Unfortunately, there are many jackasses running around in leadership roles these days. This can be very frustrating, depending on your appetite for abuse and how much you love what you do at the company where you are doing it.
But before you throw your hands up just because your boss is degrading, condescending, a micro-manager, a yeller, a passive aggressive lamebrain or, simply a bully, there are strategies you can employ that will help you preserve your sanity. Consider these tactics before you bolt for the door.
1. IT'S ALL ABOUT CONTROL
Don't try to control that which is beyond your control. If your Boss can't stand life unless he is controlling your every move, simply take a deep breath and say to yourself, this is he, not me. It is his issue, not mine. I cannot even try to control his emotions, as they are not my own. I will do my work and deliver my best performance. That IS within my control and I will continue to do so, ignoring the rest. When you let go of the need to control another's emotions, it is very freeing.
2. THERE IS NOTHING TO DISCUSS
This is my favorite line; gifted to me by one of San Francisco's most notorious Attorneys who dealt with start-ups, labor disputes and dissolution of partnerships. He is quite brilliant. When your Boss is frothing at the mouth because you weren't available for his 6:00 a.m. call to you at home this morning (how could you?!), you calmly return it once you have taken your shower, had a cup of coffee and regained your composure after his unwarranted ranting. When you connect with him and he launches into a repeat tirade, you simply say, "Boss, there really is nothing to discuss. I will be in the office at 7 a.m. as usual and would be happy to sit down with you then." Don't yell back. This takes the wind out of his sails and you can move on.
3. DON'T TAKE THE BAIT
You work hard and want to do well, but your Boss is passive aggressive. Instead of saying, I am unhappy with how you handled the client matter, she might say, Were you planning to address the client today or take a long lunch? while smoke is coming out of her ears. Your job is to not take the bait.
Don't read between the lines. Just respond to her question. Yes, I am. Thanks. She may still fume that you haven't figured out her disappointment through your own telepathic abilities, but that's not your problem. Deal with specific questions only, not between the lines aggressive behavior. And, most importantly, don't parrot the behavior. Be clear and calm.
4. PUT HIS OR HER SHOES ON
We don't always know the reason why someone acts as they do. It is quite possible that your Boss is a bully to everyone. Maybe he is your buddy one day and the devil reincarnate the next. It is not up to you to walk on eggshells based on his moods, but it would behoove you to consider the distinct possibility that he might have a lot of pressure from above and simply wants people to do their jobs (maybe too much like he would do them), so that he can report positively to the powers that be above him.
There might be a much bigger picture going on.
If you sense this is the case, try parroting back to him what it is you think that he is asking for (in as calm a manner as possible) and let him know that you understand his pressures too.
It sounds like you want me to double revenues this quarter, but with no travel or face to face with clients, is that right? He nods. Wow, you must have a lot of pressure to cut expenses in our group. While I can try to do that, it is a departure from our normal practice and I cannot guarantee as much success based on an all-virtual approach. Do you agree? Now you are inside his world and he might actually share his pressures with you and calm down in the process. Or not.
If none of these tactics work for you and your Boss is simply a consistent Jerk, I would run, not walk for the door. Life is too short to let stress on the job rule your life. Finally, if you do depart, know that you can learn and grow from the experience, continue to focus on your goals and shape your own future full speed ahead.
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Jody B. Miller is the CEO of C2C Executive Search & Strategic Management. She also writes books about work/life balance, articles about topics we think about (yet don't always talk about), and novels about love and friendship.
Follow Jody B. Miller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbmiller2