If you’ve seen the movie Horrible Bosses or the TV series The Office, you've probably laughed at the craziness and absurdity of how the bosses on those shows handle themselves at work. There’s no way real-life bosses act like that, right?!?! Well unfortunately, you could be wrong.
Sadly, you may encounter an inappropriate boss (or bosses!) during your career. I’ve certainly encountered some inappropriate bosses throughout my career. Here are a few tips on how to deal with the awkward situations they put you in, because you don't have to be subject to that, and it's not okay!
Remove Yourself From the Situation
The first thing you need to do is remove yourself from the situation. When a previous supervisor told me he couldn’t stop thinking about me (in a non-friend way) during a late-night work session at the office, I immediately grabbed my belongings and left. There was no reason to continue to stay there and continue to feel uncomfortable. By staying, I was only going to subject myself to further awkwardness and other potential words or acts on his part, which could have spiraled out of control. I removed myself to ensure the situation did not get worse. I also made sure to never be alone with him at the office ever again, so there would not be another opportunity for him to do so again.
If you’re ever in an uncomfortable situation with your boss, make sure to remove yourself from the current and any future instances where the inappropriateness can continue.
Now there may be instances when it may be difficult to do so. In my case, I worked with this supervisor on a day-to-day basis. However, I made sure any interactions between us after the incident were in front of other co-workers, and I never went into a closed room with him.
Create a Timeline of the Incidents
After an incident, write down notes of what transpired between you and your boss as soon as you are able to. If your boss’ bad behavior persists, make sure to document all the incidents in a timeline. Write down when, where, and what happened during the instances. Were there witnesses?
Sexual harassment is not the only way bosses can be inappropriate in the workplace. I had a boss once who asked me to complete illegal and unethical activities at work. I refused, as I did not want to jeopardize my career. However, he continued to ask me to complete these unethical activities, as he openly took on these illegal tasks too. I made sure to document each instance and I had witnesses to what happened, and what my actions or non-actions were, etc.Why bother with doing so you may ask? Well this information will be extremely helpful when you proceed to next steps.
Report the Incidents to the Appropriate Departments/Organizations
There is a reason for your Human Resources (HR) department and for employment laws. To protect you, amigas!
This is why you need is to take notes and create a timeline of the incidents. When you approach HR or another department/organization (your union, an attorney, etc.), your timeline will be extremely helpful to make a formal complaint. Though, as a note, it is not necessary to have a timeline.
When one of my former bosses (mentioned above) asked me to perform unethical activities, I contacted an employment attorney, along with the appropriate state government office to ask for guidance on what to do and how to proceed. I provided a timeline of the events that transpired as evidence of what was occurring. They gave me advice on how to properly document my boss’ actions, my actions, and how to proceed with work until I was able to get another job.
Luckily, I was able to find a new job fairly quickly. I was also not the only employee who made a formal complaint against my boss to the authorities. Eventually, his office was shut down, and he can no longer practice in his career field again.
If you’re ever feeling nervous or ashamed about contacting your resources, please don’t. They are there for a reason. I am a licensed attorney and had to ask for help, so you can ask for help too!
Don’t know where or who to go to for help? Go back through your employee handbook/manual for instructions on the proper protocol. While you may feel intimidated to make a formal complaint against a boss, rest assured there are laws to protect you from retaliation. If you don’t have an employee handbook, contact your HR department or an employment attorney for advice. Many attorneys will provide one free legal consultation for people trying to figure out the best options for them.
Work is already tough without adding an inappropriate boss into the mix. I hope that you won’t need to take my advice during your career. However, if you do, these tips will help remove you from the bad situation so you can work in a happy and safe work environment. We all deserve to work that way.
Note: This article does not provide legal advice. Please contact an attorney or the appropriate authorities for situations that are urgent or life threatening.