Getting along with Difficult Employers

We’ve all had the experience of dealing with people who exhibit personal characteristics such as playing favorites, displaying abusive behavior, micromanaging tasks, procrastinating continuously, or using sarcasm frequently. Now, imagine you have to deal with a boss who has one or more of these characteristics. Having to deal with a manager who is never satisfied can lead to employee anxiety, pressure, depression, and an overall feeling of negativity in the workplace. Employers and employees are being asked to do more with fewer resources, often resulting in conflict.

Conflicts between employee and employer are inevitable, says Ramon Greenwood, head career coach at If you are a get-things-done employee, sooner or later you will come into conflict with your boss or supervisor as you move ahead on your career path. The same sort of assertiveness and confidence that can lead you to career success has helped your boss earn his/her position. But sometimes conflicts cross the line and can prove hazardous to your health or your career, if not handled with common sense.

Here are some more specific situations you may have encountered at work:

Your boss:

  • frequently loses his/her temper, maybe even to the point of abusiveness
  • makes outrageous demands, like expecting you to work all weekend
  • continually asks you to pick up his/her dry cleaning or do other chores
  • grumbles when you need to use vacation time
  • takes credit for your work
  • never provides positive feedback
  • favors certain employees and grants them special privileges.

Saying “no” or speaking up to the boss is very difficult for some employees. They fear it will ruin their relationship, appear disrespectful, or even cost them their job. So they avoid outright conflict, while simmering with resentment or anger. But with the right strategies, it’s possible to be candid and respectful at the same time.

  • Let your boss know you care about his/her interests.If you have a problem with your boss assigning extra work, say “no” diplomatically: “I’m afraid the additional assignments may be affecting the quality of my work.”
  • Focus on what you can do. If your boss makes an unreasonable demand, instead of saying “no,” offer, “Would you like me to cover your phone calls while you are out of the office instead?”
  • Use the criticism as an opening for a discussion of interests, goals and solutions to problems, and ask for advice. A boss who criticizes your work probably has an idea of how it should be done and improved.
  • Avoid derogatory labels. It’s impossible to change someone’s personality; especially a difficult one. Don’t label your boss a jerk; just accept that this is your boss and try to find a constructive way to work with this person.
  • Examine your own performance and ask if you are doing everything right, before you blame or attack your boss.
  • Look for allies. If others share your concern about an abusive boss, their support gives you additional persuasion power. An interdepartmental alliance may work to bring about positive change.
  • Have a Plan B. If these strategies do not result in successful negotiation with your boss and if your job has become extremely stressful, have an “out” ready. Plan B would probably mean having an actual job offer with another employer in hand. An alternative plan empowers you with the ability to walk away, should the situation not change.

You don’t have to make your boss your friend, or even like this person. You do need to carry out instructions dutifully as a subordinate, just as you would expect your boss to be professional and fulfill his/her responsibilities as a supervisor. The best strategy is to remain professional and get the job done.

Work Wise

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of January 2012 the unemployment rate decreased to 8.3%. As of January 2012, Baltimore’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average estimated at 6.8%. Maryland’s unemployment rate improved to 6.7%. So, nu? Does this mean more employers are hiring in Baltimore?

Here’s the good news! According to Steve Geppi, publisher from Baltimore Magazine, three important trends are “quietly playing out in Baltimore.” First, there appears to be a positive trend in hiring in Baltimore due to its proximity to Washington, DC and in defense-related work. Secondly, the national unemployment rate is down to an acceptable 5% rate. Third, Forbes Magazine states that Baltimore is the second strongest job market for tech workers in the IT industry. Baltimore has always had a strong market in health care and medical research and will continue to do so. In addition, there are some emerging companies in Baltimore. To name just a few: Millennia Media is a leading independent mobile advertising data platform powering the app economy. Moodlerooms is a company that makes enterprise e-learning solutions more affordable. Key Tech is a high tech design and applied research prototyping company. BTS creates advanced mobile communications devices for the US government and the private sector.

Should you get my hopes up? The old sayings “remain positive” or “when one door closes another one opens” are very difficult statements to hear, especially if you’re the one who’s laid off, seeing other employees in your company get the “pink slip” or dealing with the threat of a lay-off. These anxiety provoking situations automatically create a gloom and doom perspective and can really affect how one sees him/herself making the job search even more difficult. But, there are ways to create a more positive attitude about job instability and future job search. First of all, claim the feelings that being laid-off and having to look for a new job is unfair, unjust and downright a pain in the “tuchus.” What makes it hard are the feelings of losses such as professional identity, self-esteem, self-confidence, daily routine, purposeful activity, work-based social network and a sense of security.

