Only word for tyrannical boss is goodbye

Dear Joan:
Help! I work for a federal government agency. The head of our office is a tyrant who is getting a fat salary from the taxpayers. She has promoted incompetent people to supervisory positions who spend their workdays making numerous personal phone calls and watching their subordinates like a hawk.

She butts into people's personal lives and feels she can order people to lose weight, go off diets, go to mental health counseling, etc. She and members of her management have uttered racial and ethnic slurs in front of other staff. She loves to spend large sums of taxpayer money on overly fancy and unnecessary furniture, lamps, pictures, wallpaper, etc.

We come in to work one day and find another one of our co-workers is gone and has mysteriously "resigned."

Her supervisors have gone through our desks looking for things to get on our case about. We think our phone calls are being tapped. We really don't talk to each other during work time for fear of being reprimanded.

Any tips on how we can deal with a boss like this? People are angry and upset but are afraid to complain for fear of losing their jobs. We are reluctant to leave since our salaries and benefits are better than what we've found in the private sector.

Most of us just try to stay out of her way.

You have decided to trade your personal dignity and emotional health for a "better" salary and benefits package. If you choose to live with these golden handcuffs, there is little that can be done other than put up with the abuse. Personally, I don't think it would be worth it.

Let me play devil's advocate. You may not like these questions but they need to be asked. Have you aggressively pursued another job in the private sector? There are many good employers who are desperate for good workers and who are willing to pay top dollar for them. Even some of the smallest firms are now paying benefits, since they can't attract employees any other way. In addition, they offer flexible work environments, a chance to grow with the business and a lot of challenging responsibilities. If you really want to get another job, I think there are many out there to choose from.

Do you believe that you have more "job security" with the government? If so, you could be badly mistaken. If your co-workers have disappeared, what's preventing you from being next? Besides, privatization and other downsizing efforts are going to continue in government, since public perception is pushing it.

Are you afraid that you will have to work harder in the public sector or your skills aren't sharp enough to compete? If so, you have trapped yourself. If you are a good employee, you will discover that the private sector is filled with opportunity.

Are salaries and benefits the main reasons you work? If so, you may want to stay with what you have but investigate outside opportunities to find a better compensation package. However, most employers today aren't interested in employees who are only interested in the money, benefits and security. Even if your family situation dictates that these three things are a priority, employers will want to hear about your desire to accomplish results, meet customer needs and contribute to the team.

If you have evidence that your basic rights have been violated (phone tapped, personal belongings searched, discrimination, etc.) why not report it to a higher authority? If this behavior goes unchecked the agency is going to be sued eventually and the top brass would be wise to investigate it now. If you believe that top management will make your life a living hell upon hearing a complaint, you have only one question to ask yourself: Why am I staying in such a sick situation?

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
About Joan Lloyd
Joan Lloyd & Associates provide
FREE subscription to receive Joan's article by email

Email Joan to submit your question for consideration for publication, request permission to reprint an article for distribution, or for information about carrying Joan Lloyd's weekly column in your publication, or on your Internet or Intranet site. Visit to search an archive of more than 1700 of Joan's articles.
© Joan Lloyd & Associates, Inc.