Choking on her own venom


My current manager has been in the job only a couple of months and since she started I have never felt so demoralised and destroyed. She is constantly saying things like "My friends are always telling me one day I'll choke on my own venom" and "I'm very sly, no one gets one over on me"

She screams and shouts at the employees here if they make a minor mistake. She had made our maid cry twice so I drafted a letter to HR but never sent it as it involved other members of staff and I wanted them to read and agree and sign it before I sent it off.

I came back to work after my rota'd four days off only to discover my whole work folder on the computer had been deleted - meaning the letter (password protected, but only with my year of birth, which in hindsight was probably stupid) had vanished.

I asked her where it had gone and she denied knowing anything about it. But files don't delete themselves. It's my belief that she has read that letter and is making me suffer for it!

Then she started putting a lot of pressure on me and started looking for error. Eventually she got her break when I made the mistake of locking some keys in a room and then messed up a booking at my hotel. This led to me being investigated for theft from a credit card and willful damage (as i made tiny dents in the door gaining access to get the keys back).

The conclusion of my investigation was that I had not stolen anything, just messed up a booking, while willful damage accusation was pretty much laughed at. But mud sticks, and I'm now branded a thief, not only at work but in my home village as one of the employees here took it upon himself to tell people.

Sometimes I'm lucky if she talks to me when she gets here, but when she does she snarls at me, slams the mouse down, sighs, rolls her eyes, talks to me like I'm a child.

I really don't know how to handle her and I'm really at my wits end. Can you help?

Gareth, Scotland

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Dawna Jones's Answer:

How sadly characteristic of the hospitality sector... not very hospitable!

It might help to know that your new boss is operating from a place of high insecurity and so is resorting to abusing power rather than communicating honestly about her needs and expectations. When men are out of balance and disconnected to their personal power they resort to aggression and violence. When women are out of touch with their personal power they resort to control and manipulation.

Dealing with this situation effectively will call upon you to both shift perspective on how you perceive her and the power you feel you have. It will also call for courage on your part. You don't mention who has the power to hire or fire so I assume that the boss who hired the boss must approve all hirings and firings. For some reason, you threaten her, which may not take much, but it explains why she is going out of her way to prove you must go and she must stay.

What you must do, if you truly want to stay in this job, is to build a golden bridge to her. This is right out of the book 'Dealing with Difficult People' by William Ury. Stephen Spielberg was being bullied as a teenager. When he got his first movie camera he went to the bully and asked him to be the star in his movie. The bully was thrilled and become a great ally. this is what building a golden bridge looks like. It means doing the last thing the person would expect you to do. Bullying and intimidation is intended to evoke fear. In your case, it would be fear of losing your job.

Shifting perspective:

1. See yourself as being safe and secure in your position. What you are doing is to rise above what has been presented to you to exercise a higher level of leadership than the environment you are in is currently able of supporting. You have the opportunity to raise the bar on the communication relationship and dynamic. This sets the tone for achievement in any workplace.

2. Set up a meeting with your boss. The purpose of the meeting is to establish an action plan for a better relationship with your boss. She needs to look good with her superiors and you are there to help her achieve her goals.

3. Go in with a question or two that is intended to listen to what she wants to achieve in her position. For example, you might say as an opener, "There have been some incidents that are working against your reputation as a 'group leader' (her position). None of what has happened makes you look good. For me to help you, I need to know what you want to achieve in your position here at the hotel."... Then listen. This must come from a place of confidence in yourself, a 'knowing' that you are competent and secure. Otherwise, the disempowerment you have accumulated from your treatment will take hold.

I would suggest that you do nothing more than that in the first meeting. Then watch what happens after.

These situations appear far too often when people, male or female, have developed strategies for survival that do not draw on their talents as a human.

Tackling this situation will call for you to be strong within yourself. Spend some time ahead of time visualizing the entire conversation, the room, a positive outcome, her comfort with your question, your comfort with asking it. They use visualization extensively in sports and pay athletes a lot of money. Why not at work? Best of luck.

It isn't an easy podium for your evolution as a leader but it does call forth the best of what can happen for all.

About our Expert

Dawna Jones
Dawna Jones

Dawna Jones is the author of Decision Making for Dummies and host of the Evolutionary Provocateur podcast. She contributes imaginative insights plus 25 years experience so companies can transform from "business-as-usual" to inclusive cultures of prosperity. You can connect with her on LinkedIn