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Manager making worker’s life a ‘living hell’

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 6:00 AM

QUESTION: I have been working at a family-owned business for some years now. Everything was going fine until recently when my division got a new manager, who has been making my life a living hell. He is quick to accuse and reprimand me publicly without asking me questions to clarify any problems. This leaves me bewildered because my exemplary work ethic is one thing I pride myself on. I don't have a clue as to what to do next.

- Panic Mode

CAREERS: Thank you for your letter, from which only a summarised excerpt is given above. From all you related, you're basically terrified of this intimidating individual. You've tried 'staying under the radar' and avoiding him as much as possible, going so far as to not talking when he is around.

Having to operate in this kind of work environment must be very stressful for you. It's almost certain to adversely affect your productivity. It seems you're at your wits' end and are immobilised by fear of what would happen if you lost your job. Despite feeling helpless right now, the fact is, you have options in how you respond.

The first and foremost next step I would advise is to reclaim your personal power in the situation. That means giving up your feeling of helplessness, otherwise you'll remain in your miserable prison of victimhood.

Confront the worst that can happen. If you come to terms with that, mentally, then that's a good start to mastering the situation. How to do this?

Care, but not that much

Well, learn and practise this important principle from the world of negotiation: 'Care, but not that much.' That's what Herb Cohen, once referred to as the world's best negotiator, called the key to negotiating in his book Negotiate This!

In other words, as a principle, be fully prepared to walk away from any person or circumstance in life that dishonours and devalues you and isn't giving you what you desire and deserve. Otherwise, prepare to be a prime candidate for abusers, intimidators, manipulators, and unconscionable victimisers.

If you aren't prepared to walk away from this job, then the only advice is to continue doing the best at what you are currently doing.

If you are willing to take control of your career and self-esteem, however, then it's time to confront that manager. Stop tip-toeing and hiding, wishing you could be invisible at work.

When you're alone with him, ask him to share what exactly his problem is with you and your job performance. Listen, then share your views, including what you'll do to address the legitimate concerns he has.

Thank him for sharing his concerns. Then quietly, but firmly and respectfully, express your displeasure at the specific instances for which he has wrongfully accused you. Tell him you like the job but you are not prepared to tolerate that kind of treatment from him.

If nothing changes, have a similar meeting with the business owners, outlining your issues. If the owners are not prepared to address your concerns, you should intensify your job hunt and actively take steps to leave that toxic work environment.

n Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'. glenfordsmith@yahoo.com