From the U.S.: My boss gets scary and we don’t know how to deal with him. It all comes across passive aggressively, we’ll be working and he complains that no one helps him clean, so we start cleaning and he complains that no one is doing their job. If we tell him we’re running a few minutes late, he punishes us by saying we can’t come to work at all that day, and then will complain the next day about how no one wants to come into work.

I’ve tried speaking to him calmly and in private to say that we are here to do our jobs and want to work, and that it is sometimes hard for us because everything we do seems to upset him. He started screaming at me, “you’re talking like a ——- child, I can’t believe you would talk to the boss like that, I’m the boss, not you, you don’t tell me what to do. You need to grow up, but sure, I’m the ——-, cause I’m just such a terrible boss…” on and on like that for some length.

There are days where he is such a nice person, and very easy t o get along with, and then suddenly he snaps and no one knows what they’ve done wrong. He will schedule days off for himself, and we will have the shop under control, and then he just shows up on his day off, starts taking all our clients and leaving nothing for us, and then complains that we ‘made him work on his day off and ruined his plans’, even though none of us asked him to come in and we tell him we have it under control.

Our income is based on how many clients we have that day, so it’s extra frustrating because when he gets in these moods, we lose money. His aggression has even boiled over to our customers. In one day two different customers called the police on him for talking to them the way he talks to us.

I love this job and worked hard to get into the pet industry, but me and my coworkers don’t know how to deal with him and sometimes fear coming into work. This isn’t a job where we can just give him space either, we all work in close quarters. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!

A: You are in a very difficult situation. You can’t change another person, especially if that person doesn’t think he needs to change. In addition, there is a power differential here that makes it almost impossible to talk to the boss without risking your job. As you pointed out, the time you tried to give your boss feedback, he reasserted his superior position. You weren’t acting like a child. He was acting like an authoritarian “parent”. He keeps his workers off balance by screaming and by being so inconsistent. You never know what to expect. If he keeps this up, he is likely to lose customers as well as staff.

Frankly, I think you should start looking for another job. Your boss is unlikely to change. The workplace is toxic. In the meantime, I hope you can hold onto the perspective that your boss’ behavior has very little to do with you. Let his comments roll off your back. They are loud but they are meaningless. I also very much hope you have a good support system outside of work to regularly remind you that you are okay and he’s not.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie