Bullish: How One Best Responds To Massive F*cking Disrespect

Jennifer Dziura writes Bullish, a career column, for The Grindstone on Fridays and Bullish Life, a life coaching column, for our sister site TheGloss on Tuesdays.

Today, someone told me to “pipe down,” which I am now adding to my list of uncomfortably loaded phrases (i.e., “shrill”) unconducive to further discourse.

Who among us has not been massively disrespected? Who among us has been forced, Harry Potter-style, to dwell under the stairs?

Check out this letter.

Hello Bullish:

First things first: some background: the manager who hired me was great. Very laid back, trusting, personable. Two weeks after I was hired, he was promoted. The manager who replaced him is his exact opposite: a controlling, micromanaging, perfectionist whose only joy comes in the form of mildly racist jokes. I do not like this man. And I am 90% sure he would not have hired me had he been in charge at the time. In addition, since my cross country moving expenses were paid by the company, I am under contract with them for two years. If I break that contract, I would need to pay back the money they paid to move me out here.

So naturally I walk around on eggshells, afraid of doing anything on my own for fear of not doing it perfectly. Everything has to be run by my manager or my other coworker because no one trusts me, including myself now. Before I came here, I was confident in my abilities and looked forward to new challenges. Now they paralyze me with fear. I spend most of my days convinced I am not doing something right or that I am not good enough.

To top it all off, we are moving offices. And my entire team are getting new spacious offices with windows and views. All except myself and our group’s contracted administrator. The two of us have been relegated to a hallway that appears to have been used to store filing cabinets. It’s bleak and barely wide enough for a chair and a desk to fit comfortably.

I understand that I am new and thus don’t deserve a big office with a nice view, but I can’t help but feel incredibly disrespected by this entire process. I was given no say in the move and now I am being asked to essentially work in a crawl space.

Am I being a petulant child? Do I just need to suck it up and keep my head down for the next year until my contract is up? The company is an excellent one to work for and I am hesitant to throw in the towel over an office, plus the pay is incredible. However, I am massively depressed and find myself silently wishing to get fired with a nice severance package at least once a week. What should I do!?!?

Yours,
The Girl Under the Filing Cabinets

Okay, that can’t be ergonomic. Make sure you’re stretching after work. Pilates?

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    • Lastango

      I really like this column. There’s a lot of solid, real-world thinking here. A few observations:

      === “The two of us have been relegated to a hallway that appears to have been used to store filing cabinets.” If there weren’t enough offices, perhaps SOMEBODY has to go into an awkward space. Unless that’s not true, or unless there’s a valid reason it should have been someone else, you’ll just have to accept that you’ve had some bad luck.

      === “Do I just need to suck it up and keep my head down for the next year until my contract is up?” Yes. A lot of people have to do that. If you take Jen’s advice and work/grow/network your way into a better opportunity it won’t matter.
      BTW, if your’re really excellent, and higher-ups know it, it will become an embarrassment to your boss that you’re not being treated better. In fact, if he seems to take sudden moves to improve your situation that can be a sign he’s getting pressure from somewhere else.
      === “Document everything terrible this guy does. Keep a log (not on your work computer). Keep it in a notebook in your purse. Update it in the ladies’ room.” Absolutely. That’s critical. At this stage you can’t know what this individual is capable of, so you have to prepare for the worst.

      === If possible, try to seek assignments that give you exposure outside your group. I know someone who got a major compensation boost because his value to the company was recognized several steps up after he did some work that came to the attention of the CEO & CFO. His direct boss was a nasty little prick who had been holding him back.
      === Look for a chance to help your lousy boss out of a pickle. It may be the first time that’s ever happened to him in his working career.
      === Keep your head up, and stay interested in your work and your colleagues. This too shall pass.

      • matt

        totally agree with the “it will become embarassing to your boss thing”. i was helping out another department (not mine) with a project and apparently wasn’t getting enough done quickly enough (despite that fact that i was completing said project while also doing my actual job for my department!) anyway, the project head didn’t eeven have the gumption to come ask me whether i could move through it faster and complained to my manager (and apparently half of the department). let’s just say that this backfired on him and did not make me look back in any way. he’s since avoided speaking with me

    • Lastango

      I really like this column. There’s a lot of solid, real-world thinking here. A few observations:

      === “The two of us have been relegated to a hallway that appears to have been used to store filing cabinets.” If there weren’t enough offices, perhaps SOMEBODY has to go into an awkward space. Unless that’s not true, or unless there’s a valid reason it should have been someone else, you’ll just have to accept that you’ve had some bad luck.

      === “Do I just need to suck it up and keep my head down for the next year until my contract is up?” Yes. A lot of people have to do that. If you take Jen’s advice and work/grow/network your way into a better opportunity it won’t matter.
      BTW, if your’re really excellent, and higher-ups know it, it will become an embarrassment to your boss that you’re not being treated better. In fact, if he seems to take sudden moves to improve your situation that can be a sign he’s getting pressure from somewhere else.
      === “Document everything terrible this guy does. Keep a log (not on your work computer). Keep it in a notebook in your purse. Update it in the ladies’ room.” Absolutely. That’s critical. At this stage you can’t know what this individual is capable of, so you have to prepare for the worst.

