Dear Terrible Advice, 

Both my boss and his lieutenant are troublesome.  One guy is erratic and nasty, the other is predictable and secretive and nasty.  The traditional advice is to either lodge a complaint with the HR Dept, or hope that some large objects will strike them on the head as they leave the office.  Don't misunderstand--I don't want their jobs, I just want peace.  What do you suggest?

Seeking Divine Intervention in New York City



Dear Seeking Divine Intervention in New York City,

It is a given in business that when your boss is an insufferable miscreant, it is likely that his or her assistant, hired to step in seamlessly if your boss’s life is ever interrupted, is cut from the same miscreant-like cloth. So it does not surprise me that you are being double-teamed with nastiness.

I would guess that when either your erratic boss or his predictable underling makes a mistake or misses a deadline, you are the one blamed even if you have nothing to do with it, and more often, the finger-pointing is done behind your back. You can be sure that a file folder in your boss’s office grows fat with reports of your alleged incompetence.

No matter how unfairly you believe you are being treated, you should never file a complaint with the Human Resources Department. While you may think that HR is your ombudsman and legal representative sworn to protect your emplyee rights, you should not be so naive to forget that the majority of people in that department were hired by, is paid by, and report to the very people you are complaining about. You may think you have a sympathetic ear, the support, and the commitment of an ally who is nodding in apparent agreement, but in reality, your boss’s phone will be ringing and a complete transcript of your confidential conversation will be emailed as a .pdf attachment to him even before you reach the elevator.

HR, once known by the more plebian term “Personnel Department,” is not on your side. Since Human Resource professionals know they hold onto their positions only at the pleasure of managers who work in the profit-generating departments of your organization, are in constant fear of losing their own jobs, and know how difficult it is to get a new one anywhere these days, especially in such a frill area as HR, they are quick to kowtow to authority and will turn on someone like you in a heartbeat. Human Resources is frequently the dumping ground where companies shuffle off their quota of women and those they feel are not competent enough to work in more important corporate areas such as operations, manufacturing and finance.

Once your superiors hear that you complained, you will notice how your job, once simply unpleasant, has quietly transformed into what Organizational Development professionals call “a living Hell,” fueled by retribution and a level of nastiness that you could have never heretofore imagined possible in a non-barbaric society. You will be certain that the sudden increase in demeaning assignments, the career opportunities offered to those less qualified, and the unceasing barrage of verbal abuse, excessive discipline, and public humiliation is retaliation for your recent grievance, though you will never quite be able to prove it.

So with a formal gripe not the prudent tactic, you may want to consider the “falling projectile” approach to resolve your managerial conflict, considering that a piece of office furnishings strategically flung from 20 stories up may be an elegant solution to one, or perhaps both, of your problems . Since you work in New York and likely in a tall building, one of its upper floors could serve as an ideal launch platform. Your first inclination might be a dramatic gesture to shove a floor safe or break room vending machine out an open window. However, with an understanding of the 32-feet-per-second-per-second law of physical motion, you will find that such a hefty accoutrement is, for lack of a better word, overkill, and a similarly acceptable outcome will result by heaving a less cumbersome object, perhaps an inkjet printer, which you can fling handily on your own. With the number of people frustrated by their own inkjets, who would happily chuck one out a window, you are likely to be among many hundreds who will be considered suspects.

Those experienced in dispatching problem supervisors suggest that it is best to target your boss first. If you eradicate his assistant, your boss will simply find someone exactly like his now flattened deputy, incidentally losing little sleep over the loss. So the more effective strategy is to cut out the canker at its root. Even if his assistant is assigned to fill the now vacated position, you can count on the subtle message that “nastiness is not longer tolerated” will be clearly understood by the newly elevated replacement.

How you can make this an even more poetic solution is to point all evidence to the lieutenant, who will be seen as having "career advancement" as an obvious motive. Drag the object to be hoisted down the hall, making deep score lines in the vinyl tiles and creating furrows in the carpeting leading directly into the assistant’s office, stopping at the open window.

With both your boss and his weasely lieutenant now out of the picture, you can go about your work finally enjoying the peace you so desire.

Just a bit of warning: The aftermath of a 12 cubic foot Xerox copier, a color printer, or a 17” monitor crashing onto human flesh from 250 feet is not as tidy as it is when the same object smacks, say, Wile E. Coyote or a similar cartoon organism. While the hand drawn characters, lacking the same kind of squishy internal organs that your boss houses, may temporarily take on the cute and neatly pleated shape of an accordion, with a discordant bellowing sound accompanying it as you would expect, your boss, an organism internally comprised of easily squashed viscera will not fold up neatly like a Rand-McNally map, but will simply smear into a disgusting paste on the pavement when intruded upon by a heavy weight from above. So if you want to visit the scene to make sure that your aim was true, be prepared to get a little nauseous if you are in the least bit squeamish.

It is, however, quite likely that if you do in both your boss and lieutenant, your company will need someone to take up the slack immddiately, so may find that against your will, you will be assigned all of their duties in addition to your own, and chances are, without a change in title or upped pay grade. Since you will now be doing the work of 3 people, neither their jobs, which you have not be trained to perform, nor your own, which you will have little time to do properly, will be completed without you putting in excessive unpaid overtime, and even at that, will be done so poorly that everyone will be talking about what an abject failure you have become and wondering how on earth you could have lasted in this company as long as you have. As hated as your previous boss and his unter-associate were, you will begin to hear coworkers mumbling about how much they miss their now expired fomer overseers.

Now that you are burdened with these new responsibilities and authority, those who once considered you a friend and lunch buddy, were sympathetic to you and identified with your plight, will no longer see you as a colleague but will henceforth see you as “da man” and never ever trust you again.

You will eat by yourself and hear murmurs behind your back. You will be under constant pressure. Your mood will turn dark. Others will consider you to be erratic, secretive, and in a word, nasty.

All I can advise then is, before you walk out the front door at night, be sure to look up.

I hope this helps.