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I have been working for over three years for a really small tech company (about 12 people in the team). This is also my first job ever. I have two bosses, the company owner who works almost always remotely (let's call him John) and a shareholder (let's call him Jack) that had been working with my boss for a long time but had been just a coworker, becoming a shareholder only recently.

I am constantly clashing with Jack: He views me as insubordinate (he himself already said so multiple times). I always obey an order coming from him, but sometimes I try different approaches, or make suggestions, or state my opinions, still respecting what he had said. He is highly inquisitive, and if he thinks you're behaving incorrectly, he will expose that by calling you out publicly (for everyone in the office to hear). Whenever someone asks him a question (even through chat), he almost always replies by voice. And many times he will, without even fully reading what you wrote, inquire about your questions, often saying he "did not understand". Most of the time he addresses others with a strong voice tone giving the impression he is rudely correcting you. I find his behavior unprofessional and abusive sometimes. Even if he doesn't intend to make others feel bad, he makes me (and others, probably) feel bad when we are on the receiving end of such behavior.

The problem is that I feel he is harsher with me because he doesn't like my behavior. This led me to do a very bad move out of impulse: I complained about an episode (his behavior) in writing to John. John wrote back and was rather understanding, but told about my complaint to Jack. Jack was furious, and his behavior has grown worse. Last wednesday he nearly insulted my skills, and rudely replied "I have already explained you that" once asked a question.

I believe Jack strongly wants me fired, but John doesn't, and a private discussion between them probably already happened concerning this.

Excluding the obvious escape (leaving the company), how can I deal with him to mitigate his behavior?

                                                                                **EDIT (2) I am editing here because I am not being honest with myself, even. The real reason why I don't want to leave this job, at least FOR NOW, is because I am aiming for either a programming or database oriented job and I feel having had just a single actual development project is not enough practical knowledge. I want to have more confidence in myself and I feel that comes as I go through more concrete, more valid experiences. **

closed as off-topic by Lilienthal, gnat, scaaahu, Rory Alsop, Myles Feb 13 '17 at 17:30

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Feb 14 '17 at 12:23
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  • TALK TO THE PERSON FIRST

Sometimes people are not as unreasonable as we think. Take this up person to person with Jack before you do anything else. It could be that he doesn't see his actions as out of line. If you can end it without getting anyone else involved, that would be the best resolution for all parties concerned. If you can resolve the issues between yourselves, there's no fear of later retaliation, no difficulties involving others, no need to move on, and no headaches. Honestly, this has the least likelihood of working, but is a firm foundation of demonstrating that you tried everything should the issue escalate.

  • DOCUMENT EVERYTHING

Whether you leave or stay, you need to document the behavior of this person, to whom you reported the behavior, what actions were taken after the behavior was reported, as well as any and all follow ups. If you don't do this and are fired, they will be able to say "fired for cause" and you won't have anything to prove otherwise.

  • MAKE IT KNOWN THAT THE BEHAVIOR IS UNACCEPTABLE.

Believe it or not, some people don't realize when they are out of line, and that's actually a defense, albeit a weak one. One of the FIRST questions to be asked if this goes anywhere is "What did [person] say when you confronted him? It will look very bad for you if you say "Well, I never said anything to him."

  • Your third bullet can be excluded in my case. I believe my instincts are pretty good at assessing other people's character. His behavior is questionable with everyone, not just me, which is bad. He sometimes is a nice person, coming up with random jokes that are genuinely fun. But whenever he thinks someone is wrong in some way, he has very bad ways of handling it. I believe he is not aware of how destructive he is, but I also believe he won't be convinced of that and/or consider changing. – WorkingBear Feb 13 '17 at 14:13
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    @WorkingBear If he's not aware of how destructive he is, the third paragraph is most relevant in your case, and should definitely not be excluded. – rath Feb 13 '17 at 14:14
  • @WorkingBear If he's "sometimes is a nice person, coming up with random jokes that are genuinely fun" then he's likely unaware that his behavior at other times is inappropriate. Talk to him, preferably when he's in a good mood. – Richard U Feb 13 '17 at 14:29
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    @WorkingBear then you've already gone through bullet point 3, which I said was unlikely to work. Now, document everything. – Richard U Feb 13 '17 at 14:46
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    @WorkingBear I don't mean to sound rude, don't get me wrong. But if it's your first job, and the situation has gotten to that point, you probably do not assert very well other people character. Do not assume you do. I could also argue that assuming someone character without talking to them has a very specific name, but discussing that would be off-topic. Just food for thought here. – Hugo Rocha Feb 13 '17 at 17:18
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You essentially have three viable choices

1) Leave. This is probably your best option. There is not a level of pay that is really worth ongoing low level psychological harm. It makes sense to get your resume out there and have options anyway, most likely.

