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This is a follow up to this question. Recap is I began working my current job at the beginning of May and sometimes my boss speaks to me in a way that I'm not ok with. For example I will not tolerate him yelling at me. The worst option is I quit and the second worst is I report him to HR.

I usually work only with my boss. His name is Vincent (not really). He basically hired me because he doesn't know programming but then recently I started working with another person too. Call him Russell. Russell told me he can lend a hand and I can ask him questions since I'm new. It turned out Russell is the person my boss Vincent reports to.

Yesterday I couldn't understand my boss's directions and he yelled at me for it. I will not accept this kind of behaviour. I hadn't decided how to address the issue and decided I'd like to talk to Russell. Just as I was typing an email to Russell to ask if he had time to chat, Vincent walks up behind me and reads the email on my screen. He asks what I wanted to talk to Vincent about and even though I tried to avoid the question he pressed it. I told him I was having trouble understanding him (I had told Russell in the passed I had trouble understanding Vincent instructions). Vincent told me to come talk to him about any problems and told me to close the email. He explicitly said not to contact Russell about work related issues. I don't find that very professional for a person to tell me not to talk to another person.

Latter today Vincent got mad again for not understanding his directions. I find it very difficult as he gets mad when I get stuck and don't ask questions, but then he gets mad at the questions I ask too. English is not Vincent's first language and the directions he gave me were

export spatial layers (compliances rtc_pp_dist.dist_nbac and rtc polygons rtc_coastal_baseline.rtc_23, layer='LC' from DB as temp shapefiles to local working directory \...\someDir using utility pgsql2shp.exe, make sure that SRID value is set to 54812 for both files (this value is referneced to the table rtc_23 in the public schema table public.geometry_columns),

First off I have 0 background in GIS. I was confused about the layer='LC' part and I asked Vincent what it means. He said LC stands for land cover. I was confused as he just listed two tables to export, and there was no table called layer or LC or anything like that. He said "LC is the filter" and asked if I knew what filter is. Since the conversation seemed to be going no where I said no, because I wasn't sure if I knew what filter in the sense meant. He hit the roof and started saying I lied on my resume about knowing SQL.

It turned out he wanted to only export records from the table where the column layer='LC' (and only on the second table).

What should I do in these situations?

Some more background is that I'm working at a research facility where everyone is in their own rooms and a lot of the scientists have PhD's and strong knowledge of their domain. A lot of the people are into forestry (which I know nothing about).

Russell had known that I had been having communication difficulties with Vincent and he told me "he had grown up in the Red Army" and that "because he speaks English so well [which is not the case] it's hard to see how different his culture is and that we're ultimately better off for the diversity". I really don't want to be labelled as prejudice for saying I can't understand him.

Who should I speak to and in what order? I don't really feel comfortable going up to my boss and telling him it's not ok to yell at me, but if that's necessary I will do it. Should I wait for when he's calm or when he's mad or right after he was mad and had calmed down? I don't want to cause trouble by talking to him when he's calm and everything is going well.

Sometimes it's not just yelling in the sense of being loud, but leaning in closely and breathing rapidly and clearly loosing his composure and looking really mad. Does anyone have any advice on what an "adaptable level" is? For example if once a month he raises his voice, I don't care, but if 3 times a week he actually yells then I'm reporting him to HR and considering quitting.

Another obstacle is my boss gives me long lists of instructions (the above example is part c) of a 15 items lists of instructions) and he comes over to my computer and tells me to open them and asks if I have any questions. If I say no, then latter if I get stuck he gets mad that I told him I understood the directions. It's like he can't understand that I can't for see all obstacles or things I may need clarification on down the road.

Sometimes he seems like it's bad that I'm "stuck" but isn't that why people have a job? If it's a simple task then it would be automated but since it's something that needs experimenting/tweaking/thinking put into it, there exists the job. For example today he asked me what I was working on and I said that the arcobjects library wasn't loading and it was like he got mad at me for it saying that I was a programmer and should know this. Should I phrase it differently so it doesn't sound like I'm complaining or asking a question when answering "what am I doing?"

I'm a co-op student and I had informed my school's co-op coordinator about this but he just said that I'm right I don't have to tolerate being yelled at. If it's relevant this job is for the federal government.

  • possible duplicate of How do I respectfully go above my manager? – gnat Jun 17 '15 at 7:41
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    FWIW, two of the most charming delightful people I've ever worked with were Russian and literally served in "the red army" back in the day. Your issue is not with Russians or non-native speakers. Although a language barrier can make things harder, you're having a personality clash with "Vincent" and not "Vincent the Russian". – teego1967 Jun 17 '15 at 16:55
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If this is a school placement, raise a formal complaint through your school's co-op coordinator. Don't just mention it to them, make it formal so corrective action can be taken!

Having a manager yelling at you is utterly unacceptable and can be considered workplace bullying, especially if it is repeated. Keep a journal of each instance of it and keep it ready as evidence. Being government in particular, they take a dim view of staff members who act in an unprofessional or discourteous manner. You do not need to deal directly with Vincent, use the proper channels and if necessary get a new placement.

If it's not a school placement, go directly through HR and follow the same process. Don't go through Russell, use the proper channels because that is why they are there!

