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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Impossible to Please Boss

Dear Sue: I am a 50 year old woman, and have worked for a county agency for the past two years. My problem is my boss, who is the same age as me. For some reason, she finds fault with everything I do. My job includes typing highly-technical reports, which can be quite challenging. I work with approximately 10 other women who do the same type of work I do. Every day my boss calls me into her office to criticize some minor mistake I made. She always finds fault with my work and will call my attention to every little typing error she can find. This is hard enough to deal with on a daily basis, but what makes it even more difficult is I am the only employee in my office that is subjected to her daily verbal beatings. In my last yearly review, my boss told me that I was too sensitive and needed to "toughen up."

Recently, after the installation of a new software system in my office, my bossís supervisor called each employee into his office to see how everyone was adapting to the change. This was a first, and appeared to be an opportune time to discuss the problems Iíve been experiencing with my boss. The supervisor assured me that he was aware of my bossís shortcomings and that I could anticipate some changes in the office. So far, no changes have occurred, and today I was once again subjected to the daily tongue lashing.

I really donít know how to handle my boss. I donít feel it is a good time for me to change jobs with the economy the way it is. Should I be more aggressive with her? If I am too aggressive, I fear I could lose my job. I would greatly appreciate your insight and any suggestions you have on how to handle this situation.

- Stuck

Sue Says: You must feel some sense of relief knowing that your bossí supervisor is aware of your boss' shortcomings, but I realize it doesnít help you deal with the criticism you still face. As uncomfortable as it may be, you need to talk with your supervisor and let her know how her criticism affects you. Because your boss thinks you are too sensitive, you want to be careful in your approach and come from a position of strength. Talk with her and try to determine what it is that she wants from you and why she is so critical of you. In addition, talk again with her supervisor and let him know how demoralizing it is to work the way you are. Until changes are made, you may have to live with the situation as it is, but do make sure that you are not being super sensitive, and try not to take what your boss says too seriously.

Dear Sue: My coworkers are aware of personal problems that are taking place in my life, and everyday without fail, the problems are thrown in our casual conversations. I feel that this is being done deliberately to hurt me. How should I deal with this problem?

- Plagued by problems

Sue Says: The first thing you need to do is to stop sharing your personal problems with your coworkers. Telling everything about yourself provides others with ammunition to be used against you. No one will ever know your boundaries until you establish some, so work at brushing off some of the comments you may here and deal with your coworkers directly. They will never know the effect this has on you until you are ready to tell them. Be honest, be up front and be discreet.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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