Q: For six years, I've run an office that has two employees: me and my boss. About two months ago, he started being rude and demanding. If I don't respond to a text or call after hours, he'll keep texting or calling until I do. He used to be so appreciative that I didn't mind doing little extras, but now he yells when I don't have time to bring his bottle of fancy liquor to his home after work. He gets upset when he sends me a cryptic request full of unfamiliar abbreviations and I have to ask what he means. It's infuriating and totally unlike him. I've responded rudely on occasion — "Dude! I know how to file an appeal!" — and he's always super-apologetic, but then it happens again.
This change started when we took on a wealthy new client whose service fees cover all our current expenses. This guy is a huge jerk — my boss' new behavior is just like his.
My boss is a good man; he and his family have treated me like a little sister. Is there a diplomatic way to discuss this with him?
A: Sounds like big brother's the beta male in a bad bromance. But although that background might offer insight into his personality change, it's beside the point. You need to remind your boss that you're in his corner — but you're not his punching bag.
Start with a simple question in a calm moment: "Is everything OK?"
State the truth: "Until recently, I've felt like a valued teammate. But our work relationship has become tense and combative. Your expectations of me seem to have changed. You're impatient when I ask questions. I feel I have to be on call at all times. And while I used to run occasional personal errands for you as a favor, now it seems expected."