Boss is dismissive and rude — should I tell him?
Springing complaints on him in 360-degree review could be dicey.
Question: My new boss, considerably younger than I am, is uncommunicative and dismissive. He acts rudely toward me and avoids any work interaction other than “do this.”
When I ask questions, he’ll say, “I emailed you a document about that weeks ago.” Once, he called my coworker into his office from our shared office, then sent her back to give me his instructions.
A month ago, he demanded an unfinished draft of a strategic plan. This week, to my surprise, he was angry because I had not updated it while he was reviewing.
In my 25-plus years as a professional, both junior and senior colleagues have said I’m a great team player, mentor and work friend. I am used to exchanging ideas, picking apart risks and benefits, etc., with senior leadership. Now, if I express an opinion different from the current boss’, he gets upset. I am increasingly inclined to believe that age is a factor in his treatment of me.
When I interviewed with this boss, he posed seemingly rude questions such as whether I could “get along” with millennials. Everyone else reporting to him is significantly younger than I am. His behavior is directed only at me and has been noticed by my colleagues. I don’t think he has ever supervised people.
Our 360-degree reviews are coming up. I think I’m going to lie and give him average to above-average reviews, but is that really helpful?
Answer: Hollow praise helps no one. But whatever your boss’ issues — perhaps he’s the one who can’t “get along ” with someone outside his age group, or perhaps he’s defensive because workplace millennials get such a bad rap — springing your complaints on him in a review, especially if they hint at illegal discrimination, is not an effective approach, either.
If you think it’s worth trying to “manage up” and see if he eventually realizes what others already seem to know about you, you could positively frame critiques in his review to encourage preferred behaviors: “Continual direct feedback from boss on assignments would make it easier to meet his expectations.”
In the meantime, when you seek his feedback outside the review process, emphasize that you’re asking questions not to challenge or undermine him, but to better understand what he needs from you. And doublecheck your assumptions — “Should I hold off working on this until you finish reviewing?”
If he’s a new manager, this could be a valuable learning experience for him. But just in case he’s not receptive to upward management — or if you find yourself continually having to prove yourself to an apparent passive-aggressive child tyrant — you should document your experiences, starting with the interview, and consider taking your experience where it will be appreciated.
Pro tip: Although 360-degree reviews are supposed to be anonymous to encourage honesty, you should assume the recipient will guess who wrote it and word your critiques accordingly. Don’t write anything you can’t back up with examples.
EVEN WHEN a review is supposed to be anonymous, assume the recipient will guess who wrote it.