Unsupportive Boss

Emmamae

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Hi

I'm looking for a bit of advice really. My boss knows I am a vegan (for over 6 months now) and is always coming past my desk when I'm eating either a snack or my lunch commenting - usually pulling a face - and asking what it is in a really disgusted voice. Some of the things have been chocolate covered rice cakes (vegan of course) and peanut bars etc so nothing even weird or anything. I kind of said something one day as I'd had enough but did it in a jokey way.

I thought she had got the message, but today she came over and started the conversation by saying 'I was thinking, seeing as how your a vegan, don't eat nice food and being all about the animals, what hobbies do you have?' She was referring to herself doing some painting with acrylic paints and saying I couldn't do that as it contained animal products. I said I didn't really have any hobbies as such (I normally veg out in front of the telly to unwind) which she couldn't understand at all. The hobby thing aside, I laughed off her comment about me not eating nice food (although my carnivore colleague stood up for me which I thought was really nice) but inside I was quite mad. I can't fall out with her as she's my boss, and I felt it easier to laugh it off but really as Head of HR, I would expect her to be a bit more understanding of other people's choices. My husband thought I should have stood up for myself more and said I shouldn't have laughed it off, but at the time I took the easy option and said nothing. I try very hard not to be a 'preachy vegan' as nobody likes that!

Should I let her get away with it and feel bad that I didn't defend my beliefs, or potentially risk causing unpleasantness for myself? The problem is, she already thinks I take things too personally and worry about things unnecessarily as it is (which isn't true) so do I want to give her more reason to think that?? She doesn't really seem to know how to behave socially and this just proves it!

I just wondered what your thoughts were for the next time she's rude and condescending towards me?

Thank you in advance xxx
 

Naturebound

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Is there someone she reports to that you could bring this concern to? To me that would border on harassment in the workplace and is totally unacceptable. Maybe if you are unable to confront her in person, you could write a letter about how it makes you feel when she makes some of the condescending comments and send it to her, or send her an email. I've emailed people before when I didn't feel confident enough to stand up to them in person. They may still confront you but it might be easier with the email or letter to work from first. And if she chooses to respond in writing or email then you have a record of her response. Just a thought.
 
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Emmamae

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Hi Naturebound,

Thank you for your reply and advice. The thing is I'm sure she has no idea whatsoever about how it makes me feel so I suppose unless I tell her, it's just going to continue. I get jokey 'banter' from other people but hers isn't jokey or banter, it's just unkind. I definitely need to tell her, thank you for your support x
 
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Jamie in Chile

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I don't agree with going over her head to her boss. Yes, if it's something very serious or very repetitive, but this doesn't seem in that league.

I wouldn't write it down either. I think you have to tell someone to their face. A critical written letter or email out of the blue comes across as petty and annoying and a shock to the recipient, which makes them defensive and creates more negative feelings.

I would start off more gently "aww, you make fun of me so much" (pull a funny face) then if it happens again step it up a bit "look, I know you're just making a joke but I get a lot of this from people and sometimes it can be a bit of a drag to be constantly talking about veganimsm, why don't we talk about xxx instead".

Another thing is to ignore her. For example if she says "I see you've got more wierd vegan food there" just give a very very slight annoyed look at her and then completely ignore it and say "so are we still Ok for the meeting about xxxx at 3?". That ought to be dropping a hint.

If it still goes on just send her an email saying I need to have a meeting with you in your office. Are you free at such a time? Try and avoid saying in advance what the meeting is about.

When you get a message like that, you are expecting the person to resign or something bad, so they will at least by ready, and then you just say I called this meeting because the way you always go on about my veganism has started to bug me, I guess it's just a private thing to me, and I know you were just making a joke, but I think I'd prefer to keep that part of my life private. Do you think you could help with that? And then you end the meeting on some other positive note.
 

AlkalineAddict

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Hi Emma,

Tell her that if she was to see the cruelty that goes on behind the scenes she would also switch to a Vegan diet. This puts it on her to make an effort to look into it and if she doesn't just say listen if you want info about it I'm happy to share but if your just having a dig without knowing the reality of it I don't want to waste my time.

