There is a new manager in my company that has been put in charge of a pretty new project. Company culture is generally good, supportive, and empathetic.

The new manager seemed to be that way in the beginning but is quickly becoming something very different with almost daily comments that are dismissive, downright humiliating and disrespectful. This includes statements like:

  • "The product manager will soon realise he's working with idiots".
  • "I could have done this in 10 minutes".
  • "There's not a single thing this person has done that was OK without my supervision".
  • "If you ask a question again I will think you are just a troll."

It's not just to me but I'm the only non remote colleague so it seems like I'm the most common target lately. My coworkers usually try to defuse the discussion and calm things down. They say he overreacts.

I have confronted them about this 3 times. In all cases they have been apologetic, dismissed it as a joke, or promised it would not happen again. Well, it keeps happening. Now maybe instead of making an offensive joke, they just say "I am tempted to make a joke that would be seen as impolite so I will just shut up." But of course, everybody knows exactly what that means.

The most obvious answer is looking for another job, but honestly, in my current situation, that will be difficult for at least a month, adding a notice period to that and whatever time it takes me to find a job can make the situation overwhelming. I have never encountered a manager that makes me feel humiliated before, and I've worked for more than a dozen of them.

This new manager has passed the probation period and our CEO seems very happy with them. At the moment there doesn't seem to be any other project for me to work on. This is a startup with no HR department.

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    What do your colleagues think of how he behaves? Sep 5, 2022 at 18:48
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    Can you give us some examples of what the manager says and the scenarios ? Does he also says similar things to other team members ? Sep 5, 2022 at 19:42
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    @Job_September_2020 "the product manager will soon realise he's working with idiots". "I could have done this in 10 minutes". There's not a single thing this person has done that was OK without my supervision". "If you ask a question again I will think you are just a troll" Sep 6, 2022 at 0:40
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    The CEO may not know what is happening. @JoeStrazzere the CEO may also be put in a situation to choose between the manager or the team since it seems not only OP is feeling bad about the new manager
    – JayZ
    Sep 6, 2022 at 12:58
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    @Livingstone if the manager is literally saying things like "the PM will realize he is working with idiots" and there's no HR, then escalating to the CEO is appropriate. That is completely unacceptable behavior, and it's also destructive to the company.
    – DaveG
    Sep 6, 2022 at 14:12

4 Answers 4


Changing the behaviour of someone is hard, especially if you have no authority over that person. You did the one thing you can do, you gave feedback. That's good. And the manager was apologetic and seems to reflect about his communication style, as he seems to bite his tongue at least sometimes. That's an improvement.

Most probably the manager doesn't want to humilate anyone, but just thinks he is funny. So I would try to make it awkward for him: Make him explain his jokes.

Manager: "Ha, I'm tempted to make an offensive joke".

You: "I don't understand. Can you explain that?"

Edit in response to Comments

"the product manager will soon realise he's working with idiots". "I could have done this in 10 minutes". There's not a single thing this person has done that was OK without my supervision". "If you ask a question again I will think you are just a troll"

Some of them are "wannabe funny", some are outright rude. If it's too much for you to bear, Calmly state:

Wow, that was rude.

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    Thanks for your answer. You raise good points. Certainly there is tendency of them being the only person laughing in the room. I like the idea of just saying that was a rude thing to say on the spot, in public. Pushing them to go ahead and explain as well Sep 6, 2022 at 9:21
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    +1 for advising OP to be direct and to confront as needed. Putting the ball back into his court is good
    – Anthony
    Sep 7, 2022 at 22:08
  • I would just give an expression like "that's cringey/awkard", then say something like "um, okay then" and immediately break attention and go back to what you're working on. Awkward funnyguys humiliate others because of their own insecurities.
    – Hayley
    Sep 14, 2022 at 12:28

Your boss: "I am tempted to make a joke that would be seen as impolite so I will just shut up."

You: "No, you didn't." :-)

(Sarcasm is such a wonderful weapon :-) )

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    I think I understand why someone downvoted you, but in a situation when rudeness is a daily issue, I don't think this is a bad answer Sep 6, 2022 at 14:41
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    @Livingstone: as you seem to have understood: in quite some cases, people just continue being rude until they get confronted. That confrontation can be done using long explanations, but such kind of people will soon find a way to get out of the discussion (and they will then genuinely feel like having won the discussion), there I opt for a small but very sharp answer.
    – Dominique
    Sep 6, 2022 at 14:50

Based on the comments, the things your manager is saying are not "jokes", let's get that straight. When he says he's "thinking of making an offensive joke", that's a different situation from this one, so I'm discounting that from my answer.

