Warner Bros. new film Horrible Bosses addresses a universal theme; the desire to kill your boss.
The bosses portrayed in the movie are a sexual harasser, an incompetent fool and a full-fledged psycho. We’ve all been there, right?
I once worked for a boss that was so difficult that I went into therapy to try to avoid going insane.
After hearing stories of my boss’s misbehavior the doctor imparted his words of wisdom. He told me to buy an electronic cattle prod.
How To Deal With Horrible Bosses
But neither a contract killer, nor the lesser crime of a simple tasering, will actually get the results you’re looking for. Unless you’re looking to spend some time in federal prison.
What you really need are coping tools for when you’re working for a real tool. We’ve gotcha covered. Most psychiatrists will tell you that you cannot change someone else’s behavior. You can only change your own. Changing the way you react to bad behavior may be the only way to better your situation.
Make it Fizzle
You know the fastest way to put out a fire? Throw water on it. Obvious, right? Well, if your boss has a mean temper and tends to yell a lot, stop him in his tracks by throwing water on the situation. Don’t react. Don’t argue, or state your case, or make excuses. Agree. Calmly. Not timidly, or out of fear. Just agree, “Yes (meanie boss’s name) I think you’re right.” After that, what’s there to yell about?
Later when everyone is calm again, you can correct any wrongs you may have agreed to.
Do Go Changin’
If your boss is a chronic micro-manager, learn how to communicate the minutia. If your boss is constantly unclear with directions, learn to repeat back what you believe to be the task at hand. If your manager often forgets about things that have been promised to you, become the Michael Jordan of note taking.
Change the way you behave and your problems may solve themselves.
Do As I Do
May sound simplistic, but try setting a good example. In particular if you manage a staff of your own. Let your boss see how you interact with your direct reports. How you talk calmly with them even in times of crisis. How you encourage them. How you give clear direction.
Help your boss learn the proper behavior by watching you; and build the confidence of some of your co-workers at the same time.
Check Your Ego
Keep reminding yourself that it’s not all about you. You may be on the receiving end of a firestorm that, in truth, has nothing to do with you. If your manager’s behavior is on-again-off again bad, it may be that they’re just under more stress than they can handle. And that stress leaks out sometimes. All over you.
Try not to take it personally.
Take Your Toys and Go
Sometimes no amount of work on your end can repair the situation. Some bosses just don’t have the skills to lead. Others have been put in jobs that are above their emotional pay grade. In these cases you need to call it quits. Literally. Look either for another job within your company, or pack it in altogether.
Short of the electric cattle prod, it may be the only solution.
Kathy Ver Eecke, founder of Working for Wonka, is a former marketing executive who now works as a writer and speaker on the topic of surviving the start-up environment and working for an entrepreneur.