I've been doing some pretty brutal manual labor for the last week or so, cleaning up after Hurricane Irma...

The conditions were pretty rough, it was hot, no power, no ac, most of my coworkers were pretty worn down from lack of sleep and so on.

The thing that seemed to get to everyone the most was our supervisor barking orders at everyone and generally being needlessly harsh and belligerent. Everyone knew what needed to be done, we've all done it before, but for some reason this guy needed to constantly assert himself and remind everyone that he was "in charge".

It got to the point where dealing with him was actively counter productive. The only thing slowing down the process was everyone having to stop and listen to him bark, and much worse to complain about him after he left.

I couldn't help but think that someone should pull him aside and spell it out for him.

The team is working as hard as they can, if you want them to be more motivated, set an example. Stop barking and put your shoulder to the wheel and work along side us, sweat with us, pull some of the load. Nobody likes a task master in these situations. It's not helping, it's actually slowing everyone down. You can bond with your team through shared adversity or you can piss everyone off, pick one.

This is what I'd like to say but I don't think it's the best way to put it. What would be an effective method to talk with him about his management style while encouraging him to be part of the team rather than doling out orders to others who are more experienced?

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    Is this person actually helping or is he ordering people around to obscure the fact he's not doing anything? Is he actually "in charge"? Why? Is there a way to help you that doesn't put words in your mouth? Interpersonal skills are teaching someone how to fish. Telling you what to say is giving you a fish. It may help this once but won't help you when you're in similar situations.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 4:27
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    It's one thing to have it as part of an answer but your question as written doesn't seem to elicit explanations of how to decide what to say, only what to say, which means you're unlikely to get any help for next time. If you say what someone tells you to and this guy doesn't like it, what next? If we're feeding you lines rather than teaching you to compose them, you're likely to get stuck.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 4:48
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    This is what I'd like to say but I don't think it's the best way to put it. What would be an effective method to talk with him about his management style while encouraging him to be part of the team rather than doling out orders to others who are more experienced? - or something like that? Right now you haven't actually told us what outcome you want from the interaction. We can assume you want the orders to stop but not what he should do instead. If you want him to shove off entirely, that's different than trying to help him become an effective manager/lead.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 5:01
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    Is this a paid position or a volunteer one? I think it makes quite a difference (and I'm assuming it's paid)
    – Erik
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 6:42
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    What's wrong with your proposed quote? It seems perfect. It's clear, direct, and invites him to join the effort. Say exactly what you wrote.
    – hg786t76g
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 12:53

2 Answers 2


The solution will not come from you...

Any type of underling-boss mismatch will end in the underling leaving. No exceptions!

In an organisation where a newbie is set uninformed above a set of vets and makes a great big mess of things, well, actually it is not that rare.

What they should have done is:

  1. hire an experienced guy
  2. train the inexperienced guy
  3. promote one of the vets and hire a new team member

and in any case

  1. monitor the new situation and correct any flaws

'They' didn't any of that. Ignorance, being cheap, plain indifference, it does not matter.

If there are channels, report, if you dare. If you know and trust someone higher up in the organisation, try that and be discrete about it.

Other than that, either keep your head down to see him promoted elsewhere or leave, either for another team or another organisation...

  • 1
    I wish I could +20 this AND have you go back in time and help me 20 years ago. <3
    – threetimes
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 9:20
  • I think that this answer needs to focus more on what can be done. Sitting back and waiting for this to be someone else's problem is unfair to both the workers and this boss who is apparently inexperienced and needs some guidance. If that guidance is given, both parties may get more out of their experience.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 12:33
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    @Catija feel free to add your own view. Have you ever been in a situation like this before? It is SO horribly common. Prio 1, 2 & 3 is to get out of it in one piece. Any direct action from OP will be seen as obstruction, as the supervisor has no clue, is out of his depth and likely is as scared as can be. The more right OP is, the harder the reaction will be, the harder he will fall. Catch 22 this is, no less. Unfair? So true.
    – Bookeater
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 17:21
  • dilbert.com/strip/2017-09-19
    – Bookeater
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 18:47
  • Not professionally, no. But your answer doesn't give any indication that you have, either. You'll have a much more valuable answer if you support your answer with an explanation. Tell us why there's no reason to expect this person to ever improve. Tell us why the only solution is to wait until he leaves. There are many, many examples of bosses getting better at what they do through training or experience, so you need to support your absolutist view ("No exceptions!") with data or your own personal experiences so that we understand it.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 21:46

Your boss sounds like a compilation of "Worst boss of the year - greatest hits" traits.

  • Micromanagement

If he's always hovering and checking what you do, to the point of doing nothing else, then you have a micromanager! If you guys can handle hurricane cleanup, you probably can handle a rude boss, barking a few times a day, but no-one can handle a boss constantly breathing over their shoulder. It just drives people nuts.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) micromanagement is a very common issue, so you'll find plenty of online guides:

  1. 5 ways to successfully deal with a micromanager
  2. stop being micromanaged
  3. how to deal with a micromanager

  • New kid on the block, aka wannabe alpha monkey syndrome

You say he's inexperienced and a new hire, so he's probably anxious to assert himself. Unfortunately, he does it wrong, by being too authoritarian, as you say "harsh and belligerant". Basically he's trying to be the alpha monkey and thump his chest louder than the rest. Of course this doesn't work, but perhaps he didn't get the memo... If this is the case, and he actually tries to do a good job (but doesn't know how to) then he needs to be taught the right ways.

When you take a break, you could all try to talk to him (not just you, I mean the whole team). Suggested lines: We're all out of sleep and on edge, probably you too, please stop yelling, it just adds more stress and we don't need that to get work done. Actually what would help a lot more would be for you to also use that shovel...

Or maybe he's just an ass who loves yelling at people and making their lives like hell.

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