I’ve had my fair share of awful supervisors. The treatment by one editor long, long ago still haunts me. The very mention of her name boils my blood.
I eventually learned how to manage around her meanness without retreating to the bathroom to cry in secret. But let me ask you: Would you like a boss who acts like a jerk some of the time or all of the time?
I would have answered some of the time. Who wants the aggravation of dealing with a bad boss all the time? But research suggests that employees prefer the predictability of a nasty supervisor, Washington Post leadership columnist Jena McGregor reports.
A new study found that workers are less stressed when their bosses are always unfair than when they are unpredictable. In one study, almost 100 workers from various types of companies were asked over a three-week period to record their perceptions of fairness, McGregor writes. Those employees who had unpredictable managers were more likely to be emotionally exhausted and unhappy at work than those who said they were always treated unfairly.
Fadel Matta, a researcher at Michigan State University and the lead author of the paper about bosses, explained to McGregor the reactions: “Intuitively, you would think the more fairness you get, the better. But that’s not what we demonstrated. It’s better if supervisors are a consistent jerk than if they’re fair sometimes and not fair other times. People want to know what they can expect when they come into work.”
If you’ve got a bad boss, read McGregor’s report about other research on what you shouldn’t do in trying to deal with an abusive supervisor.
Color of Money Question of the Week
So, which type of boss would you rather work for: someone who is unfair some of the time or a supervisor who is awful all of the time? And tell me about your worst supervisor. Send your comments to email@example.com. In the subject line put “Bad Boss.” Please include your name, city and state. As I’ve said before, when people have to own up to their comments they tend to be more civil.
Live Chat today
This week, two guest hosts for the Color of Money live discussion will be filling in for me. Jonnelle Marte, The Post’s personal finance reporter, and Rodney Brooks, our retirement columnist, will be taking your questions today. Here’s the link to join the conversation.
Video Watch: Saving for retirement vs. putting money in a college fund
I’m debuting a new feature this week on financial videos that I think will be helpful. And if you see a money-related video that you find useful send me an email about it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s feature video is from the FoolProof Foundation, a nonprofit that I’ve written about that offers a steady stream of financial literacy and consumer education tools. Through foolproofme.com and foolproofteacher.com, the foundation offers free online financial literacy lessons for teachers and individuals of all ages.
FoolProof’s latest video answers a question I get asked all the time: Should I save for my retirement or my kid’s college fund? Watch the video to help you answer this question.
She yelped about her poor pay, and Yelp fired her
You probably heard about the former Yelp employee Talia Ben-Ora, who wrote an online letter to her boss, Yelp chief executive Jeremy Stoppelman, complaining about her poor pay and how she didn’t earn enough to eat. She lives in San Francisco and worked in customer support for Eat24, Yelp’s food delivery company.
“I haven’t bought groceries since I started this job,” Ben-Ora wrote on the website Medium using the byline Talia Jane. “Not because I’m lazy, but because I got this 10-pound bag of rice before I moved here and my meals at home (including the one I’m having as I write this) consist, by and large, of that. Because I can’t afford to buy groceries. Bread is a luxury to me.”
Just this week, another Yelp employee, Jaymee Senigaglia, penned her own letter complaining that she was let go because she refused to leave the side of her boyfriend who was in a hospital intensive care unit after a bike accident.
Senigaglia also wrote on medium.com: “I am the single mother whose manager in month two told me that by using my last half day off we are allotted during training to care for my son who was having breathing problems from bronchitis, that I was putting her in a tough spot. I stayed at work.”
Yelp responded in a statement on Twitter that Senigaglia was laid off because of frequent absences, reported Amy Graff for SFGate.com. The company said in a tweet that Senigaglia had taken off 10 of her 59 work days with Yelp.
I asked you for last week’s Color of Money Question of the Week: What do you think of Ben-Ora’s strategy to draw attention to her financial plight? Here is what some of you had to say. And lots of you had a lot to say.
John Connelly of Remington, Va., wrote: “This is a very common theme that I find in my own kids, and at the plant where I work. The youngsters are ‘expecting’ to be given a wage that will sustain their ‘lifestyle.’ What I am writing to you is the mistake I made in raising my two sons: I didn’t ‘starve’ them enough. What I mean by this is that I wanted to give them a better life than what I had growing up. I learned very early that collecting coke bottles on the side of the road for 2 cents/bottle gave me money for inner tubes and squirt guns. Ma and Pop weren’t gonna waste their money on such ‘extras.’ I learned early in life I needed to earn my own money, and to spend it wisely so that I could have what I needed, and save for what I wanted. I was ‘starved’ into fending for my own wants and needs, simply because my parents couldn’t afford those ‘extras.’ My kids did not learn this lesson until they entered the work force, and constantly complain about the difficulties of having money to do things. They are no different than our Miss Talia. So, I fault myself for failing them, and now know to teach them the lessons they must learn to avoid the debt traps, and to avoid spending money on frivolous purchases.
Wrote Earl Roethke of Minneapolis: “I think it is interesting that some young people prioritize having a smartphone over buying groceries. That, by itself, is an interesting comment on our society.”
Lori McCoy of Oregon wrote: “Self-entitled nonsense! American soldiers of WWI and WWII fought and died in trenches and bloody foreign beaches for freedom so some nitwit can complain about her life in the most expensive places to live in America not being easier? She doesn’t KNOW about struggle. You don’t have a smartphone and struggle at the same time. Low wages are one incentive to move up, get more education, or find another job. That is the point of levels in an economy! We can’t all be at the top. Levels also afford opportunity to the inexperienced.”
Margaret Harris of Hefei, China, saw both sides to this story: “Empathy seems to be in short supply all over the world towards people who fill positions on the low end of the pay scale. Most of these positions are needed just as much if not more than some of the higher level positions. … However, if you have just started your career or chosen that position I don’t think you should be complaining about the pay to your boss, especially if you want to move up the ladder.”
Nikhila Pai of Berkeley, Calif., also had mixed feelings about the former Yelp employee. Pai wrote: “I find myself of two minds about this young woman’s open letter. On one hand, I can’t help agreeing with Michelle Malkin — this girl does seem spoiled and ridiculous. She doesn’t know real poverty or struggle, and there is something very Kanye about her whine asking a Yelp CEO to pay her bills.
“But, on the other hand I so see she is struggling,” Pai continues. “At 25, she should be trying to figure out what she enjoys doing and learning to make that into a career. She should consider what are the reasonable compromises given her income-earning potential and make them or change what she needs to do to earn more. She should be figuring out what is important to her as a person, not just as a consumer. Her lament seems so externally focused. Yes, the bay area is an expensive place, and yes, life would be easier if Yelp paid their customer service people more, among other items on her list. But, so what? Things aren’t fair or easy anywhere really.”
Wanda Robinson of Virginia Beach, Va., wrote: “What Ms. Ben-Ora fails to realize is that we have CHOICES. Surely, she knew how much the job paid before she accepted the position. Surely, she knew how much her rent was when she signed the lease. Surely, she knew that she would need money for food, transportation and utilities. Whether or not Yelp is paying her and her co-workers enough to live on is a different story. It appears that she made some unwise choices and is blaming her employer for the results of her poor decisions.”
I’ll let Jeffrey Greenblatt, who practices law in Maryland, have the last word for now: “I think what Yelp did was outrageous and we should find some coordinated way to pay it forward and make Yelp hurt. What an uncaring, greedy, obnoxious group of fools.”
Color of Money Columns
Here are my columns for the past week:
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to washingtonpost.com/business.