make you feel better. Listen to something your boss said: "Perhaps you are not happy here". Now of course your boss said that as a patronizing thumbing in your face. But in fact, I'm sure there is a lot of truth there. I'm sure if you think about it, though you liked your part of the job (and I'm sure you did it beautifully), you really had no respect for the people you were working for. I'm also willing to bet that you've gotten into trouble purely because of the fact that you are good at what you do. As I've said many times... those above you, who are usually horrifically incompetent are down right threatened by you. No one who is without skills and is over their head in their position wants the person "below" them doing a great job. In their paranoiac mind, it makes them worry that you will show them up. So I'm sure this isn't the first time there has been tension and "words".


The good news is that you leave this job with you skills, intelligence, honesty and most important... dignity. I promise you, after some struggle, you will land on your feet at a job, in which you will find yourself so much happier. Sometimes you have to look at these miscarriages of justice as just that... miscarriages. When friends of mine have miscarriages (the real one's), I always tell them that as disappointing and heart-wrenching as it is, they must realize there was a reason for it. Nature was telling them that what they were creating inside them wasn't right... would never be right, and that they needed to start over. It kept them for a life of suffering and pain. I say the same to you. Think now if you still had that job. Did it really have a great future with these people? Would you really love to be there ten years from now? Are you really going to miss any of them?


Of course not. It's really a blessing. Were they assholes? Of course. That's why they are who they are. But the world is filled with assholes. It's our job to try not to fall into them!


As for what you can learn from this... obviously one thing you should change. No one really wants honest evaluations. By telling the truth, you solve nothing. More people than you think always look at them, even if they say they are confidential, and they ALWAYS know who wrote them. Believe me, I've been there, and each paper has a secret code somewhere on the form to let us know who is writing them. You serve no purpose by giving them the truth. You think anything you say will make a change? You think anyone will admit you were right? There are a million more subtle ways to make changes... writing that the boss can't wipe his own behind without a manual on the bathroom wall may feel good, but it only gives them the fuel to kiss your behind out of the place! Remember, legally, unless you are fired for race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, handicap, etc., a boss can fire you for any other reason they want.


As I said, this is a blessing. Take it as such. Sometimes we need someone to create that miscarriage to improve our lives. And I know yours will be improved from this!

Our next question comes from "Up In The Air" of Cando, ND...

I just got a new job... I really like the job, but the boss has everyone including me running scared, every shift we all wonder who she is going to single out to scream at... she seems to get mad over the strangest things! IF she doesn't find any thing that we have done wrong, she will find SOMETHING no matter how trivial...this job has a 90 percent turn over rate... there aren't a lot of jobs here in this small town, it took me over a year to find this job, as it is there just happened to be an opening... any one have any ideas on what to do?


Well there's good news and good news. Which do you want first? The good news is that your question (and work-in-hell-situation), is without a doubt the most common complaint we get here at Off The Boss... so you should know it's nothing personal, and you are NOT alone! The other good news is that a whole lot of your answers can be found on our site... free of charge. I suggest you go to "be your own inner boss", or especially "The Bag Lady Effect", both "tricks" will help enormously. What they basically say is that the problem that you are having is that you are give WAY too much power to your boss. Remember that most bosses are pathetic power-hungry little men and women, with no lives of their own... and therefore they use their little "fiefdom" in the workplace to try and find some kind of revenge for the horrid cards their own lives have given them. You will find, if you dig deep enough that your boss's home life and personal life is a shambles... that is why she is so miserable, and therefore, she must take her misery out on all of you in order to try and purge herself of her daily and nightly lonely and unsatisfied existence. 

Knowing that, you can therefore learn not to take the crap she throws at you personally. The only reason it has an effect on you is that you LET it effect you. In our "Bag Lady" effect on our site, you will learn that if you simply put the head of a homeless crazed bag lady on that of your boss, you will find you can cope with her assaults. Remember when you see a homeless person on a street corner screaming at you and accusing you of God knows what... it really doesn't bother you since you realize this is just a poor pathetic creature that is off their medication, and are shouting at inner demons... it has nothing to do with you. Therefore create the same effect with your boss. Think of them as that bag lady... since probably they too are off their medication and I know for a fact are screaming at their inner demons... it's just that you happen to be in the room, or the building at the time! Seems to me from reading your e-mail that you're someone who does have a life outside the office. You have people and things you enjoy...

Well, look at the job as a way to not only pay the bills, but allow you the things you love in life. Learn to laugh at the job... think of the job as something YOU are using, rather than the other way around. In other words... the job is allowing you to live your life... you are using it. It pays you, not the other way around. As long as you don't throw "wood" into the fire that is your bosses hateful self-loathing life... you will find that the heat doesn't get too horrific, and what heat does come from her ramblings will become very toleratable. It's only when we give them the power, as I said, and the heat to burn us that we are in trouble. Remember, they don't really have any power, it's just the power we give them. I know I've said that over and over here, but I can't stress it enough. What's the worse that's going to happen? If you don't allow her to get to you, the possibilities that she's going to fire you aren't that great, and even if she finally does... remember, and our statistics back this up... 79% of the people we've polled who have had to find another job have discovered that the next job paid more, and was a 100 times more enjoyable. So, you have it made either way. Either you learn not to let her ravings get to you... smile at her, and nod and do your job, and as I said don't throw fuel into her fire... and if the worse of the worse happens, you have an excellent chance of doing something better... with more pay. So... it's win... win. Go online and read the "Boss" stuff... it really will help. And if you want, we also do have a book... but that's all up to you. Oh, and don't forget to read: "Snowball In Hell", which is also online for free... you'll see what I mean! Hope that helps!

Our next question comes from "Suicidal" of Chimayo, NM...

