If your demanding boss over delegates, micromanages, vanishes when you need her, screams like a banshee or throws things better than a first baseman, here are ten ways, inspired by the book: Make Difficult People Disappear that will give you and your boss actionable remedies and the support needed to make your life easier. Here’s how to deal with that difficult behavior and even in some cases, make the person providing it, disappear.
Schedule an Appointment
In many organizations what is promoted are those who get it done or those who get it right. In terms of emotional intelligence and one personality assessment used, the CORE Snapshot refers to them as the Commander and Organizer preferences. Both operate off of a list and if you’re not on it, you’re not getting done or the right person to talk to at this time. Make an appointment for minimal interruption and less stress on their schedule, not to mention less stress aimed at you.
Ask Meaningful Questions
Asking “Gotta sec?” is not the same as making an appointment. It’s an interruption to a driven task master’s work flow. Also, don’t ask your demanding boss “Are you busy?” This is like walking up to a hotel counter with your suitcase and credit card in hand only to hear them ask “Checking in?” “Nope, just here to inspect the pool.” Do your questions have real meaning or are they the meaning behind the reaction of sarcasm or look you just got?
Get to the Point
Right or wrong, often Type A, driven, ambitious and competitive leaders want you to get to the point. If these are the behaviors most often promoted into management, chances are good you report to someone who has them. The faster you get to the point, the faster they know what to do with that information and that is nearly always the question lurking in their mind. A lengthy explanation, unless it includes action items is hard for them to process, particularly when under stress, and no matter the intended outcome will usually result in a negative response to your lengthy request.
Ask for What You Need
If you’re afraid to ask for what you need, you won’t get it. If you have a demanding boss from whom you need a signature right now or what they want you to finish won’t get done, ask them to sign now or the task will be delayed until tomorrow and you’ll be an easy target for blame. If you simply leave it on their desk with a signature flag and expect them to know the consequence of putting that off, they won’t necessarily know or have remembered your warning, but likely aim blame at you for the delay.
Fuss Over Them
Certain personalities love to be ‘fussed over’ more than others, but who doesn’t like to be made to feel special? The phrase “it’s lonely at the top” exists for a reason and there’s a chance your boss cant’ really share most of what is going on with him or her with anyone on the team. Have their back. Offer to get them lunch. Be helpful and ready to serve and see if it changes your perspective and theirs and their reactions to you.
Translate the Code
Leaders who say “When you get a minute” usually mean “In this minute, right now, will you make time to do X?” Sometimes they secretly mean yesterday. Once you understand that code you won’t receive the frustration they feel when you didn’t get it, even if they said it so subtly no one would have understood the intended message. Subtlety is a form of someone who knows they are strong, trying to invoke more people skills. It can come out more condescending and lacking in direction than they intended.
Get a Clue
If your bad boss just got back from being chewed out by her boss, it is not the time to go in and ask for a favor or to leave early. Pay attention to clues that your actions might incite a reaction you didn’t expect. If you don’t want to BE the punching bag, don’t go stand in front of the punch that might be itching to come out.
Just because your boss hands you three projects that all take an hour and expects them all to be completed in fifteen minutes, doesn’t mean you need to learn how to work miracles and suddenly juggle hoops of fire unless miracle worker is part of your career aspirations. Some things simply take time and many demanding bosses forget how much time or how much they’ve given you. Speak up by asking “Out of these three projects, which one is top priority?” so you know how to meet their expectations. You will gain clarity and they’ll receive a jog to their memory about what all they’ve just assigned.
Take it Professionally, Not Personally
When your boss is yelling at you, it feels personal, but it’s often not. Listen, nod, provide results immediately and move on. You’re better served to ask if the reaction was all meant for you or directed toward you, once they have cooled down. Then the answer is likely to be no and sometimes an apology. If the apology is not forthcoming and the behavior is flagrant and frequent, it may instead be time to consider some boundaries and another approach or position.
Fellow leadership speakers often recommend dealing with task masters by saying to employees: “be brief, be bright, and be gone”. The only important piece in this phrase is “be bright”. If you’re bright, contributing, adding value, and helping your boss do what he or she does best, they won’t want you to be brief or be gone for long. Find ways to be indispensable instead of easily replaceable.
If you drive you know the feeling of being cut off. Some say creative hand gestures help you show that frustration, but to whom. More importantly, who hears you? Who pays for being frustrated? Ever cut someone else off and wave in the mirror only to say “sorry!” Most just do what they do, just like you and have little or no knowledge of their impact on your day. It wasn’t about you or your day. In fact, very little is about you and if you stay fascinated, instead of frustrated you might even giggle when fascinated at how one boss can be such a jerk, or one driver can be so oblivious. Giggling is better than “Googling” for a new job when your frustrations get you cut off …of the team.
Save the Labels
When you use more difficult behavior labels than they sell at Staples or Office Depot, you’re part of the problem. Once you label your boss as bad, you expect him to act that way. Your expectations create your responses. Your responses drive your behavior and if you have difficult behavior, these kinds of continued responses is what you’re likely to get back. Save the labels for mailing out your resume if it comes to that and remember that once you state a label for someone, you don’t argue with your own data. Instead your brain seeks to prove your right. Is that really what you want, more examples of bad boss behavior?
Find Your Focus
If all you are looking for are the things your boss does wrong, then that’s all you’ll find. The Reticular Activating System (RAS – Wikipedia) serves to alarm you to those things you deem important. Complaints you spend hours repeating at the water cooler must be important as often you share them, so your brain will find more. Focus on what you want to see more of: good boss behavior. The truth is what you focus on tends to follow you around.
No one wants to work in a position in which the stress is high, the boss is crazy, and you’re constantly in agony or fear for your job. If it’s more than you can bear or feel you deserve, and the boss is just bonkers, then make an effort to move on. You lose the right to complain about your plight if you refuse to lift a finger to fix it or find another option.
Bosses are people, too and most are not intending to be difficult. In fact, most people in general are not difficult on purpose, but different in ways the recipient of their actions doesn’t understand. They either don’t know how to handle stress or are still learning to lead people and in most cases they have no idea how their behavior impacts you. There are solutions for both, but it’s you who suffers from their trial and error time of learning. If you work with a manager who’s been promoted, but not prepared or seems to have lost the desire to care long ago, recognize these steps work even without a wand and may help you to manage up and feel better about your job, not to mention make the difficult boss disappear, without even having to go to jail!