panic boss.jpgSo you have a boss who will dump all over you the moment things go wrong, but never seems to notice when things go right. Most of us can take a little criticism from our bosses from time to time when we’ve messed up, or haven’t quite done something right. It can be tremendously demotivating, however, when that seems to be the only type of feedback we get, and that there never seems to be the recognition for the positive contributions we make to the company.

Chances are your boss isn’t intentionally trying to demotivate you. It’s doubtful that he has some master plan to make your life miserable. What is more likely is that he has instead fallen into the all too common management trap of looking for things that are wrong instead of looking for things that are right. (This particular behaviour is not unique to managers, of course. As parents, coaches and peers, a great many of us fall into this trap.)

Here’s a technique that’s worth a try:

The next few times your boss comes over to criticize you, follow this three step process:

a. Apologize to him

b. Let him know that you’ll correct it

c. Finish off with a comment that gently reminds him that you do, occasionally, actually do things right. For example: “Gee, and here I thought you were coming over to tell me how good a job I did on that last project I worked on.” Say it with a smile, then go about your business of fixing your mistake.

It may take a few repetitions, but your boss should eventually get the message that you might like a little positive encouragement

Good Luck!


More about this topic can be found in Winning with the Boss from Hell – a guide to life in the trenches

[This is from the Archive Project – where we are attempting to get 10 years of Winning at Work on the web! Original publication date: 28 August, 2004]

Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group and has been consulting and speaking on customer experience, employee engagement and workplace performance for 23 years


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