I recently got a comment from a reader I’ll call Lila who basically said “my boss doesn’t respect me.” She had already tried some of the things I suggested in that post, including working on improving her skills and shifting positions. And yet her boss (now ex-boss technically) still wasn’t letting her be part of interesting projects.
She didn’t know what else she could do at that point. Even though she moved to a new position, he still had the power. And he was doing things to keep her down. No respect and a lot of questionable vindictiveness. Not an acceptable way to treat an employee!
What if you’re in a “boss doesn’t respect me” job?
Of course, I have no idea what the exact details are in Lila’s case. But no matter what, a boss should show an employee basic respect. Even if the boss doesn’t like them. And even if they are not the best at their job.
If you are a mature, decent human being, you still treat people with respect. And you give them a chance to address any issues you have with them. Or help them find a new role / tasks where they are better suited. And make sure they get some support so they at least have a chance to succeed.
Employees deserve to be treated as you yourself want to be treated. And even if you find out that they are not right for the job, you don’t string them along with bullying and meanness. You keep them informed and, if needed, you let them go. But only after you’ve given them a real chance.
So what can you do?
As I told Lila, it’s always good to first try to change things for yourself. Look for ways to improve your skills — especially needed skills that others don’t yet have. Find problems and come up with solutions. And make sure you at least try to discuss the situation with your boss and see if together you can map out a way to improve in their eyes.
Also, maybe you can find ways to help coworkers with their projects. And then see if they will let your boss know you did a good job. Not too obviously, of course. Building up a network of “local” support can sometimes help.
But if you’ve spoken to your boss and tried your best and they’re still not willing to bend, then it may be time to think about leaving. Meanwhile, any new skills you learn or projects you work on can add nicely to your resume.
Even if you can’t leave immediately, sometimes simply making the decision to move on — as long as it takes — can change your mood because you are putting the power back in your own hands. Not only is this about being respected, it’s about getting a chance to feel good about your work again.
Worse yet, what if it’s affecting your health?
Working in a place where you are always struggling just to get through the day and feeling disrespected on top of that, is not good for you. All those hours of feeling bad about yourself and powerless, can eat at you. And then, away from the job, you also eat at yourself in frustration.
That’s why taking charge — even if it’s just coming up with an action plan for now — can help change how you feel inside. Your health is way too important to leave in someone else’s hands.
But what if you can’t leave any time soon?
Here’s an edited version of what I told Lila about that:
“If for any reason you can’t leave this job anytime soon, and nothing you do gets you treated better by this boss (some bosses get stuck in their own version of reality), then your best bet is to take charge in the one way you can.
You do whatever possible to help make the work environment a little better for yourself. This can help you feel better mentally & physically in the meantime. Add little things to your day that make you feel better.
Nurture relationships with coworker(s) who will see the good qualities you have. You might start by offering to help them with no expectations back. Just being nice. After a while, relationships can form.
Get creative in finding an extra task or project that you enjoy but is also needed. Ask a coworker or your boss for something in an area you actually enjoy. If it works, everyone is happier.
The most important relationship you can pay attention to
Also, there is one more relationship that is the most important of all — the one you have with yourself. Just keep doing your very best and make sure you truly recognize that in your heart.
If we work with idiots or bullies — or people who are too cold or inflexible to see the gifts in others — we have to at least make sure we give ourselves credit for dealing with a tough situation. If they don’t get it, don’t let their opinions eat at you.
Also … it helps to spend some time strengthening ourselves. Exercise. Meditation. Eating healthy. Plus, remembering to reward yourself with things you enjoy. Again, it’s about you taking charge of those things you CAN control.”
A few more thoughts
Each one of us has a lot to offer the right boss and company. Things we may not even realize we’re good at yet. But in the wrong place — in a “boss doesn’t respect me” place — even the best of us can feel awful.
But in the right place, one that is a better fit, you won’t have to fight for respect — or to have your talents recognized. And I say that having been through the same kind of thing myself. More than once.
The trick is not giving up on ourselves no matter how many bad bosses and wrong jobs we land in. And looking to learn about ourselves each time. Also, the right job may be one we eventually grow into — as you continue to learn what feels right and how to say no to what feels wrong.
We all deserve to find that right fit — even if it takes time. And even if we have to adjust a little here and there. Luckily, from my own experience, even the wrong fits can help us get closer to the right one eventually!
NOTE: The original “boss doesn’t respect me” comment-response thread can be found here:
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And just in case you do need to leave