I Left My Job, and My Boss Left My Mental Health Destroyed
I had a boss who micromanaged me and all my co-workers once, and it took a toll on our mental health and majorly affected our lives. It also changed a job I loved, and a company I was devoted to and would have retired with, to a company that disappointed me and broke my heart. I was at a job I loved most days for years. I was my boss’s right hand man, I got raises and even thought about getting back into management again when my boss decided to leave and my daughter was older.
Turns out, my boss left, after over 20 years I might add, because she had a new boss who was micromanaging her. After she left, he replaced her with another micromanager, but did promote me and another person to assist them. I stayed for another year and a half. Most others have since either been fired, or eventually left like me. Even the ones who were star employees before were no longer good enough. The thing is, though, we are all human and make mistakes daily. If any boss followed their best employee around all day and looked for mistakes, they would find them, as would their boss in them.
Once this is done though, it can affect your confidence and of course make you nervous. The next thing you know, you go from making the everyday common mistakes everyone makes sometimes because we are human, to making more mistakes and bigger mistakes because you are a nervous wreck. The micromanager then uses this against you to make you look like you were always this bad and the old boss just was not managing correctly.
Before we knew it, they had human resources (HR) and upper management believing we were all the problem and not them. No one else would speak up with me officially, in fear of losing their job. This is how worthless we all felt by this point, that the company would get rid of an entire department, even people who had been great employees for years and would have retired with the company, before they got rid of this person.
I, on the other hand, could no longer take the toll on my mental health or take the injustice. I got another job, worked out a notice and left on good terms. A party was thrown for me, people gave me gifts and money and food. It felt silly I was even leaving, or felt I had to. I told them everything I thought, as professionally as I could in an exit interview. I even told them I did not want the person fired, they were good at the other parts of their job, just not at supervising people. I also told them one co-worker I knew, who had never even had anxiety or panic attacks before, had two caused by this boss. And I, as someone on medication for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and the anxiety it causes, had no longer endured attacks in a long time since being put on medication, but started having them again.
I loved this job before, and most of the people there loved me and had the same opinion of this boss as I did. I even reflected for that year and half trying to determine if there was anything I could do to change or make the situation better, until I realized it was not me. Everyone saw this at the time, except those who had the power to stop it. By the time they finally did, people’s lives, careers and mental health were already hurt. I had told them most of it before, they just did not listen because they wanted hard evidence, and I was not sitting around documenting everything instead of doing my job like that boss was. Some others were, but it did them no good either. As a former HR director myself, it was hard to lose confidence in HR.
I tell this story as much as I can because I have been shocked at the people who have been through the same. However, formerly being HR, I also realized they did need hard evidence, so I was also frustrated at the others who would not risk everything to fight back like I did because I feel this is the only way to stop hostile work environments and bullying in the workplace. When I was in HR, I did once have an entire department come forward to make statements about a supervisor that eventually led to them being let go. Even before those statements, I had an idea some of it was going on, but needed hard evidence.
A former co-worker of mine eventually left after me, and told HR the reason was because everything I said was true. HR acted surprised even people who did not work in our department could clearly see what was going on and how bad it was. I was told that after I left, my old boss’s boss quit before they were fired or laid off and my old boss was eventually taken out of a management role, and then eventually quit because upper management finally realized even the people they hired themselves were quitting or being fired.
Some other good people in the company were also laid off after I left due to COVID-19. The company I and others had once felt so loyal to, had offered us no loyalty in return, and it hurt. Luckily, most of my bosses have been great, although I did nanny for a couple for a short time who micromanaged their kids this way, so I felt kind of micromanaged as well, or required to micromanage them myself, and both made me uncomfortable.
I have also had co-workers at times, some even leads or ahead of me seniority wise, maybe even training me, who micromanage, and that is hard as well. They see you struggling with something and do not jump in to help unless you ask, and sometimes even then, do not. However, they see you make a minor mistake and call it out from across the room. They never make any, and even have time to check everything you are doing while they do everything perfectly.
In so many of these cases, these people do have the best of intentions. Often, micromanagers are perfectionists. Because of this perfectionism, they are also often very good at certain parts of their job. However, this leads to them being very critical of anyone who even does it the least bit different, even if or when their way might be better, or when it might be OK for someone else to do the same thing differently.
I say all of this as someone who has battled perfectionism my entire life, but I do not want to be them, but I also do not expect to change them. That is part of overcoming my own perfectionism. I cannot change them. I can only change me, my reaction or my situation, as hard as that is sometimes.
So, I write this, not hoping to change them or those like them, but more so for people who are affected by them, like me, so they know they are not alone. And also for the ones who may find they are like that, as I once was, and do want to change. I also write this for those around who can change things for the person being micromanaged, like the ones who did not believe us all, and the ones who would not stand up with me and risk a job they eventually lost anyways.
As someone who has been a lead and manager, if you see someone struggling, a co-worker or someone who works for you, or someone you work for, or your spouse, or your child, help them without them even having to ask. Or, if you do not see them and they ask, try to help them. Lead by example, by practicing, not preaching, and give them a little room in error. I work in childcare now, so of course if I saw a situation where I truly believed a child was in true danger, I would speak up to someone about what they were doing, whether it was intentional or not.
However, I have often found these people often seem more concerned about things that are not life or death, while ignoring others that are or could be. Also, like with kids, when parents get on you for everything, you eventually drown them out, or just do not care anymore because you seem darned if you do, or darned if you don’t, as is often said. For instance, with that old boss, if you did not take initiative, you should have; but if you did take it, you should have asked permission first. Life is not a Disney movie. Sometimes the bad guy just seems to win in real life, and it just hurts. I am almost 40, and tired, and I am ready for it just once to easily work out for me, as it seems to for them, but while actually doing the right thing. I guess I just wanted any of you reading this and feeling the same, to know you are not alone.
When I left the job with the micromanaging boss, I was so hurt I decided to take a break from corporate and become a preschool teacher for a while. I wanted to work with kids, animals, in senior living or something more fun again after what I had been through. Almost two years later, I have finally become brave enough to return to the corporate world and I start a new position soon. I am a little nervous, but not only is my earning potential much higher in the corporate world, I have actually missed the good parts of my old job. I have finally decided to let the bad parts not scare me from giving it a try again.
Getty image by Deagreez