Ask the Therapist: My boss is harassing me at work
Your boss does not have to like you, but he needs to maintain a professional demeanour and accept good work when you deliver it
I am a 25-year-old male. My boss has been singling me out during team meetings repeatedly, even when things aren’t my fault, and I don’t know how to defend myself from his constant passive aggression during personal interactions at work. He clearly doesn’t like me. I don’t want to go to HR and have it backfire, as I need this job. — AR
Dear AR, I am sorry to hear about your toxic work situation. Spending 30+ hours a week under such stressful circumstances can be very disruptive to your health and well-being and set you up for underperformance. Your boss does not have to like you, but he needs to maintain a professional demeanour and accept good work when you deliver it, and not openly attack you in team meetings.
Of course, the best approach would be to ask your boss for a private meeting and let him know that you are a good team player, working hard to meet the company’s goals, and open to receiving honest feedback on what you can do to better achieve his objectives. I would hope that, during such a conversation, you would find an opportunity to forthrightly share your concerns about feeling singled out and blamed, and that going forward he would recognise how his behaviours are negatively affecting your job satisfaction.
If a conversation cannot take place, or he does not change, I would pay attention to his “themes” when he is being passive aggressive, and practise not being emotionally affected. Formulate appropriate responses you can give him when he blames you. You can respectfully give him feedback, such as, “This is a team effort and I have tried my best to contribute to the success of this project.” I am sure you can find appropriate responses based on your specific job. Do not hesitate to ask for help from a trusted colleague or friend. Ideally, team members could speak up in meetings, but with a toxic boss, that might be very difficult.
Only after you have made the in-person effort to resolve your differences with your boss, and if the problems continue to persist, should you consider going to HR.
(Dr Annette is integrated psychotherapist at CHMC, Dubai. Got a query? Email us on email@example.com)