When your boss is a jerk

When your boss is a jerk

I received a call from someone who said she’d been working at a company for five years.  She got a new manager six months ago and after years of glowing reviews and regular raises, she’s now being told that nothing she does is right.  In fact she was just written up and put on probation.

Another caller started a job about a year ago.  It’s a family business and the boss lets his kids get away with murder.  They can show up late, take long lunches, not do their work, etc., but if he does anything then he is reprimanded.  Recently they fired him for not finishing an assignment on time even though it was the owner’s son that was supposed to do the project.

Someone else called me and said her boss acts bi-polar.  One day he is buying the office lunch, the next he’s telling her how stupid she is or how bad her work is.  He’s thrown a chair and made the receptionist cry by screaming at her.

And my own first law firm boss after I became an attorney was the head of what used to be a prominent insurance defense firm.  His father started the firm and promoted him over more experienced attorneys.  They left the firm and these days they are about 1/3 of their old size with very high turnover.  My fondest memory of him is being yelled at when I wasn’t in a suit on Labor Day.  I was told how unprofessional a polo and khakis looked and that he expected attorneys to always be in a suit.  Of course, a week later he showed up to the office in jeans.  He only was in this position because he inherited it, yet he acted like he had accomplished something.  The truth is that all he did was turn a prestigious firm in to a middling one.

So what do all of these jerks have in common?  Their employees can’t do anything about it.

There is no law against being a jerk.  You can yell, scream, be totally unfair, act like a hypocrite, etc, but if you aren’t doing it for illegal reasons like someone’s race, gender, age, sexual orientation, because they got hurt on the job or some other protected reason then you will get away with it.

Even if a work environment seems hostile, again if you can’t prove that it’s hostile for an illegal reason then you have no case.

It’s really the privilege of being a boss and what at will employment is all about.  Your job could be to answer the phones, but if they tell you to clean the kitchen, you have to do it.

Giving this type of advice is probably the most ground hog day part of my job.  It’s so unfair what happens to some workers, but at the same time they can’t comprehend how unfair isn’t illegal.  It’s their life that’s being ruined so I get why they can’t accept that there isn’t really anything they can do other than file for unemployment if they are let go.  It sucks to hear, but it’s the way the world works, for better or worse.

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