One of the first tricks to learn when coping with tyrannical behavior from your boss is to get him right-sized in your mind. You can never assess a situation clearly when you’re filled with anxiety and panic.
Chances are that if your boss’s behavior is unreasonable with you, it’s unreasonable with others too but if you’re in the direct line of fire, you can receive the brunt of her sarcasm and anger. If you feel like a victim, then you’ve perfectly aligned with someone to perpetuate that feeling.
Year ago I worked for a brilliant director in a company whom I really liked on a personal level. At work it was a different story. When he was happy, the whole office was happy. If he was stressed, he was irritable and demanding. The entire office would tip-toe around his bad mood until it passed.
Since I was in the direct line of fire, most of his irritability came at me full force. When my boss was stressed, all signs of civility disappeared. Each task was given to me in a rush. Any mistakes I made were met with derision and anger. At the beginning of the relationship, I coped with his bad moods by meeting them head on. Later in our relationship, I went through a life changing event that left me vulnerable and defenseless to any attack from anybody, not just my boss.
Instead of coping with the stress of the job and his stress like an adult, I would cower and internalize the stress as my personal pain. He had not changed. I had. To tell the truth, the workplace was not the only area of my life where I felt like a victim. I was in victim mode. If I was to continue working with my boss, I had to develop new coping skills. The first one I learned was to get him right-sized in my mind.
A friend suggested I imagine him in a diaper. Well that may have been appropriate because his behavior was often similar to a two year old’s tantrum, but the visual was a little repulsive to me. I had to find something that worked for me.
Eventually, I settled on a popular Bud Light commercial that depicted two bearded men dressed in flowery dresses and hats pretending to be women so they could get a beer during ladies’ night. Ever time my boss would act inappropriately, I would envision him in a hat and dress. That little trick helped take the edge off the panic I felt every time I thought I was being attacked. Later the relationship changed and I once again was able to interact like an adult. He had not changed. I had.
My challenge to you is to find a means to get your boss right-sized in your mind. This doesn’t mean to criticize and judge your boss, it means to find a mental image that is less threatening to you.
Photo courtesy of T Buchtele via Flickr.com.