How To Deal With A Bad New Boss

BN’s mom was doing great at work until a reorg gave her a new boss between her and her old boss. While she did stellar under the old arrangement, the new boss is constantly rude and belittling via email, and the old boss has backed up the new boss to choose whatever management style they like, even after a failed HR mediation. What should BN’s mom do? Her story, inside:

BN writes: “My mother currently works for a company as a statistician and has been in this position since 2007. Everything was going fairly well (excellent job reviews) until this past November, when the company hired a new statistician to supervise my mother. This new supervisor (call her person A) is now one layer between my mother and the previous boss (person B).

Since November, the workplace situation has become increasingly hostile, with incessantly rude emails from Person A, though nothing rising to the level of discrimination (i.e., there have been no blatantly discriminatory remarks and nothing stated explicitly about my mother’s age). Nevertheless, Person A continues to send email to my mother, belittling her for inefficiency and incompetence. On multiple occasions, she has sent my mother emails to the effect of “there’s a meeting in five minutes” and then criticizes her for failing to attend these meetings because my mother never saw the email on time. Person B has steadfastly refused to provide any support and has supported Person A’s criticism of my mother’s work. Although Person A has made significant errors in various projects, Person B overlooks these and/or covers up for Person A while my mother gets the blame.

Given my mom’s past fantastic reviews, it is distressing that she has now received extremely low scores in her most recent reviews. Despite emailing Person B, asking for a meeting on how she could improve her performance, she was told that criticism of her work was the only feedback her supervisor was willing to provide. Person A has additionally stated that my mother has failed to submit projects on time, when timestamps on emails indicate this is false; Person B has again refused to investigate this further.

When my mother was hired, she was designed as a particular position, X. However, she was assigned work that was usually performed by another, higher-ranked position Y. Person B told my mother that by performing this additional work, not in her job description, she was likely to obtain a promotion. She has been evaluated at this higher level, without earning the pay for position Y. Furthermore, she has been notified after this last evaluation that because she has received a poor rating from her new supervisor for her duties for position Y, she is on the verge of being fired from position X.

An effort at HR mediation between Person B and my mother failed; Person B voiced his support for Person A and denied my mother a transfer to another team. He further told her there is no opportunity for a promotion. So she has to stay under the supervision of Person A.

At this juncture, the situation has degraded to the point that she comes home and calls me every night with a story of a new insulting email. Is there anything she can do at this point?


Hierarchy matters. Boss B needs support Boss A in their new role and can’t be undermining them, even if Boss A is undermining your mom. Boss A sounds insecure in their new role and feels the need to assert themself through a series of petty actions.

My suggestion would be for your mom to stick to only that work that’s in her job description and try to nail her numbers, while at the same time dusting off her resume and looking for a new gig, even though in this economic employees are sellers in a buyer’s market. Also, document, document, document. BCC all correspondence to a private personal account. If it comes down to you vs Boss A, and Boss A has already shown themselves to be a fibber, you’ll need all the evidence you can muster.

I am not well-versed in corporate gamemanship, however, so I throw this one out to the readers – what would you suggest BN’s mom do?

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