TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
I have walked in your moccasins a bit. There are things you can do to
protect your paycheck until you can find another job. First, as
suggested, learn the labor laws in your state. Try to find out if there
are other complaints against this company, and, in particular, this
boss. In North Carolina and Virginia, both "employment at will" states,
the employer cannot take punitive action against you for lodging a
concern or complaint about another person.
Second, lodge the concern with the company's HR department, ineffective
as they are. Using the prescribed, state required, language, clearly
outline your concern (abusive environment causing extreme tension, fear
of violence) and make sure that the HR department files it
appropriately. Explain to HR that you are trying to work through the
problem, but you do want your concerns on file. Also, say something
like, "I'm sure that you are concerned about this, too. You don't want
to have somebody in that office snap and get really violent." Just make
sure that they know it won't be you!
Third, as suggested by Beth Agnew, deal with the guy in a professional
manner, making clear that you will not be bullied. You may be able to
enlist a few others in this effort. For some "insurance" you may want
to have a small tape recorder you can use to document his tirades.
Fourth, if your "please treat me with respect" attitude does not begin
to show positive results (not that I expect that it will), go back to HR
and voice your concerns more forcefully. You have been trying to deal
with the situation in a professional manner but it is not improving.
Ask them to help. Make sure that they document everything.
By doing the above, you have documented the problem with HR and tried
to work on a solution. If you suddenly are let go, or there is a threat
to do so, you can explain sweetly to the employer that "employment at
will" does not mean that he can fire you for refusing to accept abuse.
If you have info on past problems that the company has you can remind
them that your experience is not an isolated one. You can then offer to
take the job back (with a muzzle on your boss!), take a good severance
package, or go to the Employment Commission with your case. They should
hate the last choice because it opens them to all kinds of actions,
including a lawsuit for wrongful termination.
Depending upon state law, you may want to keep a running file with the
Employment Commission as things are happening. You also may be able to
go to them for counseling on how to handle the problem (even though you
already know). What you are doing is building a case for being a
reasonable person who has a good job but an out-of-control boss. It is
not in the Employment Commission's best interest to have you out of a
job and collecting unemployment.
Does the "rival" boss lady have an opening in her department? You
certainly have proved that you are pleasant, work well in extremely
difficult situations, and are tenacious. In any event, all of the above
is just to buy you time to get out of that toxic environment.
Sr. Management Analyst
From: techwr-l-bounces+katherine -dot- darges=defensegp -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+katherine -dot- darges=defensegp -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- c
om] On Behalf Of Cathy MacDonald
Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2006 8:50 PM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: I Can Really Pick 'Em, Can't I?
Here's the scenario:
I work for a company mired in the Stone Age, but that's not really the
problem. It's that the boss is an argumentative, rude, vulgar despot
(but close to retirement) who, if HR policies were actually enforced,
would be sent packing to Sexual Harassment Court, Miss Manners, and the
Decency Police. Unceasing torrents of obscenities rain down on everyone
at work, including his wife, his boss, and people that don't even work
for him...on speaker phone at unbelievable decibels. If an engineer
misspells a word in an e-mail, he'll give him a public tongue-lashing,
and then bellow, "What kind of %&# -at- ! idiot can't spell <fill in word>".
He's rather fond of young, passive, female underlings because they don't
have the nerve to shout back when he gets going on his daily eight-hour
rant about how stupid everyone else is.
WebWorks ePublisher Pro for Word features support for every major Help
format plus PDF, HTML and more. Flexible, precise, and efficient content
delivery. Try it today!. http://www.webworks.com/techwr-l