2) Minimize your contact with the bully, keep your head down. Stay out of his way. Do your best job.

3) Give John an ultimatum - say that Jack has to either change his behavior, leave, or you will have to leave. You might want to prepare option (1) above if you are planning this course of action.

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    I like your idea of an ultimatum. Him leaving is totally impossible, so it's either he changes his behavior, or I leave. Of course I don't want to do that unless I have another potential employer at hand, though. Regarding psychological harm, it is true, I constantly feel oppressed by this situation, I am constantly "on standby" for something bad happening. Part of this may be due to my overly sensitive nature, I have great fear of bad outcomes when relating to others in general. – WorkingBear Feb 13 '17 at 13:41
  • It would likely be constructive dismissal which in many jurisdictions would entitle you to unemployment benefits – Brad Thomas Feb 13 '17 at 13:44
  • Do not blame yourself for an abuser's behavior. Your sensitivity is not the problem. It is healthy to be sensitive to that, it's your mind telling to get away - this is damaging. People who are desensitized to abuse begin to think it is normal and often become abusers themselves. – Brad Thomas Feb 13 '17 at 13:45
  • @BradThomas AFAIK, there's no notion of "constructive dismissal" in the US. I realize that it does exist in many other countries, but there are a lot of US folks on this site and unfortunately, making work miserable (but not to the point of being hostile) is pretty legal there. – alroc Feb 13 '17 at 14:06
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    @BradThomas I was never suggesting it. Responsibility lies still with the abuser, but you can shield yourself so you don't suffer from it. If I leave my wallet in plain view in a public place, the thief would still be committing a crime, but I'm ultimately responsible for myself, so I should've taken better care of it. I hope the analogy clarifies my position somewhat. – rath Feb 13 '17 at 14:18
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Look at your reasoning:

  1. John has promised to get me involved into a very large and important project in the near future

Unspecific promises that something will change.

  1. I believe that the nature of my company provides a great insight into business processes.

Trust me; at this stage of your career, EVERY company you work in will be an education for you.

  1. It is extremely stressful to me when I need to adapt to new experiences.

And staying isn't stressful? Well, then, you have no problem. Stay at the company until you retire.

  1. Getting another job is going to take time.

How do you know? Have you TRIED for any other jobs? Using an 'economic downturn' is a worn-out excuse when you're only looking for one, relatively low level, position.

Stop giving excuses, and go ahead and do something to save your sanity. Neither the company owner nor the shareholder deserve to work with you.

  • Any company will be an education for me. That is very true, I agree with that. But I don't want JUST education, I want a quality company that will provide me with quality education. To me, "any company" won't do. I want to strive for great experiences providing me with a LOT of practical knowledge. I admit that my reasoning for staying really is somewhat feeble, and I feel the true reason for this reluctance is the one I stated at the chat. – WorkingBear Feb 16 '17 at 16:39
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Buy some shares. Evidently, according to the rules at your company, you will then have equal authority with Jack.

As a shareholder, not only will you have the authority to object to the way Jack treats you, you will also be in a position to insist that Jack start treating everybody else with respect too, since high turnover is harmful to the company and therefore to your investment.

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    You don't understand the proportion of my company. It's just a room. It makes a lot of money for it's small size. It's not like anyone can go in and become a shareholder, this was due to the decades of working together. And he probably spent quite a sum, that I as a newbie worker, don't have. – WorkingBear Feb 16 '17 at 16:35
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I am assuming that the shareholder is also an employee from:

I have two bosses, the company owner who works almost always remotely (let's call him John) and a shareholder (let's call him Jack) that had been working with my boss for a long time but had been just a coworker, becoming a shareholder only recently.

There are 4 suggestions that come to mind:

  1. Ignore it: which is what you and your colleagues have done before
  2. Have an informal conversation with the shareholder: this is unlikely to help as he's already angry and doesn't seem to care about how you feel
  3. Escalate: you did this with your manager but with no benefit. I would recommend taking documented evidence of how much disruption, in time and monetary terms, this shareholder is causing. Back this up with recommendations too
  4. Find a new job: which you are reluctant to do
  • There is no escalating. The hierarchy is limited to Jack and John (the company owner). I already brought this to John (referring only to a single case, though, I never complained about his overall/usual behavior toward me). – WorkingBear Feb 13 '17 at 13:45
  • Taking it to your manager is escalating it (above "you and Jack"). – Martin Bonner Feb 13 '17 at 15:44

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