The following very awkard situation took place:

  • Over the past year, I was fed up with my boss. I created an "adversary image" in my head of "me against my boss".
  • I wanted to deal with this situation, so I used the following technique: write down everything you hate about your boss. Then, below each bullet point, write down why it upsets you. For example, I wrote: "control freak" and "I want to be able to peacefully do my work without a hawk watching over my shoulder".
  • The point is to focus on the second set of items (I would like...) instead of the initial (I hate...). This way, I can get to know myself better and learn how to cope with those situations that are not ideal for me. In the end, all the negativity should be gone.

So far so good, until:

  • My boss found my list. I was not at the office when he found it. The reason this document was present in the workplace on my desk is because I wanted to be reminded of all the things I still need to learn and it is easier for me if such a list is written down in front of me rather than as a chaotic emotional bubble in my head.

One could argue, why is your boss snooping around your desk? However, this is irrelevant for this question. As you can imagine, the situation has been reversed completely. Instead of me wanting to find peace, I accidently declared war through my own carelessness.

Important note: I already quit my job a week ago. I still have a few weeks to go though before I start at my new place. I wanted to use this technique at my current workplace before I start at my new place so I don't repeat the same mistakes of not being able to deal with those situations.

What do I want to achieve:

  • Make the last weeks of my job as tranquil as possible for both me, my boss and any other coworkers despite the problematic situation at hand.
  • Learn from my mistakes, and I do not mean "don't leave those kind of papers hanging around on your desk", but instead I mean learn from the mistakes of growing to hate somebody
  • The reason the document was created in the first place is because I cannot let those disturbing thoughts wander around in my head. I wanted to channel them. Unfortunately, I made the siutation much worse for me rather than better, as a result I'm very stressed. I'm looking for way to reduce stress.

The question:

  • How can I achieve any of these goals?
  • If they cannot be achieved, what is the next best thing?

Please deter from the following unconstructive, irrelevant comments:

  • References to comical movie plots. This is not comical for me at all.
  • Statement about how dumb making such documents is. I KNOW.
  • Personal attacks. If you can only say negative things about me, why bother trying to answering this question?

I think the only option is to talk to him in private and explain the process you were using, along with the aims. Explain how you were trying to convert your frustration into constructive criticism, by writing it in the "Frustrated" sense, then searching out the more neutral version through several re-visits to the same list, followed by adding a solution at the end which you could approach him with.

If you can find references or external descriptions of this process, it may help back things up.

Apologize for leaving it where he could find it, but state that it was an internal, personal tool to manage frustration and find the constructive way out, and it was never meant for his (or anyone else's) consumption.

If it's gone above his level, go talk to your boss's boss, or HR rep.

Note that from your examples I'm assuming these are professional "hates" - although it can feel personal to have your professionalism insulted, it's easier to detach. Being called a control freak is insulting, but can be turned into a constructive criticism. The above advice will rapidly lose effectiveness if you included "Has bad breath" and "Offer him chewing gum" down on the list.

  • This is as good an advice as any. Of course, anything that he says will sound like a lame attempt at face-saving, and I wouldn't blame the boss if he refuses to believe it. – Masked Man Feb 3 '15 at 16:05
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    Of course it's a lame attempting at saving face. It's also offering an opportunity for the boss to save face. And it's a genuine attempt to salvage the relationship. That's not to say it will work, but at least you've tried. – Jon Story Feb 3 '15 at 16:07
  • @Happy: As long as he hasn't been fired yet, there's still time to fix this. – NotMe Feb 3 '15 at 16:09
  • Important note: I already quit my job a week ago. I still have a few weeks to go though before I start at my new place :( – user1884155 Feb 3 '15 at 16:19
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    In that case, it probably doesn't matter as much about saving the relationship: you don't need to save your job, and even if you do patch up the relationship, you've virtually no chance of getting a good reference – Jon Story Feb 3 '15 at 16:21

What you now know is never do such a thing at work again. If you feel the need to say nasty things about your boss to get them out of your system, do it at home and never bring the paper or the file into the office.

At the office, if he brings it up, apologize profusely and explain that you never intended for the list to be seen. If he doesn't bring it up and since you have already quit, simply work out your time quietly and accept any tasks he gives you and try to limit contact. Make sure to leave like a professional and prepare something that will give your replacement a starting point such as a document with all the things he needs to know and make sure to keep any personal opinions out of it.

You need to think about what you put on the list and how realistic or unrealistic it is. Lots of younger workers think any management by their boss is a control freak. Think about what his job responsibilities are when you think about why they annoy you. You can't just be left alone to work with no one ever bothering you. That is unrealistic thinking. People do need to have progess reports and they need to pass information up the chain. I am not saying you are right or wrong in your current assessment but you need to be able to step back away from your feelings and determine if you are over reacting.

And finally it is far more profitable to concentrate on what is good than what is bad. You can make yourself unhappy in a perfectly good situation by concentrating only on the bad. Every job has problems, no boss is perfect and neither are you. Learn not to dwell on the bad especially if it is something (like someone else's personality) that cannot be changed.

  • The ironic part is that this document was me trying to bend the negativity into a positive "here's what I need to work on for myself" thing. For example, the point of "I need a quiet environment" actually means "I need to be able to cope with supervisors that (rightfully) disturb me." That's exactly why this document was present at the workspace and not at home. – user1884155 Feb 4 '15 at 9:43
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    So what you need to do next time is make the full list at home but only bring to work a truncated version of things I need to work on that does not look like a slam at your boss. It could even be encoded so that you know what you meant but no one else would.. – HLGEM Oct 23 '15 at 21:58
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    I will point out that if you have such a list on your personal cell phone , it is less likely to be found in the office by someone else.. – HLGEM Oct 23 '15 at 22:01

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