So here is the scene:

My manager got hired in my company 2 months ago (full time). Before that he came here as a consultant. The company he came from, I used to work over there until I got laid off. The CEO of that company told my manager something negative about me. I know this for sure.

Now, when he was a consultant everything was good. He used to make jokes about me and I didn't like it. So I kind of reverted it back to him whenever he tried. But NOW he became my manager and there is a tension between both of us. I am afraid to ask any questions to him because the tone he uses is harsh and I feel offended. Plus he belittles me in front of his desk, where everyone can listen.

My question is: How should I approach this issue? I don't want to drag this tension for a period of time.

  • 3
    Does he have a manager? This is a good time to raise it with him. Not just the issue of the public execution, but your long term prospects of cooperation. Your long term prospects of mutual respect is pretty dim
    – kolossus
    Jan 31 '13 at 17:13
  • @kolossus: Yes! He has a manager who took my interview. He is good with me and respect my work ethic n all. I am not keen on keeping here LONG term wise though :\
    – RG-3
    Jan 31 '13 at 18:29
  • How do you KNOW the other CEO talked you down? I mean besides your history with that CEO. Has the Mgr done/said something to give you that impression?
    – monsto
    Jan 31 '13 at 21:50
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of How do I respectfully go above my manager?
    – gnat
    Oct 13 '16 at 16:39

First, if he says anything negative to you that you don't appreciate, bring it up immediately - "John, I don't really appreciate it when you say things like that."

Second, if he says anything in front of others, see if you can take him aside and bring that up as well - "John, if you have an issue with something I've done, I'd appreciate it if you told me in person, rather than calling me out in front of the group."

Third, ask for some time for a sit-down with him, now that he's the manager. He should be able to tell you what his expectations are for you (in terms of day-to-day processes as well as a long-term goal), and you should lay out your long-term goals as well. If it's just the two of you, it could give him the chance to tell you about some things that he noticed about you when he was a consultant, but now he has to act on them since you're reporting to him. This could be a chance for both of you to clear the air, and you'll have a better idea about what to expect in your work relationship with him.

  • Thanks Adam. This was very helpful. I sometimes fear that what could happen if I tell him upfront. Never did anything like this in the past and I never had any conflict too.
    – RG-3
    Jan 31 '13 at 18:35
  • @RG-3 - I hear ya, I hate conflict, too. But there comes a point where it's best to give it a shot. Adam V's steps above are the best first steps. If they don't work, or you get an inappropriate response, then you have a good case for going to HR and asking for assistance. But as it is, many HR reps would probably tell you to try to express yourself to your manager first, before they try taking other action. Jan 31 '13 at 19:45
  • 1
    Good answer - I especially endorse the "what are your expectations of me?/these are my goals" approach. It establishes that you have a professional attitude towards your association but also that you feel that the current situation needs to change without putting your boss on the defensive. The whole "we need to resolve our differences" approach is a lot trickier as it's inherently confrontational and can easily get awkward and devolve into "I said/you said".
    – pap
    Feb 1 '13 at 12:55

I am afraid to ask any questions to him because the tone he uses is harsh and I feel offended. Plus he belittles me in front of his desk, where everyone can listen.

Without knowing more details, about all I can do is recommend some books by Suzette Haden Elgin, starting with The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work. In her series of books (they all have "gentle art of verbal self-defense" in the title), she describes a number of linguistic attacks and traps that many people don't realize are going on. She also gives a number of responses that can be used to deflect away from the emotional attacks into actual communication as well as identifying the real issues under discussion.

  • Nice recommendation on books Tangurena.
    – RG-3
    Jan 31 '13 at 18:39
  • 1
    That is an excellent book.
    – HLGEM
    Feb 1 '13 at 18:24

In addition to all the good advice already provided here, I'd add that the best defense I ever saw was by a secretary who was accused of not being productive (not your exact problem, necessarily, I realize) who kept a log of all her work over the 30 days she was being "watched". When she presented the hard evidence that she was indeed, very productive, her manager had to reverse their original low evaluation score.

My point is that even though you can't keep a record of the verbal conversations you have with this person, you can keep a record of all the positive, cooperative and professional e-mails (and it's usually a good idea to keep an e-mail trail of work issues, lest people forget what has been agreed upon). Any evidence that you are cooperative and professional can only help you in case this issue with your manager deteriorates further.


Just ask him:

I could be mistaken, but I sense there may be some tension between us. I'm not aware of any specific incident that could be the cause, but I just want to make it clear that I don't have any negative feelings about you personally or professionally. I just want us to be able to work together. Is there anything I have done or said to offend or cause you concern in any way?

You don't have to quote it, but you want to make sure that you communicate your lack of hard feelings toward him and give him the opportunity to voice whatever opinion or feelings he may have. This way, both of you know exactly where each other stands and, hopefully, you can move forward.


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