Dear Mystery Boss,

My group's boss is very disengaged and stays out of the office quite a bit. This has been frustrating in terms of lack of management, such as stalled or no decisions, lack of workload balancing among group members, no goals provided, etc. But recently it is becoming more a matter of survival. With layoffs on the horizon, our group is feeling "left in the lurch" without a   champion or representation with upper management.  Is there any way to get our boss more involved? Should we speak to someone in upper management?   Everything seems like career!


Dear "Suicidal",
Well, first of all, as hard as this is to swallow… your boss is a real live human being (we'll take a few moments now for the shock to take hold and for you all to pick up your jaws from the floor). And, as a human being (in the very technical loose sense of the word, naturally), they are susceptible to the same fears, moods and foibles as real live human beings. That said, and understood, you may want to first ask yourself why is it your boss is not showing up? You say your boss is "disengaged". Do you mean they are not coming to the office at all? Are they staying out of the building… literally at home? Or, are they just not coming into your area to supervise. The point being… and one, when we try to think of them as having hearts and bodily functions… is that this behavior shows a strong sign of depression, illness, or worse. Seriously now. Is this strange behavior for this specific boss? Were they more active before, and now show signs of "disappearing"? You are right to worry, in that without a boss who is actively involved in your daily work, you and your position(s) can suffer from higher ups. The best way to get your boss involved is to first determined what is causing this behavior and then take action. If it seems your boss is okay in the personal department (health, family, financial, relationships, etc.), and yes, they DO have personal lives just like the rest of us, then perhaps you have to see what this "avoidance" is all about. Are they feeling "left out"? Do they know something you don't (like the whole company is going to go the way of Enron, so why bother?)… whatever it is, you have to approach them. Sit them down somewhere OUTSIDE the office… show a concern. Talk to them as if they really were a real live human being. Believe me, whatever the problem your boss would be thrilled to get this "monkey" off their back. I promise you they are not a happy camper right now, whatever the "mystery" is all about, and though they are terrible at reaching out for help… they are indeed drowning and need a helping hand. If it turns out that they are literally staying out of the office all together, then again, call them up. Show them your concern. I promise you if you ask if something's wrong, they will deny it… but gently press it. Be assertive… have you and your co-workers arrange a lunch somewhere near where the boss lives to talk to them. Again, remember, it's a scary place to be… "Boss-dom" (or as I like to call it "Boss-dumb"). 

They are the first to get shot at by those on top of the hill, and the first to get shot in the back by those behind them. So they feel isolated… and trust no one. Now perhaps they deserve all this… but what this is all about here is to make you and your co-workers lives a better place. Right? It's your happiness we're talking about. And frankly, if you can get your boss to open up… feel you guys care, get them involved again, it's YOUR work day happiness that will improve. Believe me, if you show this concern, and don't' take no for an answer… they WILL open up, and you will get them back in the "loop". Think of them as a wild horse, and you all as the "Horse Whisperer". You have to take this in steps… gently. You will get resistance at first… just like the boss is YOUR enemy… he sees you as THEIR enemy… so the olive branch will not be taken up so easily. But again… you'll be amazed how this "compassion"… no matter how much it's manufactures, or real, will make a difference. Think Gandhi. And good luck!

Our next question comes from "TTRU" of Graham, NC...

Dear Mystery Boss,

My husband recently became the president of the concrete company he's worked at for about two years. He has done this kind of work in his area for about 30 years and is very well known and has a loyal customer following, hence the reason his company wanted him to work for them so badly.

He became the president after the proceeding president's accidental death. Since then, he has taken on the title, along with several additional duties and responsibilities, but has not seen a pay raise.

His boss, the owner of the company, has made several comments from time to time, such as "bear with me, I'm going to take care of you" to "I need to give some people some raises."

He's even called my husband in for "important meetings" after hours, and when we thought he was calling him in to give him a raise, he ends up talking about something totally unimportant, almost as though he wanted to call him in for a raise, but changes his mind about talking about it at the time.

I've told my husband that he needs to just come out and ask his boss for a raise and quit beating around the bush - all he can do is say yes or no. But my husband is so chicken to just come out and ask for it. My husband says he feels like he makes pretty good money now, and his boss takes pretty good care of him, that he would be asking for too much.

He's making the same as he did when he first started working for them two years ago and has seen nothing extra since taking on the new title.

Is my husband right in not pushing it, or should he just find the guts to confront his boss and just ask?

Thanks for your help!



Dear "TTRU",

Thank you for your question. I have found in the past that when someone has a long question , the best thing to do is look near the end of the e-mail, since a lot of what this is really about comes out. I notice that you say that you think your husband is "chicken", yet your husband has said to you that he feels that he is well paid and taken care of, even though he hasn't received a raise. I think first of all, you need to be very honest about one thing. Is it YOU who wants a raise, or is it your husband. Is he really "chicken", or does he really have a point that even though he now has a better "title", the money he's been making for the last two years is actually reasonable. Sometimes the "partner" in a situation like this is more apt to push for a raise of their significant other because of how they see their quality of life, and in so doing, really destroy it for both parties. You must ask yourself if you are being too pushy in this situation... or if this is a genuine gripe. Now don't answer that too quickly. The first reaction is always... no... it really should be making more money... since, let's face it, we'd ALL like to be making more money! The point is... is this the time? Is he really, as he said "well taken care of"... or is he being used. If you can take a breath, get out in the sunlight... take a walk, have a nice meal, then come back and still say... no, I'm not just thinking of me... he really is being used... then of course go for it. This "raise" issue raises a lot of interesting OFF THE BOSS concepts... the most interesting being that people somehow think that asking a boss for a raise is tantamount to asking him to jump out a window or asking if you can steal his car and bank account and go to Vegas for a long weekend. It's not like asking him is going to cause such a shock-wave that he's going to call the "raise police" and have your husband thrown out of the office and frog-marched out of town like Wyatt Earp throwing out a bank robber. I mean, I know that this Homeland Security thing has just been signed, and now everyone is suspect of being a terrorist and potentially bombing local K-Marts if they have a bad hair day... but really, you have to chill out about this raise thing. Have your husband make a list of the extra duties he now has with his new title. Look at what he has given to the company... the extra hours... responsibilities, perhaps even expenses that have been incurred. Then, think of the cost of living index. He hasn't had a raise in two years... well do some research to see if there is a percentage rate that he can look at to show that he should be making more.