What can you do to ease the transition? It’s natural to withdraw out of embarrassment and shame. Turn to people you trust for support. Isolating will only make you feel worse. Join or start a job club. Other job seekers can be invaluable sources of encouragement, support and job leads. Stay connected through networking. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a job. You never know who you will meet who can help you find a job. The vast majority of job openings are never advertised, they’re by word of mouth. Volunteering is a great way to gain new skills, stay connected and incorporate a daily routine into your schedule. Make sure your resume is updated and loaded with industry key-words and accomplishments. Finally, take care of yourself both emotionally and physically.

As the great philosopher, Milton Berle once said about searching for a job: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door,” because when you open the door, you never know what’s on the other side.

Teen Tips: Why Resumes Are Important at Any Age

In the last issue of the Where What When, Jill Moroson, MSW, explained ways teens could look for summer jobs. An important piece of the job search process is to create and build a resume – yes, even for teens. You may ask, Why do I need a resume? I’m only 16 and have no real work experience or skills; plus, I’m only planning on getting a part-time job to make some cash. But with so few jobs open these days, a strong resume can give you an extra advantage. It’s important to set yourself apart from other job seekers and stand out. Even with less formal work experience than a professional who has been in the work force a number of years, it’s not impossible for a teen to create a resume. You may learn that you have more experience and skills than you realize.

So, where to start?

First, know what a resume is. A resume is a formal, one- or two-page document (teen resumes are usually one page) in which to sell yourself to a potential employer. Statistics say that an employer has 10 to 20 seconds to look at a resume and decide whether you will be called in for an interview or will land in the “not to call” pile with the hundreds of other job seekers’ resumes. A resume will not get you a job, but it is the tool that will get you an interview. What gets you the job? That’s another article.

Tip: A resume has to capture an employer’s attention. Think, what benefits can I bring to the job? How can I help the employer?

Next, before even putting fingers to computer keys, know what information needs to go on the resume. A resume is broken down into sections, with key information in each part. The very first section of the resume is just as important as all of the other sections. It is all your contact information: name, address, phone number, and email address. If a potential employer can’t find you, then you cannot even be in the running for the job. Make your contact information easy to read (meaning not too tiny a font).

Tip: Beware of cutesy email addresses: Get rid of, for example,,, or (Would you hire these employees, if you were an employer?) Instead, use a professional sounding email, such as your initials or first name@

When most people prepare a resume, they start with work experience. But you first need to think of your unique skills that you can contribute to this particular job. Do you develop relationships quickly? Are you someone people like to talk to? Are you a good listener? Are you a good writer? Is your work accurate? Do you take pride in a job well done? Have you started some new project? Are you a computer whiz? Even if you are not a computer whiz, you need to list your computer skills – and surely you have them, as I have yet to meet a teen who doesn’t have computer skills. This information builds the skills section of your resume before you even get to your experience.

Tip: If a job posting lists particular skills needed and you don’t have them, do not lie. You will eventually get caught! It’s better not to list them and focus on the skills that you do have, as long as they relate to the job.

Because you have not been in the workforce, it is important to list your education before your work experience. State the name of the school, location, dates, year of graduation, and any academic honors or awards. If your GPA is impressive, you can list that as well (a 3.3 GPA is average).

Are you’re thinking, all this information goes on the resume and I haven’t even begun to discuss the “meat and potatoes,” of the resume, my work experience? Don’t worry, listing skills on a resume is important, because an employer can quickly scan your skills at the top of the resume and decide whether it’s worth his/her time to read further to the “geshmack” portion of the resume, your work experience.

The work experience section of the resume lists jobs, describing the most recent first and working backwards to previous jobs. I bet you’re thinking, what work experience? I have none! I wantthis job so I can get work experience. The answer is to not think of work experience in terms of paid work alone. Work can also be volunteer or community experience. They both count on a resume. Showing an employer that you’re passionate and consistent about volunteering for a particular organization enables him/her to see that you are a dedicated and motivated worker. Make sure you list your job title, name of the organization, city, state, and dates of work. In addition, if you can portray a specific accomplishment or achievement in your job, you have prepared a winning resume. An employer can then see that you contributed to an organization and are therefore likely contribute to this next job.

