Stepping up and speaking out
What happens if you've tried to view things from your boss's perspective and let go of your snarky feelings, but you still
don't think the behavior is acceptable? It might be time to log a complaint.
Grosdidier says that poor conduct, especially from a manager, can be so destructive that it creates a practice-wide whirlpool.
"Team members usually become irritable when the partners are fighting or the doctors are asking them to do things they feel
uncomfortable with," she says. "In these circumstances, you must determine your individual comfort with the situation that's
at hand. If you're being asked to lie to people and you know you can't, you must talk to your boss."
Think carefully about how—and when—it's best to approach your boss about the problem. "Vomit all your thoughts onto a piece
of paper, and look for common threads," Grosdidier says. This will help you clearly outline the issues that really matter.
Then you must do three things.
1. Make the level of importance clear. Be up-front with your boss. Say something like, "This conversation is very important to me. I love what I do here and I love
what we do for pets, but this is bothering me."
2. Use the word I. Frame the issue around yourself instead of around your boss by saying, "I feel this way," or "When this happens, I feel like
this," Grosdidier says. For instance, rather than saying, "When you talk loudly, we can't work," try making this statement:
"I feel like team members get flustered when people talk loudly, and our work suffers." This helps keep the manager from feeling
accused and will hopefully prevent a defensive response.
3. Contain the situation. Boil the problem down to a manageable size by providing your boss with a clear idea of how you'd like it resolved. You could
say, "I would feel better if I was not included in these conversations in the future," or "I don't want to be put in situations
where I have to lie to people."
After a talk like this, there are two potential outcomes: Things get better, or they don't. If you end up in the camp of team
members whose situations don't improve, Dr. Woloshyn says it's probably time to look for a new practice (see "Signs It's Time
to Cut and Run" at right). "If your practice is a place where you don't want to come in the door in the morning and the boss
won't address issues, that's reason enough to head on down the road," he says.
Most likely, your result will be more positive. Grosdidier says a tough conversation with the boss might just be what he or
she needs to get back on track. "We get in an everyday rut," she says, "and sometimes we don't realize how far off the path
we are until someone pulls us back on and tells us the direction we need to go."
Case in point: Grosdidier once worked with a team member who was struggling because her boss couldn't seem to do anything
in a timely manner. "The team member finally broke down and said to her boss, 'I don't know who you are anymore, and we've
worked together for 20 years.' In this situation, the owner was suffering from depression and needed medication," Grosdidier
says. "The push by the team member was what the doctor needed. It was the wake-up call that turned everything around." Your
circumstances might not be this extreme, but still, a serious, thoughtful conversation will likely improve the situation between
you and your boss.
Beastly bosses can make for a wild time at work. But their behavior might not be nearly as fierce as it seems if you can just
look past the claws and fangs. With a change in perspective or a well-planned conversation, you may be the "boss whisperer"
who transforms this (seemingly) savage creature into a docile manager. And that will create an environment that's better for
Katherine Bontrager is a freelance writer living in Leawood, Kan.