 The only time people get in trouble with asking for a raise is when they mess it up with ATTITUDE. They go in with an angry chip on their shoulder either demanding a raise... or worse "bluffing" with a "give me a raise or I quit". Even if the boss was thinking of giving you a raise, in most cases, their ego gets in the way, and because you've thrown down the gauntlet... they are forced NOT to give it to you... if only to show their power over you. If your husband, who I assume has more than just a passing relationship with this boss, sat down and calmly let the boss see what his new title has caused... in the way of extra work, responsibilities, time, all the things I've mentioned... right now there on paper... perhaps since he's new title, the company has made a bigger profit, and he can attribute some of that to his work... throw that into the mix. Don't demand anything... just say: "I ask you to just look at these figures (the new duties, time, perhaps profit advancements)... and see just why I think it's time that I receive a raise, it's both proper and appropriate". Then smile, thank him for his time, BEFORE he says anything and say: "I know you're busy, I'm going to leave this with you... please think about it, and we'll talk in two days." That gives him the time to think about it, it doesn't put him on the spot, and it doesn't intimidate him. Believe me... good people are hard to find. Most important however is your husband's attitude. If he comes in seemingly desperate... as if he HAS to have the extra money, most bosses realize that they don't have to do anything, since they need the job even at the lower rate, and they don't have to give them more. If, as I said, they come in and are pushy or have that "chip", they give the boss no room to "wiggle". However, if he comes in, calm, friendly, even with some humor, and uses cold hard facts to back up his request, and TAKES CHARGE in a positive way, as in, giving the boss time to think about it... leaving before the awkward silence... and telling the Boss when he will come back to hear his response something interesting happens. 

Most bosses will see that calm, happy attitude as possibly coming from the fact that this employee may have been given another offer, or has plans to move on. Why else would they be so calm about the whole thing. Without saying anything you have said "volumes" to the boss. They may think that you have another offer on the table, but being loyal you are giving the boss a chance to meet that price... and if not... it's "goodbye". Never, ever tell the boss any of that... it will show simply in their attitude. You may also think of a price you believe the raise should be, and after showing them the "fact sheet" you've created, put down that amount, as if you've figured it out from the facts. That too will raise an eyebrow, since if you have an actual amount, they may think that is the amount someone else has offered you. You see, without threatening them at all, you've perhaps worried them a bit... without actually doing anything to jeopardize your relationship. If they say no in the end, then the answer would be... "thank you very much, I appreciate the time you put into this, and now I will begin to consider all my options". Say that in a VERY POSITIVE SMILING VOICE... and that really will freak them out. At that point you may want to look around to see if there are other places you could work to make more. But even if you do nothing... the boss will get the message. He will now know that you've been fair and even-tempered about this, but because of the bosses decision, he may lose you in the future. Don't be surprised if he comes back to you in a week or so with a new offer!

Hope this all helps and good luck!

Our next question comes from "DJ" of Wilton, IA...

Dear Mystery Boss:

My question is about my foreperson taking a person off our line to lunch everyday. I do not feel this is professional nor acceptable, It shows rash favoritism in my opinion. A long time ago I had a class on supervision and management in this text I am now trying to locate it states that a supervisor should not show more attention other than casual concern equally to all their employees. This foreperson also brings little treats such donuts and ice cream to share at breaks with a select few of her people. I said this was very unprofessional and was called silly. Thank you. "DJ"


Dear "DJ"

This is a first! I always seem to side with the employees in my myriad of complaints… but in your case I have to say… and please take this as kindly and as well intentioned as I can possible put it: “Get a life”. The fact that your foreperson takes someone to lunch does not show favoritism, it shows an interest in their people. They can’t take EVERYONE to lunch everyday… no work would be done, and they’d probably go broke! I’m sure this is all middle management anyway, so it’s not like they have a Ken Lay expense account to squander! The proof, in this lunch thing that bothers you… is in the pudding. Is your foreperson taking the same person to lunch everyday? Sounds like it’s more than one… and more to the point… have you REALLY (and I mean REALLY, not just tainted by your emotional response to this)… seen the people who get an extra donut or a free Whopper Jr. at lunch get different treatment on the job? Better hours, more raises… more time off, more sick leave? I’m sure the real answer in the real world would be… no. You seem to feel left out of a group situation. It’s like being back in High School and not being a part of the most popular clique. Hey… deal with it. Perhaps you need to look at yourself to see why it is that you are not being invited out for a Happy Meal, or getting a free Krispy Kream (and who says you can’t take one anyway?!) Maybe there is some unhappiness in your own personal life… some sense of loss or a sense of a “hole” in your own well being which is carrying over to work. And people sense this. It’s very important, as I even tell bosses,   to look more at how people react to YOU, than what you see in other people. We are all human and we will react to people with the “vibes” they send out. Virtually all of the time, people are unaware of just how they really come across to other people. They usually are shocked when they discover how other’s perceive them. They will say: “But I’m such a nice person, why are they against me?” I have found that if these people really step back and look carefully at just how they present themselves on a day to day basis they will see that although inside they may really be wonderful, that they are not projecting that at all.