      === If possible, try to seek assignments that give you exposure outside your group. I know someone who got a major compensation boost because his value to the company was recognized several steps up after he did some work that came to the attention of the CEO & CFO. His direct boss was a nasty little prick who had been holding him back.
      === Look for a chance to help your lousy boss out of a pickle. It may be the first time that’s ever happened to him in his working career.
      === Keep your head up, and stay interested in your work and your colleagues. This too shall pass.

      • matt

        totally agree with the “it will become embarassing to your boss thing”. i was helping out another department (not mine) with a project and apparently wasn’t getting enough done quickly enough (despite that fact that i was completing said project while also doing my actual job for my department!) anyway, the project head didn’t eeven have the gumption to come ask me whether i could move through it faster and complained to my manager (and apparently half of the department). let’s just say that this backfired on him and did not make me look back in any way. he’s since avoided speaking with me

    • BTDT75

      agree completely – and one more quick thought – if you get another job within your two-year window, that new company will very likely be open to giving you a starting bonus that will pay off your moving-expense debt to your old company. Do NOT feel bound to your current job just for moving expenses – start looking when YOU are ready. That agreement is a psychological boundary that really should not be a deciding factor. You can work with it!

    • BTDT75

      agree completely – and one more quick thought – if you get another job within your two-year window, that new company will very likely be open to giving you a starting bonus that will pay off your moving-expense debt to your old company. Do NOT feel bound to your current job just for moving expenses – start looking when YOU are ready. That agreement is a psychological boundary that really should not be a deciding factor. You can work with it!

    • Avodah

      Quick advice on racist/inappropriate/sexist/anti semitic/whatever jokes… Gently smile and say “I’m sorry, I don’t understand that joke. Can you explain it?” or “Ha! I’m afraid I don’t understand the joke, please explain.” As with everything- your tone is crucial.

      Now, for a horrid boss, and I have my share. If things get really heated, or he or she is being especially nasty perhaps try saying “All that being said, let’s focus on the best solution to the problem.”

      If it gets worse (and it will) say firmly, clearly, but politely “Please don’t speak to me in that tone.” Or “Please don’t call me names.” I know those seem terrifying, but often times bullies just need to be put in their place.

    • Avodah

      Quick advice on racist/inappropriate/sexist/anti semitic/whatever jokes… Gently smile and say “I’m sorry, I don’t understand that joke. Can you explain it?” or “Ha! I’m afraid I don’t understand the joke, please explain.” As with everything- your tone is crucial.

      Now, for a horrid boss, and I have my share. If things get really heated, or he or she is being especially nasty perhaps try saying “All that being said, let’s focus on the best solution to the problem.”

      If it gets worse (and it will) say firmly, clearly, but politely “Please don’t speak to me in that tone.” Or “Please don’t call me names.” I know those seem terrifying, but often times bullies just need to be put in their place.

    • Avodah

      Sorry, an addendum. Almost no job is worth your confidence, self-esteem and ability to walk with your head up. Before grad school, I had a terrible boss who insulted me on a daily basis. I should have quit within the first month. Unfortunately, I took my friends’ and family’s advice and “stuck it out”. That job destroyed my self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, happiness and belief I could get another job and perform well at it.

      Looking back, I should have quit the 3rd time she verbally abused me (give people three chances) and waited tables. I would have been better off.

      If it is *that* bad (only you know if it is that bad), then get the eff out.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=789264713 Frances Locke

        I hope your confidence has recovered. i had a similar situation and I also held out way too long and didn’t do enough. The woman who antagonized me was brutal and everyone have her a free pass because she had lost her husband a couple years beforehand. After I left she ended up harassing the wrong woman and was sued and fired.

    • Avodah

      Sorry, an addendum. Almost no job is worth your confidence, self-esteem and ability to walk with your head up. Before grad school, I had a terrible boss who insulted me on a daily basis. I should have quit within the first month. Unfortunately, I took my friends’ and family’s advice and “stuck it out”. That job destroyed my self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, happiness and belief I could get another job and perform well at it.

      Looking back, I should have quit the 3rd time she verbally abused me (give people three chances) and waited tables. I would have been better off.

      If it is *that* bad (only you know if it is that bad), then get the eff out.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=789264713 Frances Locke

        I hope your confidence has recovered. i had a similar situation and I also held out way too long and didn’t do enough. The woman who antagonized me was brutal and everyone have her a free pass because she had lost her husband a couple years beforehand. After I left she ended up harassing the wrong woman and was sued and fired.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=789264713 Frances Locke

      I love the title of this column.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=789264713 Frances Locke

      I love the title of this column.

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    • http://twitter.com/kokostiletto kokostiletto

      I had a very similar situation when I moved to NY 3 years ago, and realized my boss was a bully. I have to pay back the moving costs if I left wthin 1 year. I went into the work with the mindframe that it was a ‘contract’ job, and as such made it much more bearable. In the meantime, like she says, do everything you can to find a new job. And you can use references from old jobs.

    • http://twitter.com/kokostiletto kokostiletto

      I had a very similar situation when I moved to NY 3 years ago, and realized my boss was a bully. I have to pay back the moving costs if I left wthin 1 year. I went into the work with the mindframe that it was a ‘contract’ job, and as such made it much more bearable. In the meantime, like she says, do everything you can to find a new job. And you can use references from old jobs.

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