A good friend speaks about a boss at work, starting his stories with “you’re not going to believe what Paul did, but… “
His boss’ narcissistic ways are legendary. Recently, Paul was explaining to his executive assistant that when people are intellectually inferior and you really want to help them, you hire them as your executive assistant. This was one of his kinder moments. HR has had to do several interventions, but this guy obviously knows some people.
His previous assistant left after being berated for refusing to start her workday at 5:30 AM because Paul wanted his emails printed out before 6 AM and his coffee ready when he arrived. She calmly stated that this was impossible. He screamed at her that she was unprofessional and should be at his beck and call day or night. Apparently pressing print was too hard a task for him to master so early in the morning. Or maybe it had something to do with stapling the emails together?
I also know that you may be more afraid of what’s out there. It’s the old story of “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”
His most recent abusive story is where several people from the office went to a meeting in Toronto. On the way back, he noticed that one of his colleagues, junior to him by one level, was sitting in a seat closer to the front of the plane. Furious, he called his assistant to yell at her and tell her that she was incompetent. He had a senior position in the company and he should have been sitting ahead of this other guy.
This is not a heartless company. In fact, although they are a large organization and some behaviors can get lost in the mix, even other people at his level are scratching their heads at how he doesn’t follow the respectful norms. Like I said, he must know some people.
My concern is that employees will stay, even after he tells them that they are intellectually inferior. I’ve been there. I stayed and thought that this was normal or simply my lot in life.
If you are the recipient of abusive behaviors, like Paul’s, then you need to start making a plan to leave. I also know that you may be more afraid of what’s out there. It’s the old story of “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” However, here are five compelling reasons why you should be planning your exit from that department or company, NOW!
1- It affects your brain
There is a saying in neuroscience: “Neurons that fire together wire together”. When we are constantly being exposed to similar negative experiences, they become part of our daily thought processes. It becomes more normal to be a victim than to be treated with respect. The longer we stay in abusive situations, the more we are invested and the harder it is to get out. If you have a Paul in your life, your neurons need new messages. Pronto!
2- You will have more money
Money is deeply emotional. Too often, we define our values by our jobs or what we own. Both of those are false beliefs that catch up to our bank book. Stress triggers unnecessary spending, like retail therapy, as well as reducing our ability to make good choices which affect our success. A good boss will recognize your worth and give you growth opportunities along the way. By being open to other opportunities, we can increase our bank balance and possibly save the costs of an expensive divorce along the way.
3- You will have better relationships
Feeling happy is great for us and for the people around us. Happiness increases our resilience, our connections to one another and it is directly affected by the stories we tell ourselves from day-to-day. Who seriously believes that if they’re happy at home, it’s okay with them if the workplace is awful? A bad work situation can only be tolerated for a short period of time before it affects your relationships with the people who really matter. Nobody is more loving, practical or honest when they are stressed or abused!
4- You want to be seen as a leader
If you want to be a leader in your field, it starts with leading by example in influencing how others treat you. And if they are abusive, it means not accepting it. You’re shooting your career in the foot if you stay too long without saying something. Don’t risk getting lumped in with a department that underperforms because of the dynamics at play. Good leaders expect a healthy workplace culture. So if you want to be seen as a leader, stand up for an environment that is respectful and professional. You stand a better chance of attracting it into your life.
5- You will live longer
I have never smoked in my life. But staying with a bad boss until it caused a burnout affected my life span as much as smoking does. Once someone has had a burnout, or been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, they have a higher risk of another episode. Being unemployed is temporary; but developing a mental illness can become something to manage for the rest of your life. Taking care of yourself is a good core value to develop and/or work towards.
So what do you do if that Paul character is there and you don’t think you have an immediate choice in the matter? I have to say something you may not like hearing. You do have a choice. You may have to take a financial hit to put yourself in a better long-term situation. This happens to people all the time and resilience comes from taking action with a longer more practical viewpoint.
You can’t empower yourself by hiding under the desk and just avoiding and absorbing a bad situation every day. Hiding and avoiding are actions which negate all feelings of empowerment.
So draw up a game plan with specific actions that will get you out of this situation.
- Expect better at work and express it confidently.
- Update your CV regularly.
- Update your LinkedIn profile regularly.
- Renew or develop relationships with people of influence.
- Meditate and take care of your health.
- Deepen your relationships with loved ones. You need them!
- Look for opportunities and the next time you see one, investigate it.
When we are dealing with a difficult person, sometimes we don’t even know what to say when they are crossing a line. It’s time to empower yourself by taking care of yourself.