When I was in Elementary School, at Valentine’s Day people would give each other cards. Some people were left out, and they felt horribly hurt. Most of the time, there wasn’t any reason for that… it’s usually just that they forgot. It got so bad that the principal had everyone bring exactly the amount of cards as there were people in the class, and we all had to go around and give EVERYONE a card and they gave us one… so in the end we had 100’s of cards that meant nothing! And of course… everyone would count their cards, and invariably someone would have a few more cards that the rest, and they would say: “I’m the most popular!” and everyone else would get all upset! You can’t win!


Finally I must say that if I were you, I would demand first to get your money back on that management class you took, and second, if it’s still being taught, you may want to see about going over there and telling everyone as they leave the class that whom ever is teaching it is out of their mind. To have anyone say that a manger “should not show more attention other than casual concern equally to all their employees” is insanity! What they are saying is that you should be aloof and unfeeling to everyone who works for you! We are all individuals. Some of us are very self sufficient and need very little pampering… other’s are deeply sensitive and need a lot of hand holding, and other’s are somewhere in the middle… they are all good workers and good people… they just deal with life differently. It is the great art of a good manager to be able to discover what each employee needs and give them the proportion of attention equal to their needs. It would be like someone saying: “if you have more than one child, do not show more than a casual concern equally to all your children, so that none will feel they are getting more than the others!” Can you see how insane that is? If you are a mother, you know that each child needs a very specific amount of love, attention, rules, freedom, etc. And if not… remember back to your own childhood and think of what life would be like if your parents practiced that archaic rule!


I don’t mean to be tough on you… but I hope that this can help to be a “wake up” call for you to find a way to get out of your own troubles… splash some water on your face… chill out… smile again, and enjoy all you have to offer yourself and others… and I’ll bet there’s a lot there to give around!

Our next question comes from "SW" of Baltimore, MD...


Dear Mystery Boss,


My group's boss is very disengaged and stays out of the office quite a bit.   This has been frustrating in terms of lack of management, such as stalled   or no decisions, lack of workload balancing among group members, no goals   provided, etc. But recently it is becoming more a matter of survival. With   layoffs on the horizon, our group is feeling "left in the lurch" without a   champion or representation with upper management.  Is there any way to get   our boss more involved? Should we speak to someone in upper management?   Everything seems like career!



Dear "SW",

Well, first of all, as hard as this is to swallow… your boss is a real live human being (we’ll take a few moments now for the shock to take hold and for you all to pick up your jaws from the floor). And, as a human being (in the very technical loose sense of the word, naturally), they are susceptible to the same fears, moods and foibles as real live human beings. That said, and understood, you may want to first ask yourself why is it your boss is not showing up? You say your boss is “disengaged”. Do you mean they are not coming to the office at all? Are they staying out of the building… literally at home? Or, are they just not coming into your area to supervise. The point being… and one, when we try to think of them as having hearts and bodily functions… is that this behavior shows a strong sign of depression, illness, or worse. Seriously now. Is this strange behavior for this specific boss? Were they more active before, and now show signs of “disappearing”? You are right to worry, in that without a boss who is actively involved in your daily work, you and your position(s) can suffer from higher ups. The best way to get your boss involved is to first determined what is causing this behavior and then take action. If it seems your boss is okay in the personal department (health, family, financial, relationships, etc.), and yes, they DO have personal lives just like the rest of us, then perhaps you have to see what this “avoidance” is all about. Are they feeling “left out”? Do they know something you don’t (like the whole company is going to go the way of Enron, so why bother?)… whatever it is, you have to approach them. Sit them down somewhere OUTSIDE the office… show a concern. Talk to them as if they really were a real live human being. Believe me, whatever the problem your boss would be thrilled to get this “monkey” off their back. I promise you they are not a happy camper right now, whatever the “mystery” is all about, and though they are terrible at reaching out for help… they are indeed drowning and need a helping hand. If it turns out that they are literally staying out of the office all together, then again, call them up. Show them your concern. I promise you if you ask if something’s wrong, they will deny it… but gently press it. Be assertive… have you and your co-workers arrange a lunch somewhere near where the boss lives to talk to them. Again, remember, it’s a scary place to be… “Boss-dom” (or as I like to call it “Boss-dumb”). They are the first to get shot at by those on top of the hill, and the first to get shot in the back by those behind them. So they feel isolated… and trust no one. Now perhaps they deserve all this… but what this is all about here is to make you and your co-workers lives a better place. Right? It’s your happiness we’re talking about. And frankly, if you can get your boss to open up… feel you guys care, get them involved again, it’s YOUR work day happiness that will improve. Believe me, if you show this concern, and don’t’ take no for an answer… they WILL open up, and you will get them back in the “loop”. Think of them as a wild horse, and you all as the “Horse Whisperer”. You have to take this in steps… gently. You will get resistance at first… just like the boss is YOUR enemy… he sees you as THEIR enemy… so the olive branch will not be taken up so easily. But again… you’ll be amazed how this “compassion”… no matter how much it’s manufactures, or real, will make a difference. Think Gandhi. And good luck!



Our next question comes from "PTO" of Los Angeles, CA...

