I’m a recent college grad working at a startup and my boss is emotionally abusing me. What do I do?

I have a clinical anxiety and depression, a learning disorder, and a history of familial emotional abuse, but I performed well enough to get hired and graduate from an Ivy League school. My CEO is wonderful, but my immediate boss used my short term failures to pressure me into telling her my issues, even though I know it’s illegal. We have a culture of personal connection at the company, so I couldn’t keep lying and saying I was sick when I screwed up. Now my boss triggers my anxiety with her abuse, and makes me feel like I was only hired because I could be manipulated, not for my talent. I barely get any sleep, she constantly hounds me and takes me aside to yell at me, everything is based on analytics, and I’m being treated like a petulant child or an intern, even though I’m a salaried adult with a degree. I really don’t want to tell more people about my mental health issues because I’m afraid it’ll be used against me (again). I’m forced to be on call 24/7 even though I need other activities and sleep in order to be efficient at my job, and I’m constantly being berated. What do I do?


  • Just quit.

    Life is too short.

    Be strong and find the right match for yourself.

    I had a lousy boss out of college (in tech). So I just quit. I waited tables until I found a contract job (temp-to-perm). I was offered a full time position, but declined because I liked the diversity (and different bosses) while contracting and consulting.

    I eventually started my own Internet company, hired a staff of 30 (treated them very well). Took on VC, grew to 150 employees — probably hired (& fired) some rotten bosses like you’re dealing with.

    Bottom line – it’s your life: take control. Learn from your mistakes and go find a better jobs. Don’t fret of pay rates (you”ll make more as you learn and job-hop).

    And Definitely DON’T stay just for the stock options (if there are any). They will be worthless, you didn’t get in early enough (or you would be a boss).

    Sucks to have family issues, but you’re past that now. Good luck to you.

  • Well I already signed an agreement for the stock option – I’ve been in since the ground floor actually, I just wasn’t hired officially until I graduated. I’m really torn because I love my CEO and the company, but I’m being asked to disclose things like my mental health history.

    I don’t have enough saved to quit without a job lined up, either.

  • You need to get a job at an established company. You do not need to work at a startup. Startups need people who have grit. Your health is of the upmost importance. If I were your CEO, I would want to know about your issues so the manager could be coached to better support you. But if I were you, I would rather be washing dishes and have peace of mind then work at a startup.

  • Go to your CEO, explain the situation, and quit. The stock options are so not worth losing your health. If your boss is no good, the chances are that the value of the company will not rise either. By telling your CEO about your boss is doing him/her a great service.

  • Hi there, I am so sorry to hear about what you’re going through. I wonder if your boss might have Antisocial Personality Disorder.. I’ve heard people describe similar relationships and it could feel like your head’s in a washing machine..

    If you’re looking for some more support, please reach out and I can personally match you to a mentor, coach, or therapist through Well Connected Now (WCN).

    WCN’s mission is to rebrand mental health and make trustworthy support more accessible, especially for cases like yours.

    Here’s how we could get started: https://wellconnectednow.com/schedule.html

    Hope to hear from you soon,

    -Lisa Abdilova

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