MT agony uncle Jeremy Bullmore

My boss threw a shoe at me

On a recent company trip abroad, my boss got drunk and threw his shoe at my back. How can I tell him this was inappropriate?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 03 Apr 2013

Q: I work for a media agency and we were taken on holiday by the company to Madrid. My boss got drunk at the airport. On the plane, I got up to help a colleague who couldn't find his passport but my boss shouted at me to stay in my seat. I ignored him but he then threw his shoe at my back. I ignored this and helped my friend. It's now clear that my boss was so pissed that he can't remember doing this. However, I want to raise what happened as I felt humiliated in front of my colleagues and don't want to let him get away with this.

 

JEREMY SAYS: If there's one person who really should feel humiliated, it's certainly not you: it's your boss. And, with any luck, he does.

He may pretend to have forgotten the whole incident and indeed he may have, but my guess is he's pretending to forget it because he knows he made an absolute idiot of himself in front of his own people.

But I'm not at all sure what you hope to gain by disinterring all this. When you say that you don't want him to get away with it, what do you have in mind? Are you hoping for some public apology that you could share with your colleagues?

You may well feel that's the least you deserve, but what you feel you deserve and what's sensible to go for are two very different things. Your boss would have to be almost inhumanly saintly and magnanimous to make such a concession and not allow it to colour his behaviour (and his attitude to you) afterwards.

He may not be worthy of benevolence but I think it's in everybody's interest, at least in the short term, that he should be given the chance to put it all behind him.

There seems to be an unwritten rule in a lot of people's heads that says bosses should always make allowances for their juniors but that juniors shouldn't be expected to make allowances for their bosses.

I can see how this belief took root: there's the boss with more power, more money, a bigger car and who's meant to be setting an example; why should we indulge him? It seems reasonable.

But all I'm suggesting is that, on this one occasion, you behave with greater compassion and dignity than he has any right to expect. Put the whole messy little incident out of your mind. And hope that there's not a second act.

Only if there is - and a third and a fourth - do you and your colleagues need to take firm and considered action.

There's a very good chance you won't have to.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Got a problem? Email Jeremy at editorial@managementtoday.com.


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