Dear Mystery Boss,

I work for a Manager who works hard, but has very little people skills.   She thrives on people disliking her, and the supervisor, who happens to be her best friend, has said that she even admits this.   I complete all tasks for her quickly and with accuracy, and never hesitate to help out with other duties when needed. I have been promoted twice this year already.   The problem is that when even the slightest thing goes wrong in the department, she skips over the supervisor (who I work with on many of these projects) and goes off on me.   The supervisor (again who is her best friend) seems to be cushioned and I take the brunt.    If I’m wrong or make a mistake, I will rightfully admit it, fix the problem, and go on.   But a lot of times, it is a problem that I wasn't involved in, but gets dragged into when something goes wrong and gets pounced on.   (I’m male, but the other lead, supervisor, and manager are all female. not sure if this matters, but wanted to let you know).   One day our new lead got into a confrontation with an employee.   She is new and has changed quite a bit.(bad attitude) She seems to have a personality conflict with everyone on the floor. ( She talks to them like they are children), but she is a very hard worker. Anyway, the confrontation escalated to the supervisor and then the manager.   This all happened before I started my shift.   When I got to work the employee called me over because he was really upset about this.   I had no idea that anything had happened, and as he was explaining to me, the supervisor stormed out of her office and told this employee that she would talk to him later and asked me to come into her office with the other lead.   


I explained that he called me over and wanted to explain what happened.   Immediately she looked at me and said, "you should not have stood there and listened to him but just walk away! I got a little miffed and said "I'm sorry, I just don't walk away when someone is speaking to me. Well, the manager called us all into her office, and explained how we should treat employees fairly.   Now, I’m basically in charge of this whole group under the supervisor and have always treated the employees with respect, never talked down to them, and listen to them.   They have always completed any work I gave them and they treat me with respect. The new lead has been talking to the employees with a demeaning attitude and the supervisor seems to like this. (even though employs have complained to the supervisor about this) Now I'm listening to the manager speak and all of a sudden she looks at me and says " And you need to get more back bone with them!!!"    I seem to take the brunt of everything and the supervisor and the manager want me to act more forcefully with the employees.   


I stated, 'why Do I have to speak to an employee in a demanding tone and or yell at them, when they already do everything I ask?   the manager had no answer for this and said nothing.   Now I feel like I'm one guy against three women.   Now, for the most part the manager never really stands over us and just wants everyone to do his or her job, but likes to have that authoritative rule.   I understand the working part completely, but even when I think I'm working hard and skip breaks and lunches and take   on additional assignments daily, the manager always seems to have this negative attitude with me.   The supervisor has noticed this too and doesn't think this is fair, but the kicker is that both the supervisor and manager are best friends.   I have an opportunity to accept a supervisor position under this manager, but have some reservations.   (Do I want to be in this situation?)    It seems that at any level I've been at, I take the brunt of employee issues and problems, even now when the supervisor is supposed to handle certain tasks, the manager turns the situation around like it's my fault, so I think why not accept the position. I seem to be losing my patients and am wondering what to do with this whole situation and would like your opinion.






Dear “DSA”,


I think the key to your very long and well-documented question is when you say: “It seems that at any level I’ve been at, I take the brunt of employee issue and problems…” I’ve learned from years of experience (and an enormous amount of my own self-observation, that when something in your work-place seems to happen again and again, you have to look first at YOU and not at THEM. Not that you have done anything wrong, or have some self-destructive issues. But repetition of undesirable elements in one’s job is not by chance. A great writer once made the statement that: “coincidence is evidence”. I remember reading that over and over trying to understand what he meant. At the time I was reading his book, I was going through some of my own “garbage” in the workplace. It seemed that whenever I had a job, and did it extremely well, that those above me became almost defensive and threatened by my work. It seemed to happen again and again. As if, the better I was, the more my job was in jeopardy. I was feeling very “woo-is-me” when that line hit me like a ton of bricks: “Coincidence is Evidence”. In other words, I realized, if something seems to be happening to you over and over, it’s not just by chance… we make it happen. The big question is how (the “why” part is actually less important, is better left to a qualified shrink!). What I realized at that point is that it wasn’t just by chance that I seemed to create such resentment with those above me. Though in my own mind I was doing everything right, by taking a HUGE step back I was able to see that my problem was that I wasn’t giving my superiors any room to breath… I wasn’t giving them any “bones”. 


In other words… though most of their ideas and suggestions were terrible, I rarely used them, and also rarely complimented them. No, I wasn’t abrasive, or disrespectful… but I just didn’t give them any sense of their own contributions. Now that I’m a boss, I can see how, even the hardest working, most decent employees forget a very important, though strange as it may seem, truism: Boss are actually human too. And they need, from time to time, a bit of “stroking”… especially if they are mid-management, with their own politics and fears. It reminded me of the time I ran into an old girlfriend of mine that I new in High School. She was always the most beautiful woman I knew, and had become a rather well known actress. When I met her again, she was telling me how alone she was. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “How can that be… you’re beautiful, successful, smart, sexy…” And she said, “that’s just it, every man assumes they wouldn’t have a chance with me, or that I will turn them down, so no one has the guts to ask me out!” I have since, actually heard that this is very common. 


The same is true with bosses. We assume that they are all “taken care of” in the ego department… or that the only real compliments they receive are of the obvious “brown-nose” variety. To get a heart-felt pat on the back is rare, and much needed. When I realized that in my own case, and made it a point to make my superiors feel that their contributions were not only welcomed, but helpful, my whole work-experience changed. 


The point is… I realized that I was the problem… not them. You see, sometimes what we do is so subtle that we’re not aware of it. Again… the “evidence” that we ARE indeed doing something wrong comes from the very fact that it happens over and over again. In the OFF THE BOSS: A SURVIVAL MANUAL book there is a chapter called “Howard of Hollywood”, which is the true story of how one very successful producer ruined his career forever by one comment he made on one specific day to the president of a studio. The point of the chapter is that “Howard” is a lucky man, since he can, forever more, pin-point the very moment that his life went into the dumber, and more important, he can tell you exactly what it is he said and did to create that instant nose-dive in his life. Most of us, when bad things happen at work, look around in stunned silence, as if suddenly shot by a sniper… thinking “what the hell just happened”. “Howard”, on the other hand, as the book states, is one of the “luckiest” men around, since he doesn’t have to stay up nights wondering what’s going on (he only has to stay up nights wondering how he’s going to pay to pool man every month now!).


In your case, as when you say, “It seems that at any level I’ve been at, I take the brunt of employee issue and problems…”, you need to step back and see WHY you take this “brunt”… why you become this “conduit” if you will. Not that we shouldn’t listen to other people (it’s perhaps one of the top five good things that any supervisor or boss needs to do)… but we can find ourselves becoming much too entangled in other people’s lives, and in so doing making their problem YOUR problem as well. The key part of what you said is “taking the brunt”. Think back at how you handle these situations. You’ll find that perhaps being a very sensitive and caring person you feel so much for the other employee’s problems that you become just as angry or hurt or frustrated as they do, and you translate that to your superiors. If you have the chance to advance in this new position take it IMMEDIATELY. And in so doing remember to look back for a moment. Realize that there is something you are doing to continue to create these little “storms” in your work place. You may find that you somehow unconsciously attract people to come to you with problems. Perhaps there’s a need in you to be a father confessor. Find a way to rechannel these needs so that they don’t become such a personal problem. Try to be just as helpful, but less personally involved. And be selective as to which problems you take on. As they say, “you can’t take on the world… it’s much too expensive”.


Simply, try in the future to watch yourself very carefully when you are in these situations. Remember that just because you think you are right, (and most likely are), it’s how you come ACROSS TO OTHERS which is much more important than the truth itself.   Try to make changes in how your respond. You’ll be amazed at how it will change your life!


Our next question comes from "Bhoff" of Chicago IL...

Dear Mystery Boss,

My boss is very intelligent but he doesn't have the skills to deal with the employees very well I think he needs to attend some management classes but he says he doesn't need to.   I try to tell him he keeps losing people because he has to much control to do whatever he wants but he can’t seem to do anything right. I am a former boss that didn't like putting up with the hassle of controlling all satiations and keeping everything under control. I try to help him but he cant get his head out of his ass, so the employees come to me to find out what to do and I don't like the fact that I am not getting paid to do his job. I don't even want his job! So, tell me, what’s wrong with this situation?!  




Dear JC,


Thank you for your question. Sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you, but we’ve been swamped lately! Seems there’s a lot of people out there with “boss-dumb” problems!


You say at the end of your question… “what’s wrong with this picture”. Well, actually I don’t think anything is wrong with it… I see it all the time! What you are telling me is that you have a boss who has no management skills, and in fact, has some real problems dealing with people, and yet, like so many bosses doesn’t seem to see that they need an “education”… or help of any kind. Yeah, so… what’s the problem? That to me sound likes virtually EVERY boss out there! What seems to bother you is that you say you are not “being paid for his job”, nor do you want his job. What you need to do is simple ask yourself a few questions. First… how important is this job to you? Do you like what you’re doing, (other than dealing with the boss)? Do you like your pay? Do you feel like it’s a job that has a future (in other words… not “dead end”)? 


If you answer “yes” to these questions, then I’d say that what you should do is exactly what you ARE doing. That is, helping the employee’s who are having problems, and go about doing the best job you can. In this very common situation, where the “middle man” has to pick up the slack from an incompetent boss, I have found that the ‘clean up man” always ends up getting their just rewards… IF… they stick around long enough. Bosses who do not have the ability to work with their employee’s, and more important, are not willing to improve themselves, almost always self-destruct. I will almost guarantee that this boss has a lot of personal problems, and the energy that they are using to try and deal with their not-too-happy personal life is spilling over into their job. What that means is that your boss sounds like they are heading for a “burn-out”, in which case they won’t be there forever. So… either at that point, what with lots of people “singing your praise” for keeping things in check (believe me, and this is very important, a person who keeps the “ship from sinking”, is always noticed), you may be offered the job (you say you don’t want it… but when jobs like that are actually offered to you… when they become a reality, you’ll be amazed how your mind changes!), or you will end up with another boss, who may have more on the ball. Point being, nothing is wrong with your situation since it’s so common. What you have to deal with is coming to terms with what you want out of life… and out of your job. If you’re happy with everything else… then just take a little time out, like you’re doing now, to help those in need, and do your job as well as you obviously do… and enjoy your life OUTSIDE the job, and most likely you’ll find you WILL get your “just rewards” in the end!


Our next question comes from "Saddletramp" of Sweetwater TX...

Dear Mystery Boss,

I have been trying to help my brother with a bad situation he is experiencing at work. He is a Purchasing Manager at a company in the telephone industry. Over the past few months the new Human Resources director came from another company (company B) to my brother's company (company A). Shortly thereafter another person was put into a vice-president job who also came from company B. This new vice-president is my brother's bosses boss. Then about 6 weeks ago they demoted my brother's boss to another position not in the department and placed a new director in charge that also came from the company B. Seeing some politics already? Then when a buyer position opened up my brother's boss had someone in mind he recommended that my brother hire. You guessed it, this person also came from company B and my brother almost felt he didn't have a lot of choice but to hire him. As time has gone along my brother has overheard conversations that convinces him that the company plans on firing him. Keep in mind my brother has not been at this company one full year yet and they did not give him his regular evaluation nor have they ever disciplined him for anything. He has no type of  verbal or written warnings about job performance at all. I believe the vice-president is going to say he is not doing a good job and since Indiana is a fire at will state they will end up letting him go very soon. The company's personnel book states that the company will try to go through a regular order of discipline steps if there are problems but it also states they need no reason to fire anyone at anytime. I'm sure the company is going to come up with some type of reason relating to work performance but it has been obvious for months that this whole thing is actually political. Does my brother have any rights to use against the company if he is fired? Is there anything he can state to them actually ahead of time to make them think twice before they follow through with the firing? This is all going to happen in the next few days, any advice what he should do is appreciated.

Thanks for the advice and comments.



Dear “Saddletramp”,


If you’ve read most of my responses, you will see that I try and write answers that are detailed… (and okay, let’s say it “long winded!”). However in your case there isn’t a whole lot to say as an answer but: “I’m sorry…not a whole lot your brother can do!” You mentioned the state that this is happening in, and I’m actually very familiar with their “law” about hiring and firing. You are right, in that there is very little “on the books” to protect employees. You also say that he has been at the job for less than a year. As you know, even if there were laws protecting “random firing”, an employee who has less than a year “tenure” at a job also has very little recourse. It doesn’t sound like there are any discriminatory reasons for the firing (i.e.: race, creed, religion, sex, etc.), so you can use that as a defense.


First off, you say your brother “has some idea he may be fired”. Are you really sure about that? If not, I suggest you read the “Tire Iron Story” in the OFF THE BOSS website. It’s a wonderful parable that will help anyone who “fears” they are going to have something awful happen to them at work, only because of inference or rumor or paranoia.


I have just been involved myself in a similar situation with my sister, in which she worked for a company for many years, and a new boss came in, and suddenly started to hire all her friends, and family members! They wanted to run the shop themselves, and even though my sister almost single handedly made the shop what it was, they didn’t care… they didn’t want ANYONE who knew more than they did to continue to have their job, since they knew these knowledge people would show up the idiots who seemed to slowly be taking over. My sister was very upset about it, and tried to fight…but I told her since she’d been there for a long time, and had a good pension coming… and was still young enough to look for other things… and most important, she was no longer enjoying her job because of these “vegetables” that were taking over… it was best to smile, and go away, and let them run the place into the ground (which, a year later, they did!). My sister subsequently got a better job, is happier than she’s ever been, and almost sees the “push out” as a wonderful thing!


In your brother’s case, first off, he’s working for a phone company, perhaps the most horrifically political organization on this earth… run by amazingly inept dimwits who rise up the job ladder by every nefarious means imaginable (and virtually never by skill or experience!). It seems the way things are going there, that the best thing he can do… IF his fears become reality (and he’s fired), is to start looking for another job, and get the hell out of that rattrap!


The only other suggestion would be is if he had ANY kind of confidant within the company who he totally trusted… someone who was in a higher position than he was… someone who liked him and knew how good he was… he may want to start “working” this person… telling them his fears, and seeing if there’s anything they can do. Sometimes a person like that (I had someone like that who saved my hide years ago at a job)… knows the in’s and out’s and can put in a good word at the right place.


As for anything he can do if he is fired… as I said, proving any kind of conspiracy is very, very difficult, and if he isn’t involved in a strong union (it doesn’t sound like he’s in any kind of union what with your job description) who can try to do something on his behalf… his only other recourse is a lawyer. A suit like this, especially on a job that he’s had for less than a year, is virtually impossible to win. And there’s no lawyer who will take job related suits on “consignment”, so he will have to pay for this out of his own pocket!


Move on! Get out of that place IF they push him and… and I promise you… he will land on his feet in a much better position… and be a happier person for it!


Our next question comes from "SOS" of Hebo, OR...

Dear Mystery Boss,

Good morning...I work at a company called <DELETED>

This company is responsible for monitoring clinical trials of new medications.   We recently lost our Project Manager , he was cool and everyone got a long great.   The new Project Manager is   a very large women that hates

the world (mostly the male part of the world).   I have never had any problem with the management until now.   I'm feeling picked on, and singled out.   I have a few male co-workers that come by my cubicle to visit.   We are all have military backgrounds and enjoy having fun at work.   Since the new Project Manager has taken over, I have been called

into the office every week to discuss my work habits( I spend too much time away from my desk, too much time being social with other co-workers, and taking too long of breaks).   Earlier this week I was notified that I would be moving my cubicle closer to her office, so that I can be watched closer. To move my cubicle will cost the company

$600.00.   I need to off the boss in a bad way..!!!


Help me



Dear "SOS",

Thanks for your note. You should know that your complaint is an oh-so-very-common one. There is a “tool” on OFF THE BOSS online, and also in the "Off The Boss Survival Manual" called "The Bag Lady Effect”. The concept, in a nut shell is that if a crazed bag lady on a street corner started to spout crap at you, you don’t pay attention, because you know she is crazy, and usually off her medication.

We always tell people to simply replace the head of the bag lady with that of your boss (which in your case sounds like an easy thing to do!), so that when your boss starts to mouth off at you it doesn’t bother you as much, since again, you realize that the boss is crazy and also probably off their medication!


Also understand that your boss is a classic IHNOSIMYALH (“I Have No Life So I’ll Make Yours A Living Hell”). From reading between the lines… I would guess, and I’m sure I’m right… that your boss is a very, VERY unhappy person. In order to get to the position of middle management many people have to truly throw away any personal life and make their job that life. I call it the “junk food” syndrome”. When we are unhappy and feel empty… being dumped by a loved one, or having no date on New Years Eve, we tend to try to fill that void with something quick and easy. A whole pint (or more) of Ben and Jerry’s, or a whole chocolate cake… or whatever. It feels good for a moment, but you usually wake up with a bad stomachache, feeling way too fat and guilty… and just as empty. Well, your “boss” is going through the same thing. I would assume her own personal life is the pits, and she is using her job as her “junk food”. Unfortunately it gives her the same results. She also wakes up feeling empty and guilty and fat after “eating” her job all day. Remember that most jobs have the same nutritional value as a Ding-Dong. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about eating a Ding-Dong, once in a while… but when you make it your steady diet, you are in a whole lot of trouble! Remember the Twinkie defense in San Francisco, just for starters!


