Are your wise cracks creating a hostile environment?

A friend has worked in a toxic workplace for 10 years. His boss is clueless and mean. She’s like a female Michael Scott from The Office, so we’ll call her Michaela.

My friend has been having to take a few hours of vacation time to take his ailing aged father to his doctor’s appointments. He always clears this far ahead of time and makes sure his duties are covered while gone. He’s highly conscientious, responsible and punctual.

Last week, while getting ready to leave for the doctor’s appointment, the overbearing and thoughtless Michaela said, “You’d better be back on time or I’ll fire you.” Great. So on top of worrying about his ill father, he now has to worry about being fired, even if the doctor is late taking his father, or there’s a problem along the way.

This week, to offer a little thank you to the whole division’s staff, the director (not Michaela), hosted a warm cookie break after lunch. But the announcement said to arrive before 3:00. My friend and two of his colleagues weren’t scheduled for a break before 3:00 so when asked if they could take break early, Michaela said, “It sucks to be you.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Michaela shows the staff lewd pictures of her and her boyfriend, gossips about members of the division, and generally makes my friend’s life hell. She could qualify as one of those featured in the movie “Bad Bosses.”

There are myriad ways a mature, compassionate boss would deal with things differently. For example, when the staff is leaving for the doctor’s appointment, how hard would it be to say, “I know your father’s illness has added a lot of stress for you. I appreciate that you still perform your duties well and are conscientious about being back on time. I wish I had more flexibility to allow you not have to be back at a certain time, but as you know, our short staffing makes that very problematic. So I know it isn’t easy for you, but know we all appreciate your being back on time.

Or with the cookie break, would it have killed her to say, “Why don’t we start all the breaks 10 minutes earlier so you three can make sure to get a treat?” Or, “I’ll ask one of the gals who takes a break at 3:00 to bring you all back cookies. What kind would you like?”

Being a compassionate thoughtful boss isn’t hard. But if you aren’t a compassionate, thoughtful person it is. And if you are prone to wisecracks, your quick response is costing you loyalty and people wanting to do anything more than the minimum.

 I know toxic bosses don’t ever see themselves in anything they read or hear. They think they are perfect. It’s the other person’s fault and they’re just putting them in their place. That’s a bully speaking. And perhaps a lawsuit coming.