My boss humiliated me in front of everyone in the office, and I told him I’m quitting without notice and now he’s threatening to sue, what are my rights here?
There’s a lot of people writing answers to this, but presumably they must have a salient piece of information which I don’t, namely “where are you?”.
Jurisdiction stranger than fiction
Contrary to popular belief, there are lots of different jurisdictions in the world, and even in the English-speaking world. Depending on where you are and the kind of contract you signed, the nature of the work and projects, etc, you might have a right to leave or you might not.
So the only wisdom I can give, other than go to an actual lawyer in your locality, and preferably not to one who wants your boss’s business, is to reconsider your situation, especially after a good night’s sleep.
Praxis makes perfectum
Instead of a legal argument, I want to give you a practical argument. You were, you say, “humiliated” in front of everyone in the office. I think what is unsaid here are the following salient details:
Did you do something that deserved criticism? If so, then accept the criticism, and just say to the boss something like “I know I deserved the criticism, and ought to have done this and that instead of that and this, however, I looked through all the management textbooks I could find and all of them say that a good manager avoids disciplining an employee in public. Do you therefore accept that this was also a mistake on your part?”
You need hands to hold a brand-new job down
If the manager is at least willing to admit they made a mistake as well as you, then I think you shake hands and say, “Ok, we both made a mistake, we both will go back and get on with business as usual.” This is the best outcome as long as your reasons for working with the company in the first place and their reasons to have hired you are still true and aligned.
It takes a certain maturity to be able to do this. If you and the manager can, then for sure you can both be proud of yourself and for sure the rest of the team will find it easier to rehabilitate their view of both of you also.
“Humiliation” can be a rite of passage in certain groups. I remember once I called into one radio shock-jock and got torn into pieces and when I looked in the skype chat where the fans were listening and discussing live, instead of the expected mockery I was reading celebration about a new member of the in-crowd (me) who had got “boyed off (Tommy) Boyd”! Did you check if this is the culture here? If so, you may as well go with the culture. It is hard to change cultures single-handedly, and as long as all it is is a little humiliation, no biggy. It can be in fact very good for people to have their ego taken down every so often.
If you didn’t do anything that deserved criticism, then say to the manager that criticism when undeserved is as far as you are concerned constructive dismissal (this is a term worth looking up on Wikipedia, and finding out if it applies in your jurisdiction and HOW it applies, and here again you need a local lawyer and not Quorans who might know very well how it is in New Zealand or Oregon, but this will be of little help if you are in Dubai or St Neots.) If you are in luck then not only can you leave but also you can claim compensation as if you had been sacked.
Still not as good as shaking hands (edit: Covid-permitting) and getting back to the job, though.
Radix malorum est gravitas
I think the real answer, my friend, is blowing in the direction of developing of a thicker skin, less fragile ego, and a more refined sense of fun, even at one’s own expense. People with these qualities have more success. Gravitas is great, but it has its limits. “Face without jokes is dead”, as the Apostle James didn’t say, but might have done if he had been writing a coaching booklet rather than an Epistle General to the early Church.
And now, let’s make a little prophesy, shall we? Let’s say you do flounce off because this manager got you upset whether or not you deserved it. Let’s say you go to a new company. Now let’s say that in a few months or years, someone who was in the room watching you get owned that day gets hired. They don’t want you up above them, and nor do a couple of others, so as they make their friends and alliances in the new place, one day they impart the information about how you reacted to public criticism in your old place, and as soon as someone wants you out of the way of their own career path, they will arrange for the self-same thing to happen again, and the history book on the shelf will once again be repeating itself, and you will once again find yourself flushing your career down the Waterloo.
We don’t run away from our difficult moments. We get back on the horse and ride again, and leave it to Pavlov and his dog to ensure that horse doesn’t play you up for many more iterations.”
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