Help!! I Hate
by Nancy Halpern
Please select one of the
following. My boss is:
A) A Monster
B) A Cretin
C) Genghis Khan
D) All of the Above
Does this sound familiar? Is this
what you face everyday? Do you harbor fantasies of the perfect crime? Do
you keep thinking that there must be a way around, up or out of this awful
situation, if you could only figure out what it is?
Don't despair. At one time or
another we have all faced an impossible boss. Too many people don't
realize that "managing up" is not the same thing as
"kissing up." Managing your boss is part of your job and a key
indicator of your success. In learning how to do this you will master
valuable lessons about management, human behavior and how not to perform
under pressure. These are skills that can be turned around into survival,
and even success, strategies.
How did a nice person like you
get stuck in a place like this?
Most people don't willingly sign
up to work for a difficult boss. There are a few intrepid souls who think
they are "up to the challenge", but the sane among us run in the
Sometimes you accept a new job,
and your future boss seems really, really nice. Then the first deadline
approaches and he or she turns into a screaming banshee. Sometimes your
current boss leaves and senior management selects their replacement.
Sometimes you are transferred into a great new position, but a terrible
boss manages the department. And sometimes you have had a perfectly fine
relationship with your boss and something goes sour, creating a downward
spiral that you just can't seem to climb out of.
Pick a Boss, Any Boss…
Let's see if we can peel away the
layers of horror here. Exactly what type of problem boss do you have? Here
is a far from exhaustive list of some killer-type bosses. Do you recognize
The Patronizing B_____D and
The Arrogant B___H
Sister and brother, this type of
boss believes that intimidation, sarcasm and fear are key motivators. They
seem to derive special pleasure from publicly humiliating subordinates and
appear impossible to please.
Yes, he or she really is that
stupid. No matter how many times you shake your head in wonder, they do
continue to amaze you, don't they? Pick the absolutely dumbest strategy,
and they implement it. You wonder how they survive; yet they continue to
be promoted over and over again. Why? Because they don't intimidate their
own boss and are perfectly content never to rock the boat.
Manipulative and self-motivated
to the core, this boss will tell everyone exactly what he or she thinks
they want to hear. Weeks, months, years later, you realize that they have
been lying all along. In fact, they are so good at selling their own
version of events that what is common business sense gets lost or
forgotten. Their concern is never what's right for the business, but
what's right for themselves.
This is the one who says: "I
tried to talk them out of it" or "I really fought for you",
smiling as they ooze insincerity. A masterful blend of snake oil salesman
and actor, she or he is verbally unctuous and inherently untrustworthy.
Think of Eve's temptress in the Garden and you get the picture.
This person has no life. They
live to work. Ergo, work is life. They assume that the family photo on the
desk is enough quality time with the spouse and kids. Unrealistic
deadlines, calls at home, frequent business travel on weekends - these are
some of their favorite techniques. Most staff members end up working
excessive and late hours without recognition or reward. In fact, the more
work they accept, the more they are given, but the money and title never
seem to follow.
Hope for the Sick at Heart
We all know it isn't easy to live
with a tough boss. You've probably tried a lot of different things - and
most of them haven't worked. Have you sighed in resignation, accepting
this burden as punishment for sins committed in a former life?
There are ways to make your
relationship with your boss if not more successful, than at least more
pleasant. Here are some strategies to think through, and some ideas you
can begin testing tomorrow.
- Don't push your boss's
buttons. What are their pet peeves? What sets them off? Write them all
down, and for each pressure point, put an antidote that is the
opposite behavior. Now tape this list it in a private but easily
accessible place and reread it every day. Be sure to consider the
"little" as well as the big things. For example, you may not
think it's a big deal to arrive five minutes late to a meeting, but to
your boss this frequent tardiness indicates sloppiness, poor planning
and a lack of respect for him or her. They may view it as your failure
to manage your time, or think that you doubt the meeting's importance.
Remember, this is all about your boss's sensitivities, not yours.
- Know their favorite
communication methods. Do they prefer to communicate via email, phone
or memorandum? Do they utilize one medium for themselves but another
for their staff? Find out and stick to it! Your adherence to their
choice will make them more comfortable, and will make them believe
that you are more like them, and that therefore you must be very, very
- Know their communication
style. Are they formal or informal? Don't be exactly like them; just
use it to point yourself in a general direction. For example, if
someone uses vulgar language it doesn't mean that you will endear
yourself to him or her if you start swearing all the time. But acting
shocked won't help you either. Take it as a sign of informality, or
perhaps a tactic to embarrass you, and don't react. The same thing is
true for their style of dress. Don't mimic it - just use it as working
knowledge of who and what they are.
- Scrutinize the Successful. I
know it hurts, but do it. Turn your gaze to colleagues who are
successful with this boss. Who gets promoted? What traits or behaviors
do they use in front of your boss? Forget your own attitude, be it
envy or disgust, and try to be objective. It doesn't mean that you
have to be that way, but it will provide clues as to what your boss
really likes. You can decide later if you can emulate your colleagues
or not - right now we are still collecting data.
- Keep it to Yourself. Button
your lip until you are blue in the face, but do not grumble about your
boss in the office. It may seem like common sense, but you would be
amazed by how many people publicly bad-mouth their boss. Not only do
the walls have ears, but they have tentacles and stereo speakers, too.
The first nasty remark may not get back to your boss, but the third or
fourth one will.
- Forget about Human Resources.
If you haven't yet learned this painful lesson, please etch these
words into your soul: HR exists to serve the needs of the corporation,
not the individual employee. If you bring a complaint, no matter how
legitimate, to HR they will take it straight to your boss and it will
hurt you. Trust me on this - no matter how friendly they seem HR is
not your friend.
- Document, document, and
document. Keep every memo; write down every offensive comment, every
broken promise, and every out-of-control outburst. Be sure to include
dates and participants, and enough detail to make yourself believable.
Then keep this in a very safe place. Because you never know.
- Have an Exit Strategy. Think
about it, write it down and file it away - you will feel better. This
should be a living document, including a current resume, a list of
headhunters in your field and the names of three or four good
references. If you decide, or it's decided for you, to leave, then the
first thing you do is pull out this document. And boy, will you feel
better when you do.
- Manage your Boss. Be it this
job or the next; realize that you need a strategy on how to manage
your boss. Be cognizant of when you give them information, what that
information is and how you deliver it. Know your boss's weaknesses and
objectives, as well as the pressure they are under to perform their
job. Be aware of your own working style, and plan how you can balance
"You can't change other
people. You can only change yourself"