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Dear Robin: Should I tell my old boss what I think of him?

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Photo credit: Bart Everson on Flickr. CC license. Image cropped. 

What's your problem? Write to Robin at [email protected]

Dear Robin, 

For the past four years I have been supervised at work by a man who is rude, abusive, thoughtless, dishonest, offensive and a bully. This isn’t just my perception; it is one that is shared by everyone in the large department he manages. Three critical sales team members have left in the past year and I am about to be the fourth.

I have secured a job that starts in two weeks in a different industry and will never go back to sales. I am leaving good friends behind who will still have to deal with this jerk on a regular basis. I want to tell him off when I leave and make sure he knows exactly how I feel. My husband says this is a bad move, and that I should keep my mouth shut.

What do you think? Should I let him have it, or just leave quietly?


Dear Disgruntled,

As I sat here thinking about your dilemma, I realized that you aren’t limited to the two choices you identified. I think there is a third option which will likely be far more effective and satisfying than either educating this man on his high level of douchery or saying nothing. That third option will be described later, because I need to keep you in suspense long enough to read all the other stuff I’m going to write. Let’s go through your choices:

Option A: Do nothing (also known as the “Wimp” or the “Gives a Damn about Her Future” option).

Give your two weeks notice, move on with your life, and try to make something good out of your time spent with Mr. Personality. If you lasted four years with him you must be good at dealing with conflict and difficult personalities. I imagine that those skills were honed and perfected by the constant rubbish you had to deal with working for the Boss from Hell. In that way he did you a favor, so gather your things, shut your mouth and be glad you were able to get out alive.

Option B: Burn that Bridge (my personal favorite):

Arrange a goodbye event involving cake, because office dwellers will always show up for cake. Make sure the boss knows how much you hope to see him there. Once everyone is assembled, go around the room and tell people what you liked about working with them. Save your boss for last and then hit him with this:

“Boss, I have learned so many valuable lessons from you that I can take with me into any job I may have in the future, and for those I owe you a debt of gratitude.”

At this point he’s beaming; he’s too stupid and arrogant to have picked up on your distaste for him over the four years you’ve worked togeth 
And then you say:
“Here’s what I learned from working with you for four years:  I am strong enough to put up with someone stealing my ideas and selling them as his own; I am smart enough to avoid being in a room with an egomaniacal and angry man without a witness; I am quick enough to dodge an ass-grabber in an elevator; and I am confident enough to not let my self-esteem be trampled by the alcohol-fueled rantings of a white collar psychopath. So thank you for that!”

If you are going to burn a bridge, be sure to use the AskDesCamp Bridge Burning Protocol which can be summed up thusly:

1. Gaze upon your future and determine whether you will ever need to cross the bridge in question again. For example, is there a chance you will need a reference from this man or this company? If the answer is yes, I suggest standing down. If the answer is no, please proceed to Step 2 and burn that mother down.

2. When you burn the bridge, give it all you’ve got. There’s no sense in going halfway with this, so grab your verbal gasoline and blowtorch of wit and pent up anger and light it up. As Dylan Thomas said in his infinite wisdom, “When one burns one’s bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.”
Last we have Option C: Delegate your feelings to a third party, namely Human Resources.

Before you leave, schedule a meeting with HR and your boss’s boss. Tell them how you feel, use specifics and if you have written backup to your allegations, present those as well.

Make it known at the beginning of the meeting that your goal is simply to express yourself before you move on and to help the co-workers you are leaving behind. State your assumption that your coming forward will not impact any future reference you may need from your employer.
In other words: tattle. Tattle hard. Maybe you aren’t the first person to complain, and maybe this could be the final straw for this jerk. If your goal is to have this man held accountable for his behavior and to provide some needed relief to the co-workers you are leaving behind, Option C is probably your best bet.
Dear Robin,

I have been best friends with a girl since grade school. We are now sorority sisters at University of Oregon. Last week we had a big argument and I am still pretty upset about it. Basically, I told her I wanted to get breast implants, and she took it really weird. She told me I was being stupid and vain and that she didn’t think she could be friends with someone who was so shallow that they would have their boobs done.

Later she apologized about it, but I’m still feeling angry. Why does she care what I do with my body? Her breasts are big, by the way.  What’s up with her, and how should I handle it?

Flat and Not Happy

Dear Flat and Not Happy,

You have been good friends with this young lady for many years. Don’t let this silly fight get in the way of continuing your relationship. I have a few thoughts:

1. It’s highly ironic for someone in a sorority to judge anyone for being shallow;

2. It’s none of her business what you do with your ta-tas (although sweetie, you do seem a little young for plastic surgery); but

3. This isn’t really about your boobs.

It sounds like your friend suffers from a combination of anxiety over what may already be a shift in a long-term friendship, the stress of college, a fear of being left behind by her compatriot and maybe a good dose of competitiveness.
Maybe she feels less attractive than you and she is worried that your new rack will make her feel even more so. Perhaps she has always enjoyed knowing that she out-ranked you in the “Cop Issues a Warning, not a Ticket” competition and your decision to surgically enhance yourself is taking away that small victory.

Whatever it is, she probably doesn’t really intend to end the friendship upon the super-sizing of your lady lumps.  Take her out for lunch and get to the bottom of what’s really going on. I’m betting this has more to do with her own personal fears and insecurities than it does with your future bra size.

Good luck and don’t add more than a cup!

Photo Credit: Andrea Doolittle

Former Portland lawyer and current Portland big mouth Robin DesCamp is the Velvet Sledgehammer of Truth, smashing through socially acceptable niceties to tell you how to live your life, and why. She blogs at www.askdescamp.com. Write to her at [email protected]


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