Ask Amy: Bullying boss claims to speak for owner

Dear Amy: I work at a small company. "Ted" is the owner. "Kelly" is our supervisor. Kelly is a liar and a bully. She makes our lives as miserable as possible. It is unclear whether Ted knows about the full extent of her attitude toward her staff.

Kelly has weekly meetings with Ted, and she will come out spouting all sorts of "he decided" nonsense. These are usually things that will get her out of doing work or that give her an inflated sense of power -- for instance, she is telling us we need to get permission from her to take a break.

The problem is that out of 100 things she comes out "decreeing," 25 things are actually true, and it is hard to distinguish the lies from the truth.

Most of the staff goes along with whatever she comes up with because they are afraid of having Kelly come after them.

I thought about going to Ted, but there are a couple of problems with that. I don't want to be labeled a troublemaker, and we aren't really supposed to go over her head unless it is a serious problem.

Should we just suck it up and do whatever she wants, or is there a way out of this? I can't tell if Ted really likes her or is somewhat intimidated himself, but he does give her a lot of leeway and doesn't reprimand her.

A.

Amy says: I think this qualifies as a "serious problem," but because you don't know whether "Kelly" is doing "Ted's" bidding, the best way to approach this is with a neutral attitude of information gathering. If you have any kind of regular performance review, that meeting might be the best time to raise these issues.

Organize your thoughts, present Ted with questions and ask for clarification. This isn't being a troublemaker -- this is seeking information that will make you a better worker.

You can say something like, "Kelly has told us that some of our duties and your expectations have changed, and I'd just like to clarify that because I'm confused."

Ted may tell you that Kelly speaks for him. If so, then you are correct that you might have to suck it up until the day when Kelly oversteps her boundaries and stomps on Ted's toes.

They need to talk

Dear Amy: My granddaughter has lived with her boyfriend for about three years. She is 21, and he is 26.

Lately, she says, he seems disinterested in their relationship -- they're both college students and under stress.

I suggested they both need "a break" for a bit.

What do you think?

R.

Amy says: Your granddaughter entered this intimate relationship at a very young age, and now this couple may have hit the "three-year skids" and be too immature to navigate their way through.

After three years, the newness of the situation has faded and committed couples make a transition into a more settled and steady sort of relationship. Some couples don't make this transition well and each party decides to move on.

The best advice you can give her is to talk with her partner in a frank and loving way. If her boyfriend wants to leave the relationship, then she needs to know.

Taking a break might be best for both of them, but not as a way to repair their relationship. To repair it, they need to come together as a couple and make some real decisions about their future.

Days for mom, stepmom

Dear Amy: As a mom and a stepmom, I totally agree with your response to "Mama Mia."

She was worried about what to do with her mother and stepmother on Mother's Day.

This year, my stepdaughter treated me to Mother's Day on Saturday and spent Mother's Day with her birth mother.

I really appreciate her consideration and would not want it any other way.

STEPMOM

Amy says: Mother's Day and Father's Day can be challenging for people who feel their parental loyalties are divided. Thoughtful people do their best to navigate between both sets of parents without neglecting anyone.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Av., Chicago, IL 60611.

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