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My boss is quite hard to work for. After not receiving a wage rise for 10 years (aside from minimal increases across the board due to the rising cost of living) I recently asked for a wage rise with the (private) intention of quitting if refused. I was granted the rise and that has suited me well because I really enjoy my job. Therefore my current intention is to stay long term.

However multiple employees have confided in me that they are strongly thinking about quitting. I understand their reasons because I previously considered these myself. I know for some it may come to nothing. But I know of others who are actively interviewing elsewhere, and who therefore are very serious about leaving.

This will have a massive impact on our team, on our work and on the business as a whole. In fact, multiple people leaving at once could near cripple us, at least for a while.

My boss has had numerous staff members raise complaints with him privately over the months and years. I have also written reports twice previously to show that we are understaffed and overworked. However almost all of this seems to go over his head, and he rewards staff members' successes with more work but no thanks.

So while he must have an inkling that there is mass discontent, I feel confident in saying that he is (whether by choice or not) vastly unaware of how critical this is becoming.

Should I tell him? He may want to know who is thinking of leaving and that's information I would refuse to give him, which would possibly cause me more problems. If I do tell him that there is a general problem I can't be certain he would act upon it and improve things, and it might look like I am spearheading complaints, which is not an image I want to portray. However, if I say nothing, and multiple people quit as I believe they will, then not only will it affect my job, but my boss may wonder why I didn't speak up. What would be the advisable course to take?

(Just to be clear on my job, I am supposed to supervise the work of about half of the staff. We do have a manager in charge of HR who is in between us and the boss, but she is on long term sick leave, in part due to stress caused by my boss, so I currently report directly to him.)

  • Maybe a bit tangential, but you say you have boss who’s hard to work for, doesn’t pay you enough and understaffs your positions. And you plan to stay long term. If I throw in free lunch once a week, would you work for me? – HopelessN00b Apr 11 '18 at 22:58
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As a leader you have a responsibility to speak up on behalf of your reports.

Don't just write a memo that he's going to ignore, or never even notice. Book a meeting, sit down with him, tell him that there's a strong undercurrent of discontent, and that you strongly fear that many are going to leave (don't be vague about this; be forceful, clear, and confident). Clearly outline the big-picture issues in the company:

  • No show of appreciation to overworked employees.
  • No raises in line with market (check the market rates for those positions and point out how underpaid employees are!).
  • Severe under-staffing.

And, I should note, don't throw your employees under the bus by saying that people have confided in you that they are interviewing elsewhere. Then propose a few immediate steps that could be implemented to improve morale (have these printed out and hand them to him):

  • Hire another person in [this] key position.
  • Create a senior dev / supervisor / team lead role, and promote [this person] because that's essentially what they're doing right now anyway.
  • Give a modest raise to [these two people] because they're our top performers.
  • Organize an employee lunch (paid for by the company) to show your appreciation for their hard work. Hire a delivery company to keep the lunch room supplied with coffee/tea/milk/cream. Little things that will cheer people up, in other words.

Carefully watch how he reacts. Does he show concern for the situation? Is he willing to work with you, and other managers to try and improve morale? Or does he get angry at people's "lack of loyalty", or some other BS like that?

If he shows concern, it's worth trying to help your employees out. If he demonstrates a lack of empathy to their plight, lead the charge out of that place, because the guy will never change (which - don't kid yourself - is the most likely outcome).

  • Andrei - these are wonderful ideas. With a competent supervisor they would be wonderful. However, this manager appears to be immune to change. As staff has already mentioned the problems why would he start now? – JazzmanJim Apr 10 '18 at 19:36
  • @bednarjm - That's where that last paragraph comes into play. Some people are egotistic, and ignorant, and nothing will ever change that. Some may "awaken" to the reality of the situation given a strong enough kick in the butt. It remains to be seen which category this guy belongs in. – AndreiROM Apr 10 '18 at 19:47
  • Love the answer. Shamefully there are indeed plenty of bosses/managers who think it is a privileged to work for them. – Jeroen Apr 11 '18 at 8:15
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I don't think your boss is unaware of the issue. But he probably doesn't care. And as long as there's people willing to work for him and things work out they or the organization isn't likely to change. Perhaps a bunch of people up and leaving will shock them into realising things need to change.

Frankly the situation you're describing sounds toxic. No raises for 10 years[1], people on long term sick leave because of interacting with this person, multiple annoyed employees etc sounds very bad. IDK about the industry you're in and the availability of jobs, but even in a buyer's market employees should have the expectation of decent working conditions. Doubly so if it's a seller's market and jobs abound.


[1] Cost of living adjustments not whistanding. Your purchasing power hasn't increased, but presumably your contribution to the organisation has.

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I think you are missing that if several people quit you have credible deniability. Boss does not need to know you knew.

If you approach him and people still quit he may place some blame on you. You knew and you could not stop this. It does not matter that you can to him.

You have told him and he has ignored. I don't see how being more direct will do any good.

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Rogix, As one who has been in this situation there is nothing good that can come from this.

Either the boss knows and doesn't give a d**m or (s)he is clueless and will take anything like this as undercutting their position ("what, are you trying to take my job").

Something that has gone on for this long will not change without a change in the supervisor.

I know you said you don't want to leave but that would be the only way (for you) to change the toxic situation. It's admirable you're concerned with your direct reports as this is what a good manager does. In this case you're powerless to affect any real change.

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