You know how that old joke goes. Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean that they are not out to get you.
Well, there is some truth in that. Sometimes, when you feel that someone is out to get you, they really are out to get you.
And if that someone happens to be your boss, then you are in for a very bumpy ride indeed.
Sounds familiar? Does the person in charge at your workplace seem to have it in for you?
Do you feel that he picks on you all the time?
Are you convinced that your boss hates you?
Well, first, make sure that you are not imagining things. It may feel like your boss is always snapping your head off without any provocation, but if he does the same to your workmates, then that's probably just his working style. You shouldn't take it personally unless you are the only person being targeted. If everyone is in the same boat, then you swim or sink with the rest. Or look for another job with a more pleasant work environment.
Thought it over? Still convinced that you are the prime target? Okay, fine. But don't go by your judgment alone. Play your work scenario back to a disinterested party (a friend who works elsewhere is fine; a girlfriend/boyfriend who is predisposed to take your side is not) and ask them for their considered opinion. Listen carefully to what they have to say, even if it is not what you want to hear. Take their thoughts on board, think things over for a week or so before you take any precipitate action.
Use this cooling-off period to observe your boss closely. Is he just your standard-issue jerk who bullies people simply because he can? Or does he have a particular animus towards you? Is this an irrational dislike based on no discernable fact? Or does he have issues with your working style?
If he doesn't seem to get along with anybody else either, then you needn't feel persecuted. But if you are the only one who is singled out for negative reinforcement, then it's time to come to terms with the fact that you have a problem. Yes, your boss does, in fact, hate you.
It could be for any particular reason or nothing in particular. It could even be for something that exists only in his imagination. But however trifling the cause, you still have to deal with it.
So, what are your options? The most direct approach is to ask for a one-on-one meeting and place your concerns on board in a businesslike manner. Don't play the victim. Instead, voice your feelings in a non-emotive, non-accusatory form. Treat this as a problem-solving exercise, in which you say what is bothering you in the hope of clearing things up, not as a confrontation in which you are determined to best him. He is in charge; you are not. Remember that.
In case he seems genuinely surprised by your grievances, give him the benefit of the doubt. Put the entire episode out of your head and start afresh. Reevaluate the situation in a month or so to see if his denial was credible.
If he admits that he has a problem with you -- with your attitude in general or working style in particular -- don't be too disheartened. You can still make things work. Get him to point out the problem areas, ask for suggestions on how you can improve, and put them into play as soon as possible. All professional criticism should be accepted in a positive spirit. Don't treat it as a personal condemnation, but as an opportunity to improve and better yourself.
If a face-to-face interaction is too stressful, fall back on e-mail. Write to your boss, explaining how you feel. Don't frame your concerns in general terms. Instead, give specific instances of how or why you felt targeted. Steer clear of emotionally charged language. Be clear and concise. Ask him how you can amend matters.
Scared of the potential fall-out of a direct approach? Enlist the help of a co-worker or a superior who is perceived as being close to the boss. Explain your predicament to him. You could take him into confidence and ask for his advice on how to deal with your boss. You could ask for his frank opinion on whether your boss does in fact hate you. Or you could use his services as an honest broker to convey your feelings to your boss and find out how you can remedy the situation.
But no matter how upset you are, don't go around confiding in all your co-workers. Sometimes these things are self-fulfilling. If everyone in your office is convinced that the boss hates you, this will inevitably get back to him. And he may end up hating you, even if he didn't do so to begin with.
-- The writer is the author of the book Woman On Top: How To Get Ahead At Work.