Do you sometimes feel that your boss acts like a stubborn, demanding, or needy child? Well, you're not alone. According to Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant (TOT): How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job," such behavior has recently become more prevalent. She says that workplace stress and high unemployment have put bad bosses into overdrive, although bosses can exhibit bad behavior in any economy.
Here are some of Taylor's tips for dealing with terrible office tyrants (or "TOTs," as she abbreviates them) to keep your sanity, and your job.
Communicate frequently, openly, and honestly. Savvy "TOT-tamers" (and parents, for that matter) take the initiative to establish an open dialog. At work, constantly staying aligned with your boss's objectives keeps your work on target. You also avoid false reads on bad boss behavior that may seem aimed at you, when it likely relates to other factors.
Be alert for problems and prepared with sound solutions. By having answers to emerging issues, and not adding to your boss's pressures, you avoid triggering "bratty" behavior. Your "TOT" wants to delegate as much as possible - as long as you make the process worry-free. An extra benefit is that you'll become more indispensable.
Use humor, what Taylor calls "the great diffuser" of tension when communications break down - and patience runs low. A lighthearted comment can quickly melt away these barriers. Levity is a common bond we share, just as is the need to build something great together while having some fun. Take the initiative to do this and watch the seething (and teething) simmer.
4. Manage up
Let yourself shine by being a proactive problem-solver and collaborator. These attributes will help make you the master of your own career. Part of taking control of your job involves managing your interactions with your boss - so you can achieve what you want.
5. Know your timing
Timing can certainly mean everything, as with a child or "TOT." Learn the best times of day to approach your boss, and study his or her patterns, mood swings, hot buttons, and plan your interactions accordingly. It can make the difference between a pleasant "yes" and an irrevocable "no!"
6. Be a role model
Project the highest ethical standards and radiate positive energy. Maintain a balanced demeanor and approach each crisis (real or imagined) with a rational style.
7. Set limits
Let bosses know privately when they've gone over the line, but do it diplomatically. Keep the conversation focused on your work product. If your superior is intentionally malicious and attacking, that's another matter that requires more serious action. If, after repeated efforts for cooperation (such as with a bully boss and unsupportive management), you may be best off looking elsewhere. You have to determine how much strife you can handle.
8. Maintain focus
Many tyrant bosses have taken ADD to a new level... called BADD (Boss Attention Deficit Disorder), which is like multitasking on steroids. They're unable to focus on important tasks at hand, allowing e-mails, text messages, phones, and people to interrupt their (and your) flow. Encourage him or her to document objectives and agree on mutual goals on a regular basis. Be sure to follow up. Have an agenda prepared before meetings. By being vigilant and "managing up" to help your boss reconnect with priorities, you'll increase your career currency significantly.
9. Don't fight fire with fire
If your "TOT" is tantrum or bully-prone, mirroring back their childish behavior is a downward spiral. Avoid the temptation to win the battle and lose the war (and your job!). A better strategy is to calmly and concisely tell your boss how his or her actions affected you. Keep a matter-of-fact tone and be factual. Use "I" statements rather than "you" to avoid an accusatory attitude.
10. Reward good behavior
When bosses set aside their worst "TOT" traits, respond with gratitude and comment on how it inspires you to do your best. Positive and negative reinforcement is a powerful tool to foster better behavior. Over time, your boss will connect the better behavior with increased morale and productivity. Remember, if there's something in it for your boss, you will see change.