I started my current role in IT right after college as an intern. In the interview I was told I would learn about Big Data and project management, but that was not the case. After the internship I was hired. I was flooded with administrative tasks, and was told that after a year or so I could check with him - my boss, for a programming job or to work with Big Data.

My boss loved bombed me the first year I was there. It almost felt at times like he was a little to into me. He gave me a gift card with a lot of money based on my good performance, would steal eye glances and try to hold eye contact for long periods of time, asked about my marriage, basic questions but would pass judgement when my answers included references to my husband. It felt a bit uncomfortable to be honest.

The entire time I was working I had difficulty with two top employees, not because I didn’t complete work or lacked understanding, but because I am very shy and would have issues communicating due to my shyness. It was really bad because they would talk down to me (in a condescending tone) and it made me stutter or I would sound very nervous. Eventually they started telling my boss I was incompetent, but I secretly think this is due to lack of communication skills because as I said this was all administrative work, and I had actually completed a very technical degree in Information Systems at a very good university.

Almost two years later, I finally got into working with big data. It was not easy for me to transition and it caused issues with the other employees. I have stayed in this role this long because my boss has led me to believe that I have promise for advancement in his department.

The issue now is that I have no credibility at work now. I exposed my shyness and lack of confidence and many people at work give me no credit or acknowledgement for the work I have performed. I had trouble with my first assignment with Big Data and told my boss. To my surprise he lashed out at me and told me I have a learning disability and that there is a bad pattern of poor work performance that others have complained to him about.

It was a terrible conversation with my boss. He even said that I’m not who he thought I was when he first hired me two years ago. I immediately started job hunting and suddenly my boss offered to pay for my Big Data training which is thousands of dollars, so even though the experience has been humiliating for me, I have decided to stay and finish my training and get more experience with Big Data.

My boss told me to leave my job if I was not happy, and that I have a learning disability. I never had a situation in my school career that made me feel like I have a cognitive disability. I am painfully shy and many at work have used it against me.

How can I re-establish credibility at work after being humiliated in such a way?

  • 2
    Yes I have seen a therapist and I’m working on my shyness. It’s really hard to establish credibility after having such anxiety over speaking in meetings, my voice would sound shaky and it also comes with physical symptoms like dizziness and chest tightness. I have made some progress, but two years of these emotional displays at work have definitely hindered me.
    – Zara Z.
    May 23, 2020 at 19:23
  • 4
    I recommend you consult a lawyer. You don't say what country you're in, but what your boss did probably exposed the company to liability. I'm not a lawyer, but it sounds like "constructive dismissal", if that's a thing in your country.
    – mhwombat
    May 24, 2020 at 1:02
  • 1
    I think my boss might have been attracted to me the first year. I did not respond to him in that way because I am married and respect my boss and colleagues. It made me feel very awkward. It was just way to much attention for me. It made my shyness far worst too. He did not call me out in front of everybody, but his tone was very demeaning and confirmed with me that my colleagues don’t see me as competent.
    – Zara Z.
    May 24, 2020 at 4:43
  • 3
    @mhwombat I hope to find a new job soon after my Big Data training. I have learned many lessons, but I do need to rebuild in another environment that’s not as hostile. Thank you for your well wishes.
    – Zara Z.
    May 24, 2020 at 5:48
  • 1
    Yesterday this question had 3 downvotes. A shame (they were without comments!)!
    – guest
    May 24, 2020 at 15:37

5 Answers 5


Is your manager a qualified psychotherapist? Very unlikely, therefore you can ignore any diagnosis he comes up with. You have a degree in IT, so you don't have any learning disability (I'm not qualified either, of course).

Talk to someone who is a qualified therapist about how you can work on your shyness. If you feel you need to move jobs, then do so; don't let a promise of 'training' be an anchor on you.

