Relationship Connection: I’m being abused by my boss


My boss makes my life miserable. I realize everyone has to go to work and certainly I need the money, but it has gotten to the point that my work life has made my non-work life bad as well. At work, I get yelled at, given dirty looks and generally treated like I am less than human. I can’t quit my job, and every time I have tried to say something, I get accused of being a whiner. What do I do?


While it’s certainly an awful situation, it’s clearly not awful enough for you to do something about it. No one has to stay at his or her job. You are not being held on the job as a slave, so you can walk away anytime you want. Of course, there could be serious financial consequences if you don’t have another job waiting. While I’m happy to help you problem-solve your dilemma, I want to make it clear that you are not stuck at your job.

It’s important to recognize that like any relationship, if you are dissatisfied with your relationship with your boss, chances are your boss is too.  While you may see the problem differently, it’s important to do some self-examination to identify how you may be contributing to the problem; ask yourself if there is any merit to the negative input you are perceiving, is your attitude inviting the disdain? If so, you may have some work to do yourself or you may well find the problem follows you wherever you go. This is something we can explore in a separate discussion.

For now, it sounds as if you see the relationship as unresolvable; there are, then, some steps I recommend you consider:

Check and see if your company has policies for filing formal complaints. This usually happens through the human resources department. If it’s a smaller company with no official human resources department, then you can still produce a written complaint.

Before writing a complaint, however, it’s important that you have your documentation in order. Beginning today, write down each incident, noting the date, time, and circumstances of the negative interaction with your boss. Keep a log of these interactions until you have a clearly established pattern that you can include in your formal complaint.

If your boss isn’t listening to your input, then find out if your boss has a direct report. If you’re not getting anywhere with your boss, try submitting this formal complaint to the next in line with a request for a face-to-face meeting to discuss your concerns. Emphasize that your goal is to simply eliminate the hostile work conditions so you can do the job you were hired to do.

If you don’t get anywhere with formal complaints and meetings with either your boss or upper management, then you have to decide which is worse for you: financial stress or emotional/relational stress. Some people decide that their mental and relational health is more important to them than having the security of a job that breaks down their dignity as a human being.

If you act powerless and believe there is nothing you can do to improve your situation, then you will continue to needlessly suffer. You are not powerless and you don’t have to curl up in the corner and endure the mistreatment. Stand up for yourself using the polices already established at your workplace or move on to better work conditions.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.


Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Copyright St. George News, Inc., 2012, all rights reserved

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  • Audrey Hona November 13, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Employers can promote the building of relationships by speaking candidly with their employees about their lives, asking them about their families and learning about their interests.

  • DoubleTap November 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Would it be safe to assume that if a boss is being abusive to their employees, that, that same boss is being abusive to their spouses and/or children, or worse yet, their indefensible pets? I know of some bosses who are so cruel to their employees, that one would simply think that they are abusive to anyone and /or thing they come into contact with. I have known husbands of some women whos bosses have come so close to being confronted by these women’s husbands, that law enforcement had to have been called, to keep the peace in the workplace. It is a sad commentary when the boss/employee relationship has eroded to the point that employees have had to just give up the job, just keep their self-pride and values intact….not to mentions their sanity. Hopefully some employers who may read this, will get a clue and attempt to take stock of their actions at the workplace and make some serious adjustments in their management of other humans.

  • PH November 14, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Yes, having an abusive boss is difficult. However, one needs to look to see if the treatment is realistically deserved or not. I’m not sure when or where the ‘entitlement’ generations begins or ends.. or if it is even a generation, but just because you show up to work does not deserve fair treatment by the boss. I’ve seen too many employees just show up and want to get paid for texting, facebooking.. or just plain old doing nothing, that it makes me sick. If your truly doing your part and your responsibilities, then speak up say something. if your not… get ready for that pink slip.

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