Archive for July, 2009
Do You Report to a Schoolyard or to Work?
If you’re like many working professionals today, you may feel like you report to a schoolyard or playground each day, not to an office. But perhaps the only mood swings in sight are your boss’s mood swings.
Bad bosses, or what I call Terrible Office Tyrants (TOTs™) seem to be making rounds these days, as job loss fears are rampant. With unemployment at 9.5 percent nationally, it’s no wonder. Your boss may seem like the bully at recess who goads you into jumping down from the top of a towering slide. The real-life version being that she asks you to go into her manager’s office – the lion’s den – to confirm the details of Wednesday’s staff meeting.
If you’re running a company, this undoubtedly makes you cringe.
But take heart. In my new book, Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant™ (TOT): How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job, I remind people that childish behavior at work is not your imagination! Sand may not be found on the hallway parquet floor, but sandbox politics can be found everywhere if you look closely. Welcome to TOTdom.
Now that you know there’s is nothing wrong with you, and that unruly bosses and children who cannot moderate their power (a.k.a. TOTs) have a lot in common, what can you do? A few tips:
1. Use C.A.L.M. – Be the voice of reason to TOTs:
Communicate – Openly, honestly and frequently;
Anticipate – know when trouble might be coming down the hall, and be prepared with solutions (don’t add to the problem);
Laugh – Humor is the great diffuser of tension, so use it to simmer a heated debate; and
Manage up – As you would with a child, role model the behavior you want to see in your TOT managers, co-workers and your team. Use positive reinforcement, and set limits to bad behavior. Also, avoid enabling your TOT’s management style – it’s an easy trap, as she will often reward you for it!
2. Work hard, but don’t allow needy bosses to consume your life. Needy bosses have “separation anxiety,” and want you to work virtually 24/7. You might want to take a summer vacation, so give your TOT a “countdown” warning: “I’m leaving in 4, 3, 2, 1 week (s), but John is covering for me and all my projects are under control.”
3. Know that angry, irritable and generally bad bosses are usually acting out of fear, so stay clear. TOTs may be stressed out about their own jobs; meeting deadlines; reducing staff or pay; or just being overworked. Don’t allow yourself to be a punching bag. Know your timing, keep your message concise, be focused and non-emotional, and above all, remember that TOT behavior is thankfully NOT ABOUT YOU. Isn’t that a relief?!
You can take specific proactive steps to manage the 20 TOT traits, whether they are of the “bratty” or “little lost lamb” variety. Remember that behind the professional boss façade is often a small child (hanging from the monkey bars in fright!)
Take a moment to check off how many of these traits you face in a day, as an employee or manager. Please let me know through the blog or site contact forms. There are tons of tips and anecdotes in the new book, but I’d like to hear yours!
Little Lost Lambs
12. Endless Questioning
13. Fantasy World
16. Irrational Fears
18. Mood Swings
20. Short Attention Spans
Help is Here for TOT-Laden Workplaces
striking parallels between difficult bosses and children.
“That’s how my boss acts,” many people exclaim, finally realizing that they’re not alone.
“Boy, do we have TOTS in our office!” is another familiar statement.
“Wow, you’ve really hit on something here!”
And that’s one of the important messages of my writing and training – TOTs really are everywhere and all of us can deal with them.
As I discussed on ABC-TV this week with Tory Johnson, its important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that employees and employers must share the responsibility to tame their TOTs. Too many bad bosses are acting like unruly children who have trouble modulating their power. They’re throwing tantrums, being demanding, needy, distracted or moody.
Such childish behaviors sap productivity – at a time when we least need that to happen! But the great news is that employees can turn this around… almost instantly, with some honed parental-style, humanistic techniques!
As I pointed out in my recent “When TOTs Run the Office” article on the Psychology Today website, at some point in our working lives we’re likely to be confronted with a TOT. Too many offices resemble a chaotic schoolyard, replete with bad bosses playing sandbox politics. But therein lies an opportunity to save your sanity and everyone else’s.
By “decoding” the boss’s true emotions, employees can better align themselves with their manager’s goals, and become indispensable. Jihan Thompson of Marie Claire talks with me about this approach in the magazine’s August 2009 cover story, where I provide insights on interpreting a boss’s childlike statements.
Taming your TOT is not just for employees. In Forbes magazine’s CEO Power section this week, I point out how CEOs can also “Make Room at the Top” for strong leaders by avoiding “territorialism.” While doing so, they promote an environment where there’s space for everyone to grow and do their best work. A place that’s safe for success. This boosts productivity, employee morale and, profits.
So the next time you spot a TOT, don’t reach for a pacifier, pack your boxes or order a mass layoff. First get your copy (or copies!) of
Are You Postponing Success?
Rising unemployment, a stalled economy and job fears are front and center in the news again, at least in part due to a worse than expected June job loss report. Although it might seem difficult in these uncertain times, it truly is essential to see the bigger, long- term picture. It will help you increase your career currency.
Unfortunately, when job security becomes “Job #1”, it is instinctive to switch to a “treading water” mode. The sad truth is that the more fearful we are, the more likely we are to be reactive.
One of my goals in writing Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant™ (TOT): How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job (John Wiley & Sons, June 31, 2009), is to encourage proactive steps. It’s designed to help both employees and managers work together to eliminate counterproductive behaviors. That means an environment in which leadership cultivates a supportive, not punitive environment – where creativity and thoughtful risk taking is welcomed. In short, I’m describing a workplace where big thinkers and high fliers can reach for the stars without worrying that someone will clip their wings. I call that making it “safe for success” – regardless of the state of the economy.
Avoiding the spread of a “bad boss mentality” requires replacing “what’s in it for me?” thinking with, “what’s in it for us?” It ensures that your best efforts will be appreciated and that your career is on track. And there’s no better time for this during heightened fears of job loss and uncertainty.
At its core, Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant™ (TOT): How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job (John Wiley & Sons, June 31, 2009), offers specific tips on what you can do to make take back control of your job and contribute to a humanized workplace. Watch for it – it’s coming your way in bookstores and online in the next couple weeks!