I have the boss from hell. What should I do?

“I have a job at a Fortune 500 company but I have the boss from hell who calls the women on his team “his harem” among other things. I have reported this and much more serious problems like the manipulation of territories to make the overall picture look better for himself. The money he is costing the company is outrageous but he is flying under the radar by blaming others. If I cannot get the powers to listen, should I get legal representation before he finds a way to fire me?”

–Debra

The Harvard MBA says:

Sounds like a very sticky situation.  I feel compelled to point out that this is an Internet advice blog, intended for entertainment purposes, and that you probably should seek out legal advice.  Nonetheless, here’s what I think you should do:

1) Do some scenario planning.

I’ve been involved in a number of lawsuits, and advised others who have been in similar situations.  A lot of times people like your boss or other shady characters will try to take advantage of you by trying to put you on the spot so that you’ll make a foolish decision.

One entrepreneur who is a personal friend was confronted by an angry investor who threatened to sue (on spurious grounds, of course) if my friend didn’t immediately resign from his company.  What he should have done is said something non-committal like “I’ll need to think about this,” and immediately called a lawyer, and then me.  Unfortunately, he panicked and resigned, and he was never able to regain control of his company.

Most of us don’t know all our legal rights.  I know I don’t.  But if you think something bad is going to happen sooner or later, don’t waste your time worrying about when it’s going to come.  Instead, plot out all the most likely scenarios and construct a plan in advance, so that when the time comes, you can calmly swing into action.

2) Document everything.

Save every possible incriminating email, document, or memo.  You probably have no legal right to keep that information, or to reveal it to the public, but that doesn’t matter.  What you want is to know where the bodies are buried.  You can always get access to that information via subpoena later on, and sharing that information with your attorney is protected under attorney-client privilege.

3) If you think conflict is inevitable, take the offensive.

If the situation becomes truly intolerable, and you have nothing else to lose, take the offensive.  Any Fortune 500 company has both an HR department and a strong desire to avoid negative publicity.  If you’re convinced it’s you or your boss, you have nothing to lose by approaching the HR department and laying out the issues.  Make sure you do this in writing, and save that evidence as well.  I’d also write directly to the CEO’s office for good measure.

What you’re trying to do is to make sure that you can’t be easily silenced.  Your asshole of a boss is going to try to torpedo your career anyways; your best bet is to turn a bright spotlight on the situation.

4) Get a lawyer.

Ultimately, if you listen to any of my advice, do this one thing: Talk to an employment attorney.  You’re not the only one who encounters these kinds of issues.  An employment attorney will know the right things to do (more so than me!) and while it may cost you a few bucks, I think your sanity is worth more.

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