Boundaries With the Boss

Jonathan and his wife work at the same company. She hasn't been treated right by her boss, and it has driven her to tears. Jonathan wants to know where to draw the line with the company and the boss.

QUESTION: Jonathan in Wake Forest and his wife work at the same company. She hasn’t been treated right by her boss, and it has driven her to tears. Jonathan wants to know where to draw the line with the company and the boss.

ANSWER: I think you go and sit down in his office and close the door. Calmly but firmly say, “The way that you are treating people here is making it very hard on them, my wife included. We need to talk about if this is going to be the behavior going forward. Otherwise, we’re probably going to have to talk about whether or not we’re going to be able to stay here. I don’t know if you care if we leave or not, but if I treated your wife the way you had treated mine, you’d probably be all up in my face.” Just say that to him.

He’s a horrible leader, obviously. I will tell you as a leader that I’ve gone through several phases in my life. I’m much better now than I used to be. At the starting phases, I don’t know that I’ve yelled at somebody across the office and that kind of thing, but I’m a strong enough personality that I’ve had people who were just hormonal and sweet, kind, little shy-type people who the sheer force of my personality caused them to cry if they were in the room with me. I’ve had that happen to me. You need to make real sure that what you’re observing is not that. If he’s just literally yelling at somebody, this is something like your fourth-grade gym teacher or something. This is ridiculous. He needs to adjust his deal and quit being a twerp as a boss. If he can’t, you guys need to get out of there. You’ve got to be fairly wise about how quickly you get out of there. I wouldn’t be rash. I would do it gradually. One of you quits, and then the other one quits. You find something. Just come up with a 60-day game plan. You can hold your breath for 60 days, and then we’re out of here.

What I might do even before you sit down and confront him is just start looking. See what’s out there. If she can find something, go ahead and move her and then confront him. He’s the type that might just blow up and fire both of you if you talk to him. You’re taking that risk, and you don’t want to do that to your family, so just be wise about it and calm. Separate yourself from people who can’t learn to behave. I would give him the opportunity to learn to be calmer and gentler with certain personalities and that kind of thing. It’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, I can tell you that.

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