Human hate requires virtually the same amount of passion as love. It takes up space in your brain. It consumes your being. It keeps you awake at night.
Hate is a powerful emotion, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. Example: there is a gigantic, massive number of white people who genuinely hate Black people. A huge, horrifying number. They are not just your typical Georgia hillbillies, hunting and killing Ahmaud Arbery like an animal. They are your family, your close friends, your co-workers, and your nice neighbors. They hate. And no longer are they slithering in the back alleys of society. They say and do things now with no shame. They do it on social, on TV, on YouTube, in public meetings. Isn’t that freaking insane? No shame. A bunch of frightened little children, they are. This is how they act out.
Imagine if your manager hated you.
If it was racial or cultural, it’d be nightmarish but at least you’d know. But what if it was more subtle?
Let’s assume you are a loyal, honest employee who does everything asked of you, and you are performing well at your job. Let’s assume your competence in most phases of your role.
Yet the tension with the boss is palpable, and other colleagues have mentioned it.
They’ve said something like “What is her problem with you?”
At team Zooms, others present updates and reports, and the vibe is friendly. Then it’s your turn. You see the eyes of your colleagues drop. Silence. They can feel it too.
Your manager asks you pointed questions, perhaps not listening to the words you are saying, repeating what you just said, as if it’s the first time anyone has said it. You are nervous. You continue on with your presentation, but your confidence was dinged.
You leave the meeting frustrated, questions swirling in your head. You have to wonder if this is your fault.
In my personal case, which I just described above, the theory among my colleagues was the fact that I looked very much like the former husband of my boss, who used to beat her. She projected the fear and hate of him onto me, the vector. Isn’t that incredible? Another of a million examples: we all have stuff, our stuff we are carrying around. It certainly was possible, because there was no other explanation which made sense. She really hated me.
I had taken enough of her bullshit. I left the job and went on to make more money and hold a fancier title. The best revenge is living well, after all.
No easy answer here, but while managing a manager is a delicate science, there are boundaries.
You aren’t there to be friends. You are there to do a job and to work in a professional atmosphere. If your boss is treating you like a doormat in front of others and you have no idea why it’s happening, perhaps it’s time to shut it down.
Some people enjoy preying on the weaker among them. Co-workers do this all the time. Not being proactive is almost the same as sending a message to your boss that says you’re okay with being treated this way.
If you have solid ground to stand on, you have done your work and done it well, you have earned permission to do the following:
Walk in to the manager’s office. You are not angry – you are under control. You’ve practiced your words and your reaction, so you’ll be cool in the fire. And you’re having a crucial conversation, which means you cannot say things to force the other person get defensive right away. It’s a delicate dance.
Look them in the eye (in person or through the laptop) and say, “I’m curious about our interactions in front of the team this morning this morning. What were your thoughts regarding the blahblahblah project? I’ve been feeling pretty good about the projections blahblah. Any new thoughts for me?
Keep eye contact. Do not exhale. Do not move. Do not say another word. No expression.
Wait. The next words will be coming from your boss.
You’re going to know what you’re dealing with within seconds.
You have the right to call it like you see it, call it calmly and reasonably, call it to their face. Many times your abuser will comply! They’ll stop treating you like crap and move on to the next employee (sucks to be them). Maybe things will get better. Maybe things won’t change much at all.
At least you know what you’re dealing with.
Don’t tell anyone at work what you did. This isn’t about drama – it’s about professional respect. Be worthy of the respect you ask for.
We get shoved out of jobs we otherwise enjoy for the strangest reasons, and most of the time they are personal/emotional reasons having little to do with the actual gig. The number one reason people quit jobs? One person.
You have the right to call it. If you’re unwilling or unable to ask, don’t expect your fallible, human manager to have an epiphany and start treating you differently.
Love and hate are powerful life forces. Consider where you stand in the organization.
Maybe your boss is merely indifferent about you.
That could be the worst feeling of all.
Vent for a bit, then we’ll get down to work. Email John here.