Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
How do you deal with a boss (the company CEO) with an anger
management problem? Usually he is a very nice man; he even gave
me a four-figure bonus last year, so I do not want to bite the hand
that feeds me. But now the hand sometimes seems to be holding a
cat-of- nine tails, at least a verbal one, rather than a checkbook. Two
days ago, when I tried to tell him something he didn’t want to hear, he
threw a temper tantrum that took me by such surprise I cried and left
the room. Monday&'s looming. Is there a polite way to say, That felt
horrible. I am such a good and loyal servant why would you kick me
like a dog?
Unequal power relationships that go bad are always tricky to
rebalance. Relationships where money is on the table are even trickier.
A lot depends on what you want in the long run: a chance at more
good bonuses or peace of mind in the day-to- day. They may not be
fully compatible. I’d send an email that asks if you can have five
minutes on a personnel matter. He&'ll probably say yes, though make
you wait a little. Remember, if this is a new behavior, he’ll have some
residual guilt and shame. Though I’m sure he’ll try to rationalize it
away. No one really likes being a stinker.
When you go in, say that the
interaction you had last week was very difficult for you, and that you
were trying to be a loyal employee by telling him information he didn’t
seem to want to hear. Say you’re happy to provide professional
services but you want both of you to communicate in a respectful,
professional manner. Ask how to communicate sensitive information in
the future: by email, in person, or not at all.
My guess is that he&'ll treat you very carefully in the short run. But
once abusive personalities focus on someone they tend to be repeat
offenders. If he starts to show a pattern you may have to decide
between your pride/mental health and looking for a new job. No one deserves abuse, verbal or otherwise. PS: In a large organization you
could consider a human resource filing. But when the offender is the
CEO the odds of any change in behavior, or sentencing him to some
anger management classes, go down precipitously. Sad but true.