Bad Boss? Advice please!


I feel like I am going out of my mind, and I am not sure if this is normal or not because I work for such a small firm, and this is my first job. Please Help!

I work for a tiny 3 person firm, so my boss is also the owner. The firm consists of me, a designer that has been here for 10 years, and my boss, the architect. I am about 2 years out of school, graduated from a prestigious university at the top of my class, worked construction all through high school and college, and I am generally a pretty intelligent person. Yet, my boss treats me like I am a 2 year old, like I know nothing at all, and unless I do everything HIS way, it is wrong and I am stupid for not knowing that. He is incredibly condescending and patronizing, and makes me feel like I am a constant failure every day. No joke... every day he reminds me how much I'm always doing incorrectly, which I know I'm not, I just cant read his mind.

I tried to quit a few months ago, and he was so upset about it, he talked me into staying, gave me a raise, told me how wonderful I am, and how he wants me to grow into a partnership with him, and he doesn't know what he would do without me. We sat down and discussed all my misgivings about the situation, and I thought we completely worked out our differences. He was MUCH better, and things were great, but the last few weeks I have noticed that he is going back to his condescending ways and I want to stab him in the eye.

My question is, is this a normal way for bosses to act in this profession? I have nothing to compare it to, and the other person I work with just rolls over and lets our boss walk all over him. Am I crazy here, or is this a toxic work environment?

I would appreciate any advice... thanks.

Mar 20, 14 3:39 pm

Being paid to be the scapegoat?  That sounds no fun.  My boss has moments where he is condescending as well, but generally is not too bad. I'm in a small firm as well...  I'd say find a new job.  If you can't find one while you currently have a job, quit and find one.

Mar 20, 14 4:01 pm

if you are learning a lot stay till you can't take it any longer...

once you reach your threshold for bullshit, cut ties and leave.  

It is surprising that your boss tried to convince you to stay.  Business 101:  don't ever try to convince somebody to stay that has already given their notice, once they have made the commitment financially and emotionally to leave, there is a huge power shift in the boss/employee relationship, where you can just stay on and not give a fuck till they fire you or you leave, which was the original outcome anyways.  

My guess is the partnership thing is bullshit....most bosses suck, and unfortunately you can't teach an old dog new tricks, once an a-hole always an a-hole, even though they might be on best behavior for a few weeks.  

Mar 20, 14 5:01 pm
I used to work for him (or someone just like him). I personally don't think it's worth the mental anguish. If you can, search for a different job and be sure to interview the new firm for mental stability before accepting a new job, but don't feel bad about switching jobs.
Mar 20, 14 5:30 pm

What's your yearly salary? If your boss wants you that much (having said that he wants to grow into a partnership with you), you should be earning quite a decent amount of money now if I'm not misunderstanding.

Mar 20, 14 5:42 pm

Aim for the left eye. They say that's the logic side.

Mar 20, 14 6:46 pm


Unfortunately, this negative cycle will continue and you'll end up feeling worse and worse about yourself and what you do at this firm. This cycle will hinder your potential to grow positively as an individual and as a designer. 

As for bosses, they're pretty much all assholes, it just depends on how big of one they are and how much you can tolerate in relation to your paycheck.

Mar 20, 14 7:07 pm

I think its generally a good idea to have self respect, especially when it comes to this profession.  If someone seems to be actively trying to lower your self-esteem, they are not worth your ability, effort, or even presence.  Most people I know didn't enter this profession because they wanted to be slave laborers at low pay.  I don't know where you live, but there are plenty of professions that pay at least as much if not better than architecture interns here and require less education.  If I'm going to have to tolerate being treated like crap every day, then I better be paid pretty substantially for it.

Mar 20, 14 10:44 pm

you need to leave that toxic environment ASAP..I've had friends work for bosses like that and ive witnessed how their self-confidence was destroyed in the process...ask yourself this: is that boss's recommendation beneficial to you in the long run? would he even bother recommending you given his bad attitude?..... if not, then there is absolutely no point for you to stay. NOt even a 2 weeks notice should do. it's a quit-it-the-same-day type of deal. no one deserves to be treated like that and the fact that he dared to talk you out of it the first time only to relapse later reflects on a poor leadership and an unprofessional attitude...quit it

Mar 20, 14 10:54 pm

"Yet, my boss treats me like I am a 2 year old, like I know nothing at all, and unless I do everything HIS way"

This simply means he doesn't see you as a professional. When bosses or clients don't trust your professional abilities they try to micro-manage everything so that you don't "screw up" the projects. I'm also in the leave chorus. He doesn't see you as a professional designer, he only sees you as a digital technician waiting to take orders.  The more you stay at that job the more your self esteem will be lowered and it will hurt your future career prospects.

Also when you're looking for another job make sure the firm is bigger than 3 employees. Small firms tend to be more unprofessional compared to their larger counterparts.

Mar 21, 14 7:12 am

Unprofessional conduct is not limited to firm size you can find problems in any size office.