  • I guess I don't want to make the situation 90% when the yelling only happens 20% of the time. And making a formal complaint would do this. – Timothy Anderson Jun 17 '15 at 3:51
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    @TimothyAnderson If you are being yelled at 0.1% of the time, it is still workplace bullying! Your options are to either live with it or to resolve it. That must be your choice, but being yelled at by your manager is not condusive to a pleasant work environment. – Jane S Jun 17 '15 at 3:53
  • Remember, we can't tell you what to do. But think about Vincent's reaction to your email. Complaining to Russell is still going to have consequences. If you don't wish to rock the boat, then really you have no choice but to live with it. But is this going to be better in a month? Two months? Why would it change if his behaviour is not challenged? – Jane S Jun 17 '15 at 3:59
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    @TimothyAnderson You can't say 20% is "not a big deal" if it's an unresolved problem. Basically right now you have a problem that hinders your ability to do work 20% of the time. And that definitely needs to be fixed one way or another so that you can do the job you were hired to do. – Brandin Jun 17 '15 at 3:59
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Ok, I'll try to break this up into some smaller pieces.

First off I have 0 background in GIS. I was confused about the layer='LC' part and I asked Vincent what it means. He said LC stands for land cover. I was confused as he just listed two tables to export, and there was no table called layer or LC or anything like that. He said "LC is the filter" and asked if I knew what filter is. Since the conversation seemed to be going no where I said no, because I wasn't sure if I knew what filter in the sense meant. He hit the roof and started saying I lied on my resume about knowing SQL.

It turned out he wanted to only export records from the table where the column layer='LC' (and only on the second table).

What should I do in these situations?

He overreacted, but I understand someone would be at least confused in this kind of situation. layer='LC' is quite trivial, but it could happen that at the time you didn't understand what he meant by it. In such cases, I would keep pressing for more explanation. If I don't understand something it's mostly because I cannot visualize it. At those moments I ask colleagues/supervisors to help me visualize (by writing out code, or literally drawing a database table/scheme) it. This helps me a lot, it might do the same for you.

Who should I speak to and in what order? I don't really feel comfortable going up to my boss and telling him it's not ok to yell at me, but if that's necessary I will do it.

Speak to your direct boss first. This would be Vincent. Let him know that this kind of behavior is not acceptable (in the Western world). The fact that he "grew up in the Red Army" is not an (acceptable) excuse. Sure, someone can lose his temper.. but this frequently? If your direct boss won't listen, go to Russell. According to your story, this guy is calm and acts more professional. As he is also the boss of your boss, he might (be able to) do something about it.

Should I wait for when he's calm or when he's mad or right after he was mad and had calmed down? I don't want to cause trouble by talking to him when he's calm and everything is going well.

Wait until he is calm. You obviously trigger him and that gets him angry. Don't keep pouring gas on the fire when it's already roaring.

Sometimes it's not just yelling in the sense of being loud, but leaning in closely and breathing rapidly and clearly loosing his composure and looking really mad. Does anyone have any advice on what an "adaptable level" is? For example if once a month he raises his voice, I don't care, but if 3 times a week he actually yells then I'm reporting him to HR and considering quitting.

Report this to Russell and, if you deem necessary, also to HR. If you talk to Russell first, you could also ask to be transferred to a different department.

Another obstacle is my boss gives me long lists of instructions (the above example is part c) of a 15 items lists of instructions) and he comes over to my computer and tells me to open them and asks if I have any questions. If I say no, then latter if I get stuck he gets mad that I told him I understood the directions. It's like he can't understand that I can't for see all obstacles or things I may need clarification on down the road.

Does he want an exact answer, or an estimation? If you don't know then don't give them an exact answer! They will keep you to it, and 9/10x you cannot "keep your word". Don't put yourself in this position and keep it vague by estimating. Simply tell him that you don't know, because you actually don't: because you lack experience or haven't gone in-depth yet.

  • "Does he want an exact answer, or an estimation? If you don't know then don't give them an exact answer!" I try to but he gets mad and says "yes or no, do you understand it or not?" and since I can't come up with any questions on the spot I say yes. But obviously I may have questions in the future but he doesn't seem to get this. – Timothy Anderson Jun 21 '15 at 23:01
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Tim,

You're dealing with 2 different things here. First off, you're dealing with someone much older than you, who has a significantly different cultural background. Not only was American culture different when Vincent escaped the iron curtain, but Vincent comes from literally, a much harder culture. Secondly you're "the new guy" who also is new to everything in your position.

So let's address "the new guy" first. You're new, you're learning, you should not have to experience this verbal abuse. You are working in a federal position so to avoid a bad reputation I recommend that you find the open door policy for your organization. It probably recommends that you try to talk to Vincent when he is in a calm mood. If the abuse continues, go to Russell. No matter what you experience during your action to address this you have to remember that regardless, you deserve professional treatment.

The cultural situation is much more difficult; this is where you will grow, and develop management skills. Your task is learning how to manage your manager.

Under no circumstances should you quit. This is YOUR co-op, this is YOUR opportunity to learn. Getting work done during your co-op is important, but the key work is your learning experience. If in the least you can learn from Vincent how to NOT treat coworkers.

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