In the 1980 workplace comedy “Nine to Five,” Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play employees of a sexist, bigoted liar, and the trio exacts revenge by tying him up and assuming control of his business.
The biz, of course, then flourishes.
Flash forward to 2011, when the three friends of “Horrible Bosses” aren’t nearly as inventive and just decide to murder their respective obnoxious, abusive bosses.
Although the lagging economy may make you feel as though your choices come down to either suffering in jail or in silence on the job, there are better ways to get employed, stay employed, get ahead and yes, be happy.
As a creator of programs at Elgin Community College that meet the needs of job seekers, Kathy Meisinger has been one busy woman in the last few years.
Although she’s seeing more employment opportunities open up, the licensed professional counselor also notes a major disconnect between what employers are looking for and what job seekers are willing to do to get hired.
“There are lots of jobs available, but people are unwilling or unable to get the skills and bring them to the table,” she says. “The way we do business has changed, and many times people are not prepared to work, or [they] expect the workplace to look like it did 20 years ago.”
According to Meisinger, who also has the title of national certified counselor, employers need people who are problem solvers.
For example, administrative assistants have all but vanished, and it’s not unusual to have one person in the office dealing with the needs and personalities of six or seven executives.
“Americans are used to sticking to the job description, and actually, your job is whatever they tell you to do,” she said.
If you find yourself in a woesome job situation, you are not alone.
There’s a man Meisinger knows who is on his third warning at work and most likely will be fired soon.
“It’s a situation where his boss changes this man’s job every other week,” she says. “In his mind, he’s told to work a certain way, and then he’s reprimanded for doing it wrong. Then, when he got his review, he was told he wasn’t getting a raise because he is a bad employee. He thinks the boss is bipolar, narcissistic and a sociopath.”
Another boss Meisinger has heard about took all the credit when things turned out well and blamed everyone else when something bad happened. Invariably, that person’s employee took a hike.
When dealing with a toxic boss, it’s important to look at the bright side,” Meisinger says.
“Even if you have to stay in the situation, look at what you’re getting out of it,” she says, noting that you could be getting experience in a particular area that you can take elsewhere, or you could be getting paid enough to build a nice college fund for your children.
Whatever the positive aspects to the job may be, take stock and know that a true bear of a boss is the exception, not the rule.
“Bosses can be told by upper management to do whatever it takes to make their people more efficient, and many employers believe that they have to bear down heavily to get more done,” Meisinger says.
Employees basically have two choices: be miserable, negative and complain about it to everyone else or do something about it.
“The first makes you a victim and never solves the problem, so choose the second option,” Meisinger says.
The hardest part might be getting emotions out of the way so you can be clear-headed and can analyze the situation, she says. This should be done away from work — not right after the brute yelled at you.
“Think about when exactly you are feeling devalued,” Meisinger says. “Did they do or say something? Did you have to hear about it from someone else? Maybe he’s calling you 10 times a day and micromanaging.”
By thinking about the situation, you can create strategies for when you go to discuss the problem with a superior, she says. Be sure to keep the discussion on behavior, using language such as, “I feel as though you don’t value me when you ... .”
You also can ask other employees who feel the same way to get together and create a plan, Meisinger says.
What’s the absolute worse thing you can do?
“Don’t ever go over his or her head unless something illegal or unethical is going on,” Meisinger warns. “The company could want them acting this way, and once you go over the boss’s head, that’s irreparable. Try to handle [the situation] between the two of you in person behind closed doors — and that means no email or telephone.”
If you realize that your boss truly is the brother of Beelzebub, you have to fashion an exit plan.
“When you feel trapped, that’s when your health can suffer, and you feel like you’ve lost control of your life,” Meisinger says. “Bosses do have power over us, and if they are bullies, they’ll pick on people with the lowest self-esteem. In the end, we cannot change anyone but ourselves.” kc