I recently accepted a new job at an office closer to my apartment doing different work than at the office where I've been since graduating six years ago. I'm excited for the new job, but my biggest reservation about leaving was a situation that sounds like the exact opposite of the one you're in. I've had a great relationship with my boss, whom I respect and actually like, and in the process I've learned a ton about how I approach design and understand construction. I don't think I would have gained nearly as much had I had a relationship like you have with your boss.

Based on the interview I had and the few people I've spoken with about the office I'll be moving to, it sounds like the principals there are professional and will also be good bosses. The office I'm leaving is only 4 people including myself, and the new office is roughly twice that many, so still small. The only other office I've worked at was a summer internship at an office of 8 people, and there too, the three principals were all good bosses, too. There are plenty of good bosses out there, and there's no reason to stick around an uncomfortable or even unbearable work environment.

Personally, I'd quietly look for a new job before giving your notice, but I'd definitely plan my exit, if I was in a situation like yours.

Mar 21, 14 4:27 pm

it's probably worth considering that you work for money, and 'work' by definition does typically suck.  if it didn't suck, they would call it 'play.'  or maybe 'practice.'  if you up and leave, you'll likely lose a source of income that is important.  if you happen to owe bills like rent or a mortgage to anyone, they will probably not be concerned about your self esteem.

so, look for better opportunities, but be mindful that running off could have detrimental consequences.  in the long run, having worked in a shitty environment while sending out resume's will probably work better for you than waiting tables.  i agree with frank-mike above, quietly look for a new job.

Mar 21, 14 5:35 pm

I think it comes down to this, it sounds like you don't respect your boss. For me, it's nearly impossible to work for someone I don't respect. Ultimately the decision is yours. Best of luck.

Mar 26, 14 11:58 am

Life's too short, and yes, sometimes we have to persevere under 'bad authorities', but these people are the kind of people that NO ONE, NOT EVEN THEY-THEMSELVES, can make happy, as paradoxical as that sounds, since they are seemingly confident - but not really. Also, think about your health - after 20 or more years, the stress begins to take a toll on you. I've seen classmates and others in the profession after bearing under so much stress and how that has drastically changed them physically (aged them). Thankfully, back-room comments about me made it to my ears, and I realized that my (hardened) employer really didn't think much of me at all, and I suffered very similarly as you have, DreamingTree. Best of success with your career and plotting your course.  

Aug 7, 18 4:51 am

Every office i've worked at, has at least 1 architect that is like that - you just have to deal with them - there's nothing you can do about it - if you fight them, they will just tell you to pack your tools

Aug 7, 18 1:23 pm

So I first think that the working relationship at this, your current firm, is poisoned and you should begin an exit plan.

However, I can't help but read into your comments:

" I am about 2 years out of school, graduated from a prestigious university at the top of my class, worked construction all through high school and college, and I am generally a pretty intelligent person. Yet, my boss treats me like I am a 2 year old, like I know nothing at all, and unless I do everything HIS way, it is wrong and I am stupid for not knowing that."

First I think your experience, as described, maybe good and an asset to any firm, but you have to understand that you work for your boss under their direction and control. If they ask you to do something a certain way it might be for a good reason based on years of experience and lessons learned the hard way. Your boss has their own firm and each firm, each project manager in a larger office setting, has their way of doing things. In your next job you should try to first learn how your bosses want you to do things and master that before suggesting changes to tried and true practices.  Some projects and many clients don't have the time budget or the stomach for innovation and the risk it can bring, your bosses neck and the firm's solvency is on the line with every project you all put out for permit and construction. it is not your job to reinvent the process and the design details with 2 years of work experience, no matter how prestigious your schooling was.

Second, being humble is a good way to make friends and to get along, your prestigious school and top of the class academic achievement is a good thing but if you trot that out too much to justify your decisions to take a different direction than your boss or coworkers ask of you you will get a reputation as a snob and eventually poison your working relationship with the people around you. Do not get a reputation as a snob, this is a small profession, if you put all of the architects together in one place in any giant city we would be little more than a small town in population. Word gets around as to who is difficult to work with and who is not a team player.

Third: Not all construction jobs are the same and if you worked in construction that is good for the type of construction you are designing. If you did low end residential wood frame housing for your summer jobs that is good experience for wood frame projects but each wall and finish system has a correct (in the view of ULI and product associations) way to install it, you may very well have picked up a lot of bad habits and ideas along with the good in your time working construction. Also keep in mind the materials and the instillation are constantly evolving as we get more test and new problems come up or mistakes get made and are learned from. 

Being humble and doing what your are told to do first before you take your time and others to propose and worse fight/argue for changes when you are just starting out in your career is my advice to you. Your role right now for the first 5-8 years is to learn all that you did not get to learn in school and at the same time produce drawings based on your supervising architects directions. Changing the world is done once you have learned all you can from it.

Over and OUT

Peter N

Aug 7, 18 1:58 pm

The thread is 4 years old, resurrected by a spammer trying to get views for his vitamin-selling blog. Hopefully the OP jumped ship 4 years ago.