  • 2
    Thank You! This brought a smile to my face. I did finish a very tough degree. I challenged myself as I worked full time and put myself through college - while married! My husband has been very supportive of me through out this process. It really got to me hearing him say that I have learning disability... I was even thinking about taking some type of cognitive test to proof to myself that I was at least ok and did not have a learning disability. Thanks again :)
    – Zara Z.
    May 23, 2020 at 19:28
  • 4
    I have seen this with colleagues. Very few people recognize contributions of people who do not make any attempt at highlighting them. That makes shyness a decided disadvantage. I would encourage you to work on that. Probably best in a new environment, though, judging from the question.
    – bytepusher
    May 23, 2020 at 23:30
  • 7
    " You have a degree in IT, so you don't have any learning disability" What? You can have both, so how did you figure it out?
    – Aida Paul
    May 24, 2020 at 17:02
  • 1
    @Monstar The boss can comment on unsatisfactory work, slow progress, incomplete achievements, shoddy craftsmanship. They can discuss mitigating action etc. However, they have no business in commenting on the person and diagnosing them. May 24, 2020 at 19:30
  • 1
    @CaptainEmacs My training was already paid for by my boss prior to interview, as a matter of fact I was already a week into the training. You are right about my boss already expecting results, but I don’t blame him. I’m taking this new role with Big Data very seriously. I also want to leave my department in good terms. I’m going to stay focus, been studying non- stop and staying in the present, and as disciplined as I can be. Thanks Captain Emacs, in time I hope to return back to this thread to update on my professional progress.
    – Zara Z.
    May 24, 2020 at 23:32

I'm sorry you've felt humiliated at work and that others have talked down to you. Nobody should ever tell someone they have a learning disability unless they're a professional who's qualified to diagnose such a thing. Your boss and coworkers aren't handling this situation appropriately. You may want to find a new place to work because of it, not everywhere is like that. Lots of places will spend a few grand to train a technical employee, so don't feel like you're giving up a rare opportunity there.

With all that said, you seem to be assuming that it's acceptable to be technically competent but a poor communicator. It's not. Communication is a key skill in almost all IT jobs. Someone who cannot communicate effectively is not fully competent at their job, regardless of how great their technical skills are. The good news is shy people can become effective communicators: the IT world is chock full of such people! It might take you more effort than it does others, but you can absolutely do it. Most junior employees have large gaps in their skills and need the proper support to become fully productive and valuable employees. Don't be discouraged over that.

So, on to your question: how do you regain credibility? Assuming you want to stay in this place which sounds dreadful at helping employees grow, which you shouldn't feel obligated to do, you regain credibility by taking ownership of your shortcoming. State a clear and convincing plan on how you will improve or avoid it in the future, and then keep to your word and improve. This situation won't get better for you unless you actually improve your communication effectiveness. As people have interactions with you where you communicate well, they will adjust their opinion of your abilities.

I can tell you from experience this works. When I first started my current job, I was awful at estimating how long a task would take me and would often agree to commitments I couldn't keep. I'd then miss the deadline and be so embarrassed that I wouldn't even communicate that it wasn't done or when they could really expect it. Unsurprisingly, people became frustrated by this and sometimes even went to my boss about it. I'm still not the best about making deadlines, but I no longer agree to overly optimistic ones, and I communicate sooner and better when I realize I'll miss one. That's been a struggle for me, but it's been enough improvement to change people's opinions of me for the better.

That's what you need to do too. It's fine to be shy, but if you allow it prevent it you from communicating well, then your career will go nowhere, no matter where you go. It sounds like you're already working on this, and that's great! Is there anything you can do in the meantime to be able to better communicate important information? You seem like you can communicate well through writing. Can you move some communication to email or chats? If you freeze up during a face-to-face encounter, can you follow it up with an email to get across what you need to? Is there anything your co-workers can do to support you? I've seen people preface an encounter with "I'm really shy/socially awkward/anxious. Please be patient with me if I need a moment to [collect my thoughts/calm down/whatever you need]," and it worked well for them. It's okay to respond to a question with "let me think", don't feel like you have to have an immediate answer for everything.

In any case, develop some strategies for the short term so you can communicate important information, and also make a plan to improve your skills long term. (Maybe your therapist can help with ideas for the short term?) Then communicate those intentions to your boss, maybe through an email if you feel like you'll freeze up in person. I'd say something like this:

Hey [boss], I wanted to address my performance issues you mentioned. I do understand and acknowledge that my performance hasn't been what you expected, but it's not because I have a learning disability. The actual reason is because I am painfully shy, to the point where it's very difficult for me to talk to people, especially under pressure. I'm able to complete the work, but I do struggle to communicate what I've done, so it's understandable that others are unable to see what I've accomplished.

I realize that effective communication is crucial and this is an issue I need to fix. In the long term, I'm working with a professional to help me overcome my shyness in the workplace. That will take some time, so in the meantime, I plan to better communicate critical information by [sending more emails, writing down what I want to say first, or whatever you come up with]. I'd also appreciate it if you'd let those who are unhappy with my work know that I struggle to communicate due to my shyness, and they can help me by [things they can do to support you].