Also I'm sure she probably can't mention many foods you can't find a Vegan alternative for :) I was laughing things off but last few weeks I've stopped doing this and find that people take you more seriously when your not doing this not saying be miserable git around the office but it's a topic we are serious about so why should we make a joke of these conversations.
 

Sally

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Is it just you she offends or does she do it to others about their, to her, idiosyncrasies? You say she doesn't know how to behave socially, so maybe she is just trying to be friendly but is being a bit clumsy about it. If she is a good boss otherwise and a mostly nice person, then maybe the best thing to do would be to overlook her words and not take it to heart. It seems she is aware of things that have animal product in them, so maybe she would secretly like to be vegan and is wondering how to go about it, so don't let your emotions get the upper hand, take her seriously next time and explain to her what you are eating and why, try and have a serious conversation about the practicalities of being a vegan. It's worth a try.
 
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Emmamae

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Hi Sally

Yes, she is a good boss generally and I do think she is trying to be friendly in a weird sort of way - she just is, like you say, clumsy with it. She asked me what I was going to be having on Christmas day the other day, so I just explained that I will probably be making nut roast but with all the usual trimmings (minus Yorkshire puddings) and she seemed ok with that explanation. I think if it was just me and her on our own she would be very different - it's usually when someone else is there she's rude so I wonder if it's her way of being funny and amusing to an audience when in actual fact she would be happy to listen to me on our own. Some people are just weird, and I think I need to accept that it's the way she is, and try not to let it upset me.

Thank you

Emma
 

Sally

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Thank you Emma. It's really hard not to be reactive. What do they say, take a deep breath and count to ten. On the occasions where I can manage to do that I feel so much more in control. Maybe you could get in first. Say that since she seems interested she'd might like to know that ...

You can see I've been thinking about this, it is a situation many of us find ourselves in, but it can be particularly difficult in a position where you can't walk away.

Good luck and let me know how you get on.

Sally
 

Malcolm Johnson

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I wouldn't make a big deal of it. Instead, I would be ridiculously sarcastic in return. "Don't you eat nice things?" "Of course I do: I have several slices of my last female boss in this sandwich. I even have some Chianti."
 

Sally

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Hello Emma, Happy New Year and I hope things are going better with your boss. Maybe 2017 is the year your whole office goes vegan. We can but hope.

How has it been? We'll have to think up some tricks to subtly change her thinking. Maybe a calendar with pictures of baby farm animals would be a start.

Sally x
 
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Emmamae

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Hi Sally
Happy new year! Bit of an update, my boss bought me a Christmas present which I expected to be a box of chocolates or sweets but when I opened it, it was a T shirt with animals on saying 'friends not food' and a vegan hot chocolate kit complete with vegan marshmallows. To say I was shocked and touched is an understatement! I think it proves that her heart really is in the right place and she does understand my veganism after all. I've yet to see her since we finished for Xmas but I will have to say a big thank you when I do.
Thank you for asking!!

Emma xx
 
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Sally

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That's wonderful. Looks like she's a nice, thoughtful lady with a bit of a clumsy sense of humour. So maybe you can laugh at her jokes and tell her "Very funny, but I know you don't mean it." People are becoming vegan, or at least vegetarian, every day. It really feels like the tide is turning.

I'm so pleased things are looking up for you at work.

Sally xx
 

FatDadUK

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I was all ready to write how nobody should be made to feel uncomfortable about following there beliefs at work (as long is it doesn't affect the work they were employed to do) when you came back with the nice gift you received from your boss. When you thank them for the very kind gift it might be a good time to mention that you were surprised that they offered such a supportive gift because they had made you feel rather uncomfortable in the past. This should allow you both to discuss it in a light hearted, friendly way and hopefully clear the air and avoid any such unpleasantness or misunderstanding in the future. I have to say the gift sounded rather thoughtful.
 

Jamie in Chile

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Thanks for the update. I would suggest to take no action now but thanking her, what I said about calling a meeting or whatever looks a bit heavy handed now in light of this. I think do nothing but play it by ear....for now....