Bad Situation

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I started my first real job three months ago. My first day everyone told
me to “hang in there,” which surprised me because there hadn’t been
time for anything bad to happen. They knew more than I did. My boss
is an abusive jerk. I can’t afford to quit, but I’ve been tempted almost
daily. Frankly I don’t want this guy to “win.” Any advice?

Bad Situation

Dear Bad Situation:

Working relationships are about power. Sadly, people higher on the
corporate food chain sometimes act in ways they might not treat their
kids or pets. If you decide to leave, make sure your retreating butt is
covered with a paper trail that preserves the possibility of a decent
reference, or of collecting unemployment. If you need the ultimate
reality check, repeat this sentence times: Rage won’t pay next month’s

No matter how much of a jerk Your Boss is, keep your verbal cool. You
can disagree about policy or substance, but don’t disrespect your boss
out loud, whether it’s just the two of you or, worse, in front of other
staff. Somehow, no matter how %^#^%$ angry you are, say nothing
except I need to think about that. until you reach a private safety
zone. Also do not send colleagues email that’s hot enough to burn
down the company server. Email is a not safe place, especially when
your emotions are running the show. No one, repeat no one, can resist
telling at least part of a good story to someone else at work. Make a
date with your most trusted advisor who doesn’t work there. When
you meet, remember you’re asking for perspective, not merely for
validation. Bursts of self-indulgence are a necessary balm, but choose
heavy aerobics over hot fudge rescue your mood.

Take a reality check of your budget, looking what it takes to keep you
afloat. Then check the help wanteds. Doing this will either empower
you or make you better appreciate your current job, even if it comes
with temporarily diminished self-esteem. Update your resume and
start sending out apps to feel more independent and prepared.


Finally, ask Your Boss if s/he wants to meet. Look for ways to connect
and issues to agree on. Emphasize positives. Put your issues onto the
table, but only after it is firm enough to hold them. Swear whatever
loyalty oath you can choke out, even if you mailed ten resumes that
morning. Ask for regular interactions to be sure your working
relationship grows and stays healthy. You have a chance to exploit
Your Boss. S/he has acted inappropriately, and despite the mantle of
power, people who act rough usually feel guilty, especially if someone
else has witnessed the event. Figure out how to make Your Boss’s
moods work for you. Above all, make sure you can keep your job as
long as you want and need it.