Ask Your Local – Dealing with a difficult manager

Q: My manager never offers me any praise for the good work I do and he takes credit for everything. Nothing is ever quite right and he makes minor tweaks and then criticizes me because he had to make “major” changes in order to get a credible product. The constant criticism is wearing me down and I feel as though I can’t face it lot of days so I take a sick day – which also gets me criticized. I’m feeling depressed all the time and its even affecting my family because I’m a mess most evenings and Sunday nights I can’t sleep. I’m at the end of my rope. Can someone help me?

A: This is a form of abuse – bullying, harassment – lots of names apply but it really all comes down to your working for a micromanager who has little self-confidence and has low self-esteem.

The standard advice is for you to go to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help you deal with your stress and the Centre for Values, Integrity and Conflict Resolution (VICR) to whom a public servant may turn for mediation in order to create a less toxic workplace. Both are good advice but, since you aren’t the problem, all that the EAP counsellor can do is provide you tips on dealing with micromanagers and VICR can mediate the differences and come up with a non-binding contract for you and your manager that may or may not resolve the issues over the long-term.

The Government of Canada harassment policy has changed dramatically, and now the process for filing a harassment complaint is far lengthier than it was and the burden of proof is higher.

I would love to have your permission to confront this manager about THEIR problems and the side effects to your health. That raises awareness that someone else recognizes what’s happening and you are no longer alone. It’s the 1st step toward change. If the manager recognizes their role in your health issue and readily accepts help to change, great strides can be made in accomplishing a less toxic work environment. Sometimes, honest conversation makes a drastic difference.

An option that may also be utilized is an honest conversation with your family doctor about what the work environment is like and how it is affecting your life and your mental health. The doctor and even Health Canada can make an enormous difference with their recommendations for the workplace and the union can be part of that dialogue. Duty To Accommodate is a wonderful tool to resolve workplace issues and get you in a better spot reasonably quickly.

Please don’t consider escaping through stress-related leave for the long term. The legislation allows management to replace you on an indeterminate basis if you are absent for as little as one year (although they normally wait longer) and you will be on priority status when you return. Human Resources will help you find another position but its not easy in these times.

Flight or fight – the decision is yours but you will have lots of support if you choose to stay and allow the union to help make the workplace a better place to be or help you be reassigned rather than leaving on sick leave.

Each case is different and unique but there is hope. Don’t give up…..

Rotha Lennox
President, Local 70713
Union of Environment Workers Component
Public Service Alliance of Canada

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