Whether your boss is the scream-in-your-face or the passive-aggressive type, here are some tips for dealing with some of the standard Angry Bosses found in the workplace.
by Sean Canton
Angry Bosses are truly the bane of any work experience. Think of it: an emotional and irrational person holds the power of financial stability and survival for many workers in their hands, and they are more than willing to wield it to demand and justify the acknowledgment and subservience to their version of the truth, regardless of the facts.
Everyone is unique; what works for me is not what may work for you. Here I identify a set of guidelines. Use or discard as necessary. I’m not responsible for your actions.
Facing an Angry Boss is a difficult feat of endurance, listening and patience. If it were as simple as applying a formula to any given situation, it wouldn’t be an issue, but Angry Bosses seem to have two base flavors: Direct and Indirect, mixed fresh on an ice-cold slab of spite. Some of the variations, from very Direct to very Indirect, you’ll find in the wild are:
- Tyrant – Rules though direct, relentless fear of losing your job.
- Pressure Valve – Blows up at you as a form of stress release.
- Micromanager – Attacks your work with ever-changing standards of quality.
- Influencer – Uses authority to manipulate your coworkers’ opinions of you.
- Avoider – You think you’re doing great until the six-month review.
Dealing with Angry Bosses is largely a matter of finding the unique methods to identify and assuage their asinine concerns. Extrapolating these methods into your daily routine is likely to lead to a more harmonious interaction.
First, we need to remember that while this anger may be directed at us, it is not ENTIRELY our fault. Indeed, while the situation may be due to our mistakes causing the upset, the reaction of the superior is ALL THEIR RESPONSIBILITY. You can’t make anyone do anything.
This is a liberating thought, isn’t it?
For dealing with Direct Angry Bosses (the easy ones):
Step 1: Remove yourself from being affected by their anger.
Why should both of you suffer a stroke?
Okay, from this place of calm serenity, you see the storm and are unaffected. Easier said then done, especially when your work is belittled, your job is threatened and all sorts of undeserved assaults enter your ears. Here’s where you listen and try to laugh (internally) at the ridiculous allegations and the bizarre situation your life experience has arrived to at this moment.
Step 2: Identify what caused this particular blowup and the situation which surrounds it.
This information will stave off the Angry Boss now and hopefully for some time in the future.
•tep 3: Address concerns, take responsibility.
If you screwed up, admit it! Obviously they know you screwed up; otherwise you wouldn’t be getting yelled at! There’s no getting out of it; placing blame and getting defensive will only dig you in deeper. If you haven’t screwed up, stand your ground but DON’T GET ANGRY in response. That will only give them more justification to terminate your employ as a rash decision. This should get them to calm down.
Step 4: Communicate how you are taking the “next step.”
There is a huge gap between what they expect and what you are doing. This is the root cause of the disturbance. Once they’ve calmed down, they will be in a position to hear your proposition for fixing the problem. Be prepared to make personal sacrifices if you want to save your job.
Step 5: Develop a methodology for avoiding the situation in the future.
If dealing with a Tyrant, keep your head down. A Micromanager, you need to micromanage back to the point of obnoxiousness. A Pressure Valve…well, there’s just no knowing when they’re going to blow; stay ready, stay the course, the storm will pass.
For Indirect Angry Bosses…
…the situation becomes much more complex and delicate, as you won’t see the results and consequences of your actions for many months.
As an employee, you need to be aware of:
•Feelings. Since it’s bad form to fire someone as a matter of personal preference, it’s easier to find faults in a person if one is inclined to dislike them.
•Social circles intersecting hierarchical ones. Be careful about your information control. Office friendships can make your day go smoothly, but one misinterpreted statement, passed along, can lead to disaster down the road. Especially so when your coworker has some sort of connection with your manager.
•Your reactions. The only thing you can control in a stressful situation is your reaction. Unfortunately, reactions could be detrimental without knowing it. Just because a given reaction is acceptable by one member of your workforce does not mean it is acceptable for everyone.
The only way that I can see to deal with the Indirect Angry Boss is to give in to the soul-sucking social pressure they demand and consider your contract signed. There is no way to measure improvement or deal with issues as they arise. You have to view everything with a long-term lens while putting out short-term fires.
By enforcing conformity in such a passive-aggressive way, Indirect Angry Bosses not only destroy your self-esteem, but undermine the very work ethic they are trying to instill. It goes without contest that this is the epitome of ineffective management adaptations and a disastrous corporate culture to be involved with.
At a basic level, understand that Angry Bosses are human, too. They were mistreated growing through the ranks of business, and now that they can inflict the pain on others, they do so as a matter of justified privilege. Just like outside work relationships (not that anyone has time for those), we all carry a certain amount of emotional baggage with us from our past into our present.