My favorite story about an employee facing up to an overbearing manager comes from a seminar I taught in Washington, DC, for a major accounting firm. There were 20 people in the class, made up of team leaders, administrators, and a few managers, and we were at the point where I was explaining to them the concepts of active listening and "I" messages.
One of the participants, Sarah, had been participating energetically throughout the day. She was a tiny woman, maybe reaching five feet in height, and dressed impeccably: tailored suit, butterfly pin on the lapel, not a hair out of place. She sat at the table with her back straight and her feet dangling, too short to touch the floor; she was very polite. She was probably around 50 years old or so, and she came across as a no-nonsense professional. She served as an administrative assistant for one of the partners in the firm.
I was explaining how to deliver an "I" message to someone more senior to oneself—an intimidating topic for the class. Sarah raised her hand to speak.
"You know, I work for a partner who screams at everybody all the time," she said. Everybody in the room laughed, knowingly, as they all could guess whom she was referring to.
She went on: "One day, I said to her, 'You know, I want to do a good job for you. I think I do a good job, and I could do a better job for you if you just wouldn't yell at me.'"
At that, as if they were one, all the class participants ...