I see, still this is prescient even today.




"Yet, my boss treats me like I am a 2 year old, like I know nothing at all, and unless I do everything HIS way"

This simply means he doesn't see you as a professional. When bosses or clients don't trust your professional abilities they try to micro-manage everything so that you don't "screw up" the projects. I'm also in the leave chorus. He doesn't see you as a professional designer, he only sees you as a digital technician waiting to take orders. 

E.G., either grow up or get out

Aug 7, 18 2:00 pm

Architecture is a tough profession - you have to have your shit together or you will be stepped on, hard

Aug 7, 18 2:13 pm

i've had to get very forceful with some P.A.s/P.M.s that micromanage me to get them to see that I'm a professional and not some BIM WIT

Aug 7, 18 2:47 pm

This sounds like a classic abuser/abused relationship* only set in the workplace.  The presence of just one other person only intensifies the isolation and dysfunction.

* He won't change, except for short periods after you threaten to leave.

Aug 7, 18 9:56 pm
Have you treated to leave and got another raise? Or have you left the firm or practice all together? Where is the OP now after his:her original post four years ago..?
Aug 8, 18 10:00 pm

He's manipulating you into staying. My advice, find a new job and leave.

Aug 9, 18 9:32 am

egotrips, nothing else; he needs you to help him do the things the way he likes it and until you can show him something he likes better, he's paying you to do so, heck! He's even offered you a piece of the cake? What's so condescending? Can you give an example?

Aug 9, 18 7:10 pm

Contact the NRA.

Aug 11, 18 4:38 pm

You have to believe that you really do not know anything even if you graduated top of your class.  Architecture is just way too complex to say that you know something.

You also have to weigh the things that you learn from your boss or to the tasks handed to you.  If you learn a lot, please be patient and give it time.  If you don't then find another opportunity.

Also know that a lax environment may not give enough drive to improve or even the intensity that a young Architect would best require.  Its like forging metal, you can't shape it without heat or hammering.

I have met blind Architects and they work in blind firms.

Aug 12, 18 5:12 am

if you are learning a great deal from being at a small firm I’d deal with it. Log in all your NCARB intern hours as going to a larger firm will not have the opportunity that a small firm has. If you feel you aren’t learning anything, and the pay sucks... move on. I was at a firm and I swear to god all I did was surf the internet. They would give me a 10 minute Sketchup model and I literally had that the whole day. Wow... 

Aug 12, 18 9:59 pm

my experience has been that a lot of project architects in their 50s and 60s can be short on patience, they do not tolerate people who "don't get it" They don't suffer fools lightly, and are quick to fire anyone they perceive as incompetent - 

Aug 12, 18 10:28 pm

Sounds like my work place


Wow! I can`t believe this post is four years old and still updating.Anyways! I'm facing the same dilemma, please HELP!

Problems:  Boss does not take my ideas even though i try my best to keep in terms of what our client requires. I don`t like the designs my boss produces. Small office of three so it gets boring. Office is disorganized, there is no schedule. 8-9 working hours a day , 6 days a week. There has been no increment in my salary since I joined and it has been almost 2 years. Sometimes salary is delayed by a month. I don`t get paid leaves. Probably just one week off in a year due to festivals.

Repercussions: I don`t like going to the office , because the idea of going there depresses me. I don`t feel valued or motivated to do any work. I just work like a bot for 8 hours producing drawings on my computer. New things come up, so i learn but i don`t get excited. And most important , i`m not feeling fulfilled in terms of growing as a designer.  Other things that bother me is uncertainty in work-life balance.

So, i read a few other posts about quiting job (non architectural) without a backup plan. And mostly people say no, even my parents agree. I`m applying at other places , waiting for few replies. Came close to getting few freelance projects. So far i've no backup plan. But i do want to quit because i`m not happy at this firm. Can someone relate to this? And what do you suggest? 

Oct 10, 18 2:38 pm
Non Sequitur



Two people at my firm (of 20ish) have left/ given notice in the past 3 weeks. While they felt disrespected by the partners, I rarely do. We all look for something different at a job, but the primary reason people leave their position is because of management. I've learned my lesson from my previous 2 jobs, which were run by tyrants.

Oct 10, 18 7:34 pm

i've worked for a bunch of different firms, small and large, and having a boss like yours is the worst! QUIT. It is VERY unlikely that your boss is able to change to the degree he needs too. I would bet a lot that any changes he makes in how he treats you will always be short term. There's many firms out there. go find a better one!

Oct 11, 18 12:23 pm

Pay raise? I doubt it was substantial enough to rival what other offices will pay you. And definitely not enough for you to put up with a crappy boss 40+ hours a week. 

Tip: If something at your office feels wrong, unfair or not-the-best-way- to-do-things, there's a 99% chance you are right. 

unless u r totally crazy. lol

Oct 11, 18 12:25 pm

GTFO there. Surprised you lasted 10 years.  Either you're crazy or its not as bad as you make it sound.

Oct 11, 18 10:27 pm

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