Tip:When listing work experience, it’s better to list each responsibility in bullet form, rather than in paragraph style. Bullets are easier to read; paragraphs are too long and cumbersome. Remember, your resume has to capture an employer’s attention in 10 to 20 seconds.

Any other community or organization awards, achievements, honors, or additional languages you speak (only if proficient) should also be listed.

Having references is crucial. Almost all employers ask for references. You should have at least three. They can be teachers, community leaders, clergy, past employers, or neighbors. Try to obtain a copy of the reference for your own records. That way, you will always have it and won’t have to keep calling your reference. In 2012, names of references are no longer listed on the resume but on a separate sheet of paper given to the employer upon request.

Tip: Remember to always ask your references for permission to submit their names. Request their contact information and check that it is correct. Don’t forget to thank your references for writing a glowing recommendation about you.

Finally, proofread your resume to ensure there are no typos, grammatical errors, incorrect dates, or wrong information. Don’t just rely on “spell check.” All too often, spell check will not pick up mistakes in context, because a word is spelled correctly. You need to have a living, breathing person(s) read your resume. Four, six, or eight eyes are better than two.

Tip: It is important to understand that resume language and grammar are very different than what we learn at school. Resume sentences do not start with a personal pronoun (but with active verbs) and punctuation differs as well. To learn about resume formats, check out “teen resumes” on search engines such as Google.


The job market is ever so slightly improving. Whether you’re just walking into a potential place of employment to inquire about a job or are sending an application through cyberspace, you should always be prepared for that next job opening that would be perfect for you. Having an updated resume on hand to refer to when filling out many job applications can make the job search easier and less harried. Preparing a resume will also enable you to be more focused when looking for a job. It can even enlighten you to the fact that, although you are a teen, you are an important contributor to the workforce.

Debra C. Varon, MSW, CPRW, has been in the career field for 20+ years and has prepared resumes for hundreds of clients of all ages. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and Director of betterwrittenresumes! She can be reached at 410-303-8115 or

Jill Moroson, MSW, contributed to this article. She can be reached on LinkedIn, Facebook or

Social Media in the Workplace

To Ban or Not to Ban? That is the Question.

Should job seekers today be posting their resumes on social media sites? Yes! Career professionals today agree that with careful account management and discretion about content, sites such as LinkedIn offer an extremely productive tool for professional networking. According to a new study conducted by Harris Interactive for, 45 percent of employers questioned are using social networks to screen job candidates. So where is the debate?

The hot topic these days is the debate among business professionals about whether organizations should allow their employees to have access to social media during working hours. Skeptics argue that allowing employees to use social media would negatively affect the company’s productivity level by wasting time and money. They also have concerns about network security, inappropriate use and legal issues.

Let’s look at the issue from a different angle. What arguments are there in favor of a company allowing its employees to use social media at work?

First, the reality is that social media are here to stay. According to Ken Burbary, Vice President and Group Director at Digitas, there are 600+million users on Facebook in 2011. A study of more than 1,000 business professionals by People-OnTheGo found that two-thirds of top management and three-quarters of marketing and sales managers regularly check LinkedIn as a part of their business and networking.

Security company FaceTime Communications asked over 500 IT managers and employees about their internet and social media habits at work. The survey revealed that 79% of workers use Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube at work for business reasons. Of those reasons, 54% cited professional networking, 25% said they use these sites for research and 52% said for learning about their colleagues.

Social networking sites can keep businesses current on events, trends and opportunities in ways that traditional communication cannot. A related advantage is branding. The more a business networks within social media community sites, the more its brand is going to come to the attention of others. Social networking is a low cost way to advertise, promote and publicize products and services to a large number of visitors.

Furthermore, social media can solve problems quickly and efficiently because employees have a larger database of information. Social media take peer-to-peer collaboration to a much higher level. Finally when a business is able to stay abreast of current and future trends, it can attract social media-savvy employees and retain the top talent.

With all of these advantages, it doesn’t make sense to turn back the clock. But employers must acknowledge and address valid concerns about the possible negative impact of using social media at work. They can do this by setting appropriate policies, communicating them clearly to employees, and providing training in using social media sites responsibly and effectively.

If you have an opinion about the use of social media in the workplace, you are not alone. Thanks to social media tools, every web user now has a voice he or she can use to share, seek, recommend and complain. At the very least, businesses cannot ignore social media; at best, they will find ways to use this technology to their benefit.