The Zero Sympathy Boss


There are some bosses out there who just don’t appear to be ‘people people.’ Kids home from school and you don’t have a baby sitter? Tough. Not enough time to get the job done? No excuse. Need a sick day? Better bring a personal death certificate when you come back. These bosses are as tough as nails and nothing you can say to them seems to make a difference.

There are many reasons that a boss can come across as cold and unsympathetic. Sometimes it’s because they are under pressures of their own, and are too focused on their own needs to be concerned with yours. More often than not, however, they are simply people who have extraordinarily high standards for themselves and the people around them. They are prepared to make sacrifices for their jobs, and don’t understand why anyone else would feel any different. So here’s the good news and bad news:

The bad news is that there is nothing you will be able to do to change this boss. This belief structure is hard-coded into him (her).

The good news is that there’s a lot you can learn from this boss if you can stick it out. Primarily what you’ll learn is exactly what levels of performance you’re really capable of. Bosses like this push us far harder than we would typically push ourselves. Reasonable or not, they squeeze out levels of performance and creativity that we previously would have thought impossible.

You may not want to stick with a boss like this for too long – he will burn you out. But while you are working with him recognize that, at some level, he is giving you some valuable insight into yourself.

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