Let’s paraphrase the published letter. The writer (let’s call her Ashley) writes:
“My boss gives me directions via short emails from his phone. I have trouble understanding what he wants. I ask for background and context, but he ignores me. Then he gets quite “vocally upset” when my assignment doesn’t turn out as well as he’d wanted.
“My boss’s peer suggested going to Human Resources. HR took his side. What should I do?”
The Workologist correctly pointed out that the real issue isn’t the boss’s blow-ups; it’s the boss’s unclear directions. The Workologist suggests documenting the problem.
Here’s my take on the situation.
First, be very careful about going to HR – ever. They’re not on your side. Their mission is to protect the company and that means preserving the structure. Even if your boss does something totally inappropriate and illegal, they’ll find a way to extricate the company. For instance, they might find a way to buy you out. Or they’ll get you transferred to another department with a black mark on your record that nobody can prove. It’s very, very rare for HR to help.
Second, be even more careful about getting advice from people in your orbit at the company. I suspect that your boss’s colleague has an ulterior motive in sending you to HR. She (or he) wants to make your boss look bad. That’s one fewer competitor for the next promotion.
So what can you do?
Here’s why I recommend that everyone run a business or take a commission sales job. Even if you fail miserably you will learn a lot (and your next venture will probably go better). For one thing, you understand that you have to deal with customer conflict on your own. You have to figure out how to make things work with a client or lose revenue.
So let’s get creative. Here’s an idea. Let’s say your boss gives you an assignment with missing information. You come up with two or three scenarios (depending on how much time you have). You say, “Given Scenario A, here’s what the report would look like. Here’s Scenario B in this other folder.”
That’s all. No lectures. No complaining. You’ve saved face with the boss: he’ll realize he hasn’t given you the info.
Alternatively, you can call around and figure out the context and background yourself. Where does your boss get these assignment?
As the Workologist says, though, he might be a hothead. If he’s a screamer, you can’t take it personally. It’s tough but it’s a good opportunity to practice your game face. If you think he’s being truly abusive, try to document and talk to a lawyer. Or better, gear up for a new job.
I’m not sure what type of assignments you’re getting so this advice may need adjusting. Hopefully some readers will come up with examples of assignments where context and background are crucial so I can comment further.