What's your problem?

My boss has changed and I don't know what to do...

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: I've worked for my manager for five years and have watched him transform from atheist to pious Christian. I respect his decision but his personality has altered radically. He's gone from being a witty and relaxed man to a judgmental and serious evangelist. I'm thinking about leaving because of the difficulty of getting along with him (and I'm not the only one), but resent this because I love my job. What should I do?

A: I have every sympathy for you; this is a tricky situation. Just two thoughts occur to me - though neither, I'm afraid, is likely to answer your problem completely. The first requires a change in your own thinking; the second, a change in your manager's.

You must do all you can to avoid making comparisons between the old, relaxed manager and the new, serious one. You continue to love your job, but it's less enjoyable than it was. Imagine that you'd never known your manager in his earlier, friendlier guise and that he'd always been as he is now. Would you still have loved your job? If so, then don't abandon it lightly.

And second: you and your workmates may have hesitated to talk to your manager about his change in behaviour because it might have appeared that you were questioning his new-found faith. But it should be possible for you to raise the subject of his manner without any reference to its apparent cause. It would obviously be unkind (and indeed ineffective) for a lot of you to gang up on him and formally accuse him of being crusty and over-judgmental. But you might be able to contrive an opportunity - out of the office, perhaps? - for a small group of you to reminisce about earlier and more relaxed times and hope that he draws the fairly obvious conclusion himself.

I'm not hugely optimistic about either of these suggestions - and I don't suppose you will be either. But they're certainly worth trying.

- 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. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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