Friday, 18 March 2011

How Do You Overcome A Toxic Boss?

No, it's not a joke in need of a punchline - it's a serious question. What do you do when you work for somebody who is erratic, unpredictable, a micro-managing, nit-picking rule-maker and in many ways totally deluded? When even your husband, not the world's most perceptive person (possibly even borderline Asperger's!), says that he can see you become less confident and losing your self-esteem?

I work in a care environment but am not a health or care professional (that's important). The establishment I work in was closed previously by Social Services but has been totally refurbished and has a complete new staff. It has been 'open for business' since September last year but so far, primarily as a result of the previous difficulties, has only two residents. I work 16 hours a week and am supposed to have a colleague to mirror me, making one full-time post but as we are under-subscribed I am on my own for now.

I know I'm creative - I've got a degree in Fine Art; I thought I was confident (heck, I've taught teenage boys - you can't be a shrinking violet and do that); I have a lot of good ideas that I'm dying to put out there; people usually like me..I know they do. I think I can be really funny and I make people laugh. Maybe my problem is I want to be liked, but I can't believe, underneath it all, that it's me who has the problem.
This week, because the manager....let's call her Malicia...hadn't stressed to the staff the importance of taking holiday by the end of March, (bearing in mind that we've been employed for six months now) there has been only me, a Romanian RGN and Malicia (who is an RGN too) at work to care for two old ladies, one of whom is non-ambulant. Malicia normally stays in her office when we're at our full complement but this week she's had to muck in. Today, a couple of hours into my shift, I saw Malicia ask the other RGN if she could have a word with her and took her off somewhere - my antennae went up. Next thing she calls me to her office where the other RGN is already waiting. Proceeded to say that she wanted to talk about things that had happened in the last hour. I put on my 'quizzical but interested' face, obviously still oblivious to the next remark. Which was that I was involving myself in medical things not of my concern and that I had said something to a resident that could bring 'Safeguarding' down on us.

Gobsmacked, followed by incredulity, followed by indignation.

Although I am trained in Manual Handling my job doesn't, in theory, necessitate it. Because all the care staff were on holidayor off duty I was in the position where I had to help the RGN with the hoist etc and yesterday, whilst hoisting her into bed one resident had asked us four times to take her socks off before she had her sleep. Today she asked us again several times and I said, laughingly 'You just tell me now, XXXX, who's forcing these socks on your feet anyway?!' The way you do with a child, or at least I used to with Red, Mr Charming and Carb Addict anyway, just acting silly. She laughed, I laughed and I thought nothing of it. That was the first thing I did wrong, apparently. This lady who, bless her, can't remember what she had for lunch an hour after she's eaten it, might tell her daughter when she visits tomorrow that she had been forced to wear socks. Long lecture followed. Then, even worse apparently, I had asked the RGN what would happen if our other resident suddenly got into bad pain, when she is given Paracetamol every four hours as a matter of course. What do you give then??    I asked, I suppose, because I am basically nosy although I have to say that I wasn't really listening to the answer. Second mistake. I shouldn't be querying what they, professional nursing staff were doing because I am not a member of the caring staff. Just good enough to do the lifting and handling when everyone else is off, even though it's not my job
Well, I told her that I asked because I was nosy but that I didn't particularly care what tablets they were giving out and I'd obviously offended her for which I apologise. Whilst wanting to kill her stone dead. And do you know how all this came about??
My face was red when I started because I'd gone from the rain outside to a superheated atmosphere, and stayed red (I have complained to all and sundry about the heat of the place). Malicia pulled the RGN aside and asked if I was angry or upset and the RGN, who earlier I had been talking to about her wish to have babies; how she loved children and so on; who I had made laugh when I sang 'Goodnight Sweetheart' to the lady as we left her in bed, had told all this to Malicia. WTF!!!! Maybe I'm wrong but if you're a manager and you think (wrongly) that one of your staff members has a problem, don't you ask them? Why would you ask someone else? And you know something else? If I was an RGN and I thought someone was out of line in what they said I think I'd tell them myself. She later told me 'I feel a lot better after that conversation' (with me and Malicia). Well isn't that great, at least one of us did. 

Since we started in September seven staff members have left including the Deputy Manager RGN who wasn't allowed to do her job, and the chef - both of whom wrote and told the higher-ups exactly why they were leaving; whilst Malicia was on holiday the Deputy Manager Admin called in Head Office because of the atmosphere, the staff turnover and so on, and there was a big meeting with the remaining staff and a HO person - we all wrote statements and some people stated that they had been bullied by Malicia, which I thought would be pretty serious. What happened? Bugger all. I really like my colleagues (apart from the RGN from today who I now detest but will never have an inkling), and need the job to get rid of our debts, but the day we pay the last penny off I'm outta there. 

Massive post, massive rant I know but....any thoughts gals? 


  1. Were I you I would spend some serious time studying my job description and then I would stick rigidly to it regardless of the circumstances. Were I asked to go beyond my job description I would reply that I had been instructed by management to undertake only the tasks for which I was employed. It's not your role to worry about the effects of management staffing decisions or failures - so don't. Stick to your job description and stick to your guns - and do it with a friendly smile.

    BTW, thanks for commenting on my blog :O)

  2. Oh my word, that sounds like a right situation to be in. Why do some people have to be so... well, Toxic? I hope you get a new boss soon.

    In answer to your question, Prudence is an Airedale Terrier (king of the terriers). She's fairly large, although we're so used to her she doesn't seem that large anymore. You can however get a smaller version which is the Welsh Terrier. If you ever think of getting a Prudence then drop me an email and I'll tell you 101 reasons why you should lol! :-)

  3. 1) stick exactly to your job description, and every time you are asked to do something additional, get it in writing.
    2) every shift, ask to speak to "malicia" because you want to clarify something.
    3) make HER feel uncomfortable.
    4) when you are doing your job - HUM happily and smile at the clients. you are there for them, and they appreciate you.

  4. I had this big style in my previous job - so much so that I lost every ounce of confidence I had. I couldn't stand it and looked for something else which I was lucky to get. It was only after I left that I discovered loads of others had suffered the same. We used to meet up and help each other over what was a quite a big trauma at the time. I really feel for you. xxxx

  5. I have put the evil eye on Malicia!



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