If you'd like to discuss this more, please let me know. I appreciate your understanding.

It's a bit long-winded, as that's another weakness of mine, as you can probably tell. Feel free to adjust it to your personal tone or to cut it down a bit. The important parts are that you acknowledge there's a problem, you have a solution to fix it, and what you need from your boss to do that.

It'll take some time, but if you're able to improve your communication, you should see things start to turn around. If you feel you'd do better with a fresh start somewhere else and you're able to find another job which suits you, then go for it. If you go that route, I'd talk to your new boss about this issue and what you're doing to improve it, so you can avoid a repeat of your current situation.

  • 2
    You are absolutely correct about communication being a measure of competence in the workplace. I wish I could have reacted using the same tone from your post, but I will use this model you have provided, and practice confidence in my communications. Thank you for your great advice.
    – Zara Z.
    May 24, 2020 at 17:14

At least from the perspective that your question provides this sounds like an archetype of a boss misusing their position to get close to a female employee and for that reason showers them with compliments. When that bears not enough fruit they let them drown.

At the least the boss made false promises about training and has no people management skills. There are shy people in a lot of teams, but any good team will incorporate them, either help them work on their shyness or find work processes that suit them. Neither seems to have happened here, not from the team side nor from the boss' side.

I'd seriously look for another job and make sure you're hired for what you are, an IT person, not an administrator. That assumes administrative jobs means non-IT administration jobs, otherwise, if they are related to the development process, yes, junior developers will get a lot of those as they are an easy entrance into the projects. Still there should be guidance from senior colleagues in that case no "talking down to". So look for a job where the career path suits you and where they help you fit in.

If you want to improve your current situation, you'd need to make sure to have enough self-confidence to stand up to your colleagues and your boss and from your current position it's hard to build that up out of nowhere. If you want to try, definitely make sure to get assistant by a mental professional or a good job coach. You might want to take courses in your spare time or help out with open source projects to get some positive feedback that helps you value yourself and your technical skills more or at least get another source of feedback for self-evaluation and for what and how to improve.

  • I would have liked my boss to have addressed the concerns about my cognitive skills with me. I have received successful performance reviews the last two years I have been working there. I do believe if I were more confident and new how to handle romantic - (if you want to call them that) advances better - I wouldn’t be in this situation. I would ignore my boss and avoid running into him, and became to shy to even speak with him. He then thought the worst of me.
    – Zara Z.
    May 24, 2020 at 16:54

My boss told me to leave my job if I was not happy,

I would take up on his advice and start looking for a job.

and that I have a learning disability.

Perhaps so, but he's really saying two things here. 1) You're not who he thought you were, and 2) He believes you're incapable of being trained.

I never had a situation in my school career that made me feel like I have a cognitive disability.

I feel this is irrelevant. Right now, you're at work, and your boss believes he cannot train you. My thought is you should go find a new job.

I am painfully shy and many at work have used it against me.

Not to sound like a jerk here, but my guess is that it is an entirely different situation. I known a coworker at my previous job who was painfully shy. This individual would sit there never asking questions until asked. This would translate to weeks into the project, and suddenly we're all faced with a new task of figuring out the previous weeks of work. This placed a burden on all of us. This individual would also take extreme steps to prevent or otherwise avoid talking to people. The person would also assume the other person does not know that it is being done and when called out, brings up the shyness talk.

It's impossible to know your situation based on what you said, but my guess is that it is the same as above. If your boss is upset after asking you something, then that is your clue you should be asking the questions first and don't let them speculate that you have a learning disability.


@PHD true you don’t know me. I could have a learning disability. Let’s say that’s the case, then why would I have gotten successful performance reviews for the last two years?

I would have liked an honest conversation from my boss so that I could have improved or seek the help I needed.

On another note, IT is a field that requires constant research as things are always changing - the constant learning is what I most enjoy about the IT field.

  • 1
    You could and should put this directly under the answer of phd!:) Otherwise, good response!
    – guest
    May 24, 2020 at 18:18
  • Thanks. I simply pointed out the most important person in your career claimed you had it. Anyway it’s not a good place for you to stay. Look for a new job.
    – SmallChess
    May 25, 2020 at 8:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .