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In this weekly series, Todd Dewett, PhD, shares the tips respected and motivated managers use to improve rapport, navigate tricky situations, build better relationships, and drive the business forward. Each week, we'll release two tips ranging from avoiding the dreaded micromanagement to managing a multigenerational workforce, cultivating better listening skills, and developing an understanding of your organization's politics. Check back every Wednesday for more Management Tips.
For better or for worse. We all have to work with people we don't always like. Sometimes they're your boss. There are many types of difficult bosses. Some like to scream and yell. Others are overly critical and negative when considering the work of others. Even though they can't stand to be critiqued themselves. In general this all reflects an unprofessional and clearly negative disposition that causes you unneeded stress. No one enjoys this situation, but what do you do about it? The quick answer is that you never openly agree with their unprofessional behavior.
Whether it's directed at you or someone else. Also never mirror back to them the same behaviors. That only inflames the situation and puts you on their level. When confronted with negative behaviors from a difficult boss, your basic choices are either a thoughtful measured response or providing no response at all. Which one makes sense depends on your status their status and your long-term need to work together. First think about your status. Are you struggling with your job? Considered a normal member of the team? Or are you clearly among the higher performers? The higher your status the less risky it will be to speak up.
It's not risk-free at all. But less risky given your value to the team. Next, think about their status. Have they been in the same role for 20 years or are they a fast rising star. The higher their status the more risk you take on should you decide to speak up. Finally think about how long you're likely to work for this person. If it's a year give or take speaking up might not be the best strategy because it's risky and you or they will be moving on. If however your connection might last for many years, you have to decide whether you can live with their behavior or if you need to craft some type of response.
Remember, if you do ever wish to speak up, do it privately, be respectful but specific, and try to frame the issue in a non-threatening manner. For example, let's say the issue is their excessive swearing on the job that rubs you and others the wrong way. You might say, "Hey Bob, I don't think you've noticed "but when you or Jimmy or Suzanne start swearing "it makes the rest of us feel "a little bit uncomfortable. "It's not really a big deal, "I mean I know it comes from your passion for what we do, "but I just wanted to make sure you're aware of it." You'll notice I wasn't threatening in any way.
I mentioned the three people who tend to swear a lot, not just him. I didn't mention rules or policies or HR, or any phrases that might be a trigger such as hostile work environment. I just tried to be simple, honest, and polite. To give him a chance to respond productively. I can promise you that eventually you'll encounter a challenging or negative boss. You can't control how they behave, but you can control how you respond. Remember what we just covered and you'll make a thoughtful decision that just might help you survive and thrive in spite of a difficult boss.
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