This Is What Gaslighting Feels Like

[originally submitted to The Stranger’s “I, Anonymous” column]

Thrown Under the Boss

I’d like to apologize to a friend and coworker, who, it makes me sad, has been thrown under the boss I was just freed from…

Dear friend and coworker,

I am very sorry he’s your boss now. I won’t lie: that could suck for you. I’ll start out with a rant about how difficult he is to work with and I’ll end on some helpful hints that I picked up in my subordinance…

First off: terrible communicator. One of the worst I’ve come across and I like to be judgy about such things. He is really something. He’s under the impression that he told you something five times. The first time, the sky was blue: okay, got it, makes sense. Second time, the sky was green…

Maybe I’ll start the helpful hints early. This is where you tune out because you know he just said the wrong word, like he does half the time because he cannot chill out and have a normal conversation. It is the end of the world, like it is every time you check the wall clock. Yep. End of the world again.

Here’s the thing, though. When it’s NOT the end of the world: say, when you have a question? He is the Antihelpful. The answer will often be to blow it off until later. Blow that whatever-it-is off, you. That’s what you should do — because it’s not important. And you’re supposed to intuit when these sort of things BECOME important. Because everyone’s been doing what your boss has been doing for XXX years and it is COMMON SENSE, bub. There are a few emails that will sit in your inbox, irritating you for two weeks. Every three days, they’ll get blown off.

So you wing it.

Communication’s the real burn. Remember when he called the blue sky green? You *knew* you knew what he meant. Duh, sky: blue.

That’s a trap.

The sky is about to get pink and yellow and plaid before this fire drill’s over. Hours? Minutes? Who knows. It’s different every time. Also the sky may never return to blue. Or it could? You will never know for sure. Which is why you’ll start to verify EVERYthing.

This will piss him off. A lot. Because YOU WERE NOT LISTENING. “What did I tell you?” He’ll say this, like he’s taught you something. Why, he taught you FIVE times — boy, are you dense.

So, document everything to death always. I hear you responding to him and being all over it, and I cheer in my cubicle across the hall. Don’t ever not document. That will keep you your job.

Witnesses are also good to have. Stay in the open when possible. When conflicting information is given, a witness might later say, “I heard that, too.” Those four words will grow comforting to you.

I think you already know this one, but I’ll back it up anyway: do not show weakness. This is shark chum. KEEP AWAY FROM BOSS. He will want a lot of empathy and he will give you zero AND use whatever personal info you might share against you. Try to avoid the whole thing. Talk sports and never drink around this person.

Parting words: If I have the time, I will always help you in any way I can with any of your projects. You saved me from my #1 worst boss ever. I am sorry and grateful for your sacrifice. You are smart and adaptive and resilient and though I’m sorry you got this, you GOT this.

We shall overcome some day.

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