It sounds to me like this manager is not happy with your performance. Based on the examples in the comments, I can glean a few things that he (rightly or wrongly, I'll get to this in a moment) be thinking:

  • His team (i.e. you and your colleagues) are not up to the task of the work being given ("PM will realize they're working with idiots")
  • He thinks you are working too slowly and/or are taking too long on simple tasks ("I could do this in 10 minutes")
  • He is doing a lot of work covering for you ("this person hasn't done a single OK thing without my help")
  • You are wasting time by asking obvious questions ("If you ask another question again I'll think you're a troll")

These things, from the perspective of a manager, are serious problems. If you have underperforming subordinates, that's not a good thing; it means projects don't get done on time and with quality, which makes you look bad as a manager. In a startup environment this is even worse, because with a small headcount in the company each person has to pull more weight; if you have bad people, and those people have a lot of responsibilities, well, necessarily a lot of things will go to shit quickly.

To be clear, I'm giving your manager the benefit of the doubt, that he honestly believes, rightly or wrongly, that his subordinates are underperforming. I'm not saying you are underperforming, I'm simply saying that he honestly believes you are (without any sort of sub-agenda).

Now, there are really only 2 possibilities when your manager thinks you are underperforming: Either you really are underperforming, or your manager's expectations are too high. Here's how to deal with each of them:

To deal with you underperforming, you may need to find another job. This particular company has too high of a performance bar for you. They're looking for serious rockstars to bootstrap their company, and that's not you. Go to another company, get some more experience, and maybe in a few years you can try again.

To deal with your manager's expectations, you may need to have a sit-down chat with your manager and discuss their expectations of you. Are you not developing fast enough? Are your tickets taking longer than they're supposed to? Is your code messy? In what way is there a problem and how can you fix it? Note that you may begin the discussion thinking it's your manager's expectations and come out of the meeting realizing it's your own performance and the manager's expectations are reasonable, so be open to that. Another thing you can discuss is, particularly regarding the "I could do this in 10 minutes" comment, ask him how he could do it in 10 minutes. Don't be sarcastic, but actually ask him. Perhaps you missed something that you could learn from. But also perhaps he was just being a blowhard and when he actually gets challenged on it he'll shut up.

Now, as for the actual language he used, it's unprofessional to say things like that, especially as a manager who is supposed to be promoting the morale of their team, these sorts of comments shoot down morale like a bullet. The thing is, on this message board, a lot of questions get asked only when situations reach their boiling point, and nobody thinks about what it took to get there. Take a step back, and think about what happened over the time you've been at this company. How many times has your manager tried to amicably resolve these types of issues before they started going off on you? Since you say your manager started as being kind, empathetic (not "empathic", that's a different word), reasonable, and so on, I'm guessing your manager wasn't always this abrasive personality. However, it's human nature, over time, if you see a problem that just won't resolve itself no matter how much effort you put in, you eventually become upset and frustrated, and it can come out in unpleasant ways. Think about if this may be your situation. It's important to understand and acknowledge this, because if you can admit fault (and you have reason to admit fault; obviously don't admit fault if it's not your fault) then you can be part of the solution. It sounds to me like you may have a part to play in this as well.

  • Thank you your detailed answer. There are some good points there. I won't go into detail into performance etc in my particular situation though Sep 6, 2022 at 17:49
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    thanks for the empathetic correction, I fixed it. Also, your answer seems to somehow forget the point that the manager is essentially a new joiner? They haven't tried to resolve those issues with me before, amicably or otherwise. In fact, when I've confronted them about it privately "do you have an issue with my performance?" the answer has always been "your performance is fine and I'm glad to have you on the team." I think they enjoy the humiliation, or they genuinely don't realise they are being rude and humiliating Sep 6, 2022 at 17:57
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    @Livingstone If your manager says your performance is good in private but berates you in public, you should bring that up. "If you say I'm doing well, why did you say XYZ in the meeting the other day?"
    – Ertai87
    Sep 6, 2022 at 18:16

This is not an answer so please do downvote it; however it's too long for a comment.

I have worked for such a boss. Example: "all devs are whores, it only matters how much you pay them" - in front of everyone.

Result: people quitting all the time.

Solution(for the company, not the employees): hire a middleman solely to transmit the CEO's thoughts onto the teams without insulting them.

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    I’ve worked for someone like this for a short time. When he went to insult the whole team, one very respected team member stood up and said “I’ve worked here longer than you. And I will work here longer than you”. Which got around in the company (with a little help) and was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 12, 2022 at 8:08
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    Brilliant self fulfilled prophecy Sep 14, 2022 at 14:03

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