What Happens When the Worker Should Be the Boss?

By Lindsey Novak

April 15, 2021 5 min read

Q: My boss is angry with me, and I did nothing wrong. To set the stage: I do far more than my boss because I have been in the business much longer than he has. In fact, I should have his job, but he was favored for the position because he is a male and I am a female. He relies on me for nearly everything, and every month I have to teach him another aspect of the job he doesn't know.

I injured my knee on Thursday evening and went to the emergency room; I was given a hard plastic removable cast and told to work at home with my leg raised. I can easily complete all my work at home. I called my boss at home to tell him about my injury, and his response was that I must come into work because he is leaving the next day to take a week's vacation. Had I not called him, I would have found out about his absence the next day when I arrived at work. He literally gave me no notice. Regardless of how crazy this sounds, I could hear his anger in his voice, so I agreed to come in.

Now, I am upset I gave into his demand. He thought nothing of giving me no notice; he assumed I would be there because I always am, and he obviously doesn't care about my knee healing. We are the only two in the department. I don't know if he doesn't believe I am injured or if he just doesn't care. He can't fire me because I handle many more procedures than he can, but I have terrible anxiety when anyone becomes angry with me. How do I undo what I agreed to?

A: It sounds like you have a couple of serious issues to resolve. Experiencing anxiety whenever anyone is angry with you is a difficult, if not impossible, character trait to carry through life. He is certainly not the first person who has ever been angry with you, and he will not be the last. Your anxiety due to others' anger likely began in childhood, but only you can take steps to work on this problem. If you are old enough to hold a responsible job, you are old enough to find a therapist to work with you on it.

Tied into this problem is that you allowed him to bully you into agreeing to an unreasonable demand. Another issue is that kowtowing to him may have sent a mixed message — one that may cause him to think you were fabricating or exaggerating your injury. First, you presented information about needing to work from home with your leg up to help it heal. Yet with one forceful and angry demand to come in during his absence, you acquiesced to him.

If your injury is serious enough to require both a cast and working at home with your leg up, why did you immediately agree to coming in? You are either injured or not; your doctor did or did not order you to keep your leg up. Your knee didn't suddenly heal during the phone conversation with your boss, so you can see why your sudden agreement after declaring you must work at home may sound like your injury is exaggerated. You are the one who should question why a boss would announce his vacation the day before his departure.

Go into work the next day and meet with the head of human resources. Show him or her your knee injury and the doctor's order to work at home; explain that you regularly and independently complete all your work without your boss's input; also report that your boss notified you of his vacation yesterday evening when you called him regarding your injury. Then ask how HR would like to handle the simultaneous absence of both of you. They will likely approve you working from home and hire a temp employee for the week to handle the phones, if necessary.

Keep in mind that you are not reporting this situation with any malice. Just make sure to give the information without emotion. You are reporting a situation management should be made aware of and protecting yourself. It also sounds like HR needs to know you are responsible for most of the work produced. Whatever you do, don't make excuses or apologize for the accident or for your boss.

Email career and life coach: [email protected] with your workplace problems and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com, and for past columns, see https://www.creators.com/features/at-work-lindsey-novak.

Photo credit: Taokinesis at Pixabay

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