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Scheduling Conflicts

I recently went to an appointment that I had anticipated would take an hour. I told my boss before I left. When I returned an hour and 25 minutes later, my boss’s first words were, “Where the f*** have you been?” He proceeded to swear at me and stormed out of the office. I described what happened to our higher up, the owner. He said that he doesn’t “get involved in these things” and told me I need to work out my relationship with my boss.

I recently went to an appointment that I had anticipated would take an hour. I told my boss before I left. When I returned an hour and 25 minutes later, my boss’s first words were, “Where the f*** have you been?” He proceeded to swear at me and stormed out of the office. I described what happened to our higher up, the owner. He said that he doesn’t “get involved in these things” and told me I need to work out my relationship with my boss.

Our relationship has been rocky from the beginning. I spoke with our head of HR and she said that office policy is to give verbal notification of appointments and the time of departure. There is no policy for return because the employee does not have control over outside entities. I am shocked at the behavior of my boss. I am also offended. What should I do? — Careful in California

Beverly Kaye
Well, you certainly gave a good description of a boss who might meet
the qualifications mentioned in the article that Sharon and I wrote about bad bosses. It sounds like you handled this as well as could be expected. You tried to get advice from someone higher up, and when that didn’t work, you consulted with HR. HR used the “policy,” which is often all they can do, and bounced the ball right back to you.

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You probably already know that one choice is to see if you can make a move somewhere else in the organization and start again with a different boss. (HR might even support that!) Another alternative is to let your boss know how much this upset you, why you were offended, and how you might have handled it differently — perhaps calling to let him know the appointment was running late — and how you wish he might have handled it. That’s not easy. One last idea is to try something very counterintuitive. Abe Lincoln once said, “I do not like this person; I must get to know him better.” Get curious about that boss and try to understand his outbursts and mood swings. Could be he was under some kind of pressure that day that had nothing to do with you.

Margaret Heffernan
I think there are two issues here: the rights and wrongs concerning doctors’ appointments, and your relationship with your boss.

As far as the doctors’ appointments are concerned, clearly you have to
attend these as necessary. You need to be punctilious about giving as much
advance notice as possible and as accurate a sense of the time involved as
possible. That just helps coworkers schedule their work and time. In your
circumstance, it might not be a bad idea to give this notice via email so
there is a record of it. And it might not hurt to give a generous estimate
of how long you expect each appointment to take. There are a lot of
dependencies in work, and it’s important to always ensure that you’re not
letting anyone down.

This is all just good practice, but it’s also important given that you have
a boss who is spoiling for a fight. Is this really because of the doctors’
appointments — or is there something else going on? Think hard about what
your boss needs to be comfortable with you and your work. For some, it’s
loyalty; for others, it’s constant communication. Understanding what really
drives your boss will give you a lot of power in the relationship; not
understanding it will mean you’re always at a disadvantage.

Having said that, once you understand what your boss really needs from you, you may find it unacceptable. Some bosses just want sheer hours; others,
blind obedience. If you reach a point where what he needs and what you need
are fundamentally different, you need to find yourself a different job. It
is all too common to get stuck in abusive relationships with bosses, where
your confidence and, eventually, your competence are gradually eroded. You owe it to yourself to get out before that happens.

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