It seems to me that you have a very strong and fulfilling LOSTO (Live Outside The Office). That really is your revenge. Remember, your boss is hurting. Every time she throws her sad power trips at you… turn it around and think of her stuffing her face in her tiny apartment, alone at night, with a whole package of double-dip Oreo’s, watching re-runs of “Survivor” with a blank stare, then falling asleep with curbs on her lap and her mouth drooling with cookie crumbs! Remember that she really has no power over you. What she says and does really has NOTHING to do with you. Every time she sprays her stupidity in your direction, don’t listen to her… but look down at the “subtitles” over her every growing belly which are really saying: “I’m jealous of your life! I live in pain and loneliness and horror!”


I guarantee you, it will help enormously. Also remember, as my brilliant father always said: “Love thy enemy… it makes them so damn mad!” Your best revenge is not to let her see your squirm. Do NOT give her the satisfaction of lame power trip on you. Smile and nod and say: “Thank you for your suggestion”. Don’t’ defend yourself… just smile and thank her. It will DRIVE HER MAD! And you will keep your job, until you find a better one… you will continue to have your After Job Real Life… and you will truly OFF YOUR BOSS!


Our next question comes from "ZAB" of Rochester, NY...

Dear Mystery Boss:


I'm employed with a top 5 health care insurer. More specifically, corporate metrics/payroll. My direct supervisor is completely toxic! I've reported to her for approx. 2 years, (she briefly received a promotion, but she returned approx. 6 months later). It being communicated that her skills were better served as continuing as payroll manager.


Her behavior is secretive, belittling and unprofessional. As I have shown eagerness to pursue/narrow my career goals and take on more (to learn more and be more of an asset) she has never raised my pay in any way. Another position was "merged" with mine. (My speed and accuracy cited as why I was chosen) Keeping in mind my workload did not decrease.

Being efficient and not missing a beat, the transition was seamless and saved her bottom line approx $31,000.00 a year. One whole FTE which was budgeted, eliminated. Of course the idea of taking a lunch hour, etc completely erased from my daily busy!!!

The last 2 new hires into our department were friends of hers, neither having payroll experience, or any office/large corp. experience for that matter, etc. Several people, not including myself, had applied internally for these positions, as they would be promotions for them.

I then processed their new hire paperwork  which had the their resumes., salary info, etc. Some of the highest salaries in the in the department! 


She purposely uses her speakerphone when talking to her children or husband (who is also a director at my company) to discuss personal finances, shopping plans, listen to messages that were CLEARLY meant for her ears only, etc. Including internal confidential info that is subject to compliance guidelines. Or when other associates call in sick, I can hear the exact reasons. And she know that everyone can hear them?!!!

When she calls me in her cubicle (and she forgets it IS a cubicle!..its just "management" size, which equates to it being a little larger) I have to wait, and listen to her talk about painting her fingernails, taking her boat out, etc.

Being overworked as it is, my time is valuable, but she projects her own loose schedule on everyone else.


I have tried different techniques to help me understand why a person in her position would conduct herself this way, and am at a loss!

Her boss, our director, who praises her every breath and idea, has it in her head that she is the end all and be all. So approaching her with my perspective could equate to cutting my own throat professionally.


What's your take??




Dear "ZAB",

What's my take? Seems you need to find more of a life of your own. Your boss is all you say she is, in that she's a pathetic exhibitionist, who I guarantee is deep down inside miserable within herself, and also will bet you, you'll discover one day that her "ideal" husband, and marriage are both a front and a shambles! I've seen this over and over again. Anyone, male or female who has to make it known that they have a life to perfect strangers, or co-workers, who have to constantly flaunt their "wonderful relationships and lives" in others faces, are people who are desperate to convince themselves that they are living this life they present to you... they are trying desperately to hold on to their fantasy of what they think their life is supposed to be like, realizing deep down in the nightmare recesses of their soul-less empty bones that their personal lives are falling apart before their eyes.


That said... you should feel a whole lot better! Why should you really care that she puts on the speaker phone so you can hear her grocery list? Or that she grooms herself in front of you? What is it inside yourself that pushes buttons that makes you crazy? It shouldn't. She's the one who is pathetic. As a great playwright once wrote about a woman who tried so hard to show the world she was happy: "Glenna was someone who laughed just a little to loud at parties". I've always loved that line. He was saying that she was trying do desperately to let the world know how "happy" she was... and people who need to do that are miserable. Of course I don't know your boss, but from what you've told me, as I said before, you have a miserable boss, living a miserable life... but the thing is YOU ARE NOT LIVING A MISERABLE LIFE... SHE IS!   Why make it your problem. I remember years ago when I was in college, and didn't have a date, and was home alone on a Friday night... I would hear all this music and laughing and well, you can imagine coming from the other dorm room. It drove me crazy and I found myself actually calling the campus police to complain. Then I realized two things... one... hey, why should I be upset because they are loud? Just because I wasn't at the party, was no reason to give them the power to upset me... and second, after a little investigation, I found that the people in the other dorm room weren't having all that much fun to begin with. In fact, one of them ended up overdosing at the end of the semester!


Issues of not being paid what your worth, and down-sizing, and doubling up, and all that... those are issues to talk about... but for God sakes... don't put energy into the pathetic "high school drama" that your boss is flaunting into your face, and others. When she does those things, look at it for what it is. She's "laughing just a little to hard at the party". Smile inside yourself, and be thankful you aren't her. As I said, find a life that satisfies you outside the job world, so that these things don't push your buttons. You are so better off than she is... be grateful for that!



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