Every now and then you can find yourself reporting to someone who seemingly has no filter on his (her) emotional state; and when something goes wrong, everyone in the entire building knows about it. Fortunately, people who have such little self-control don’t often rise too far up an organization – but some occasionally slip through. The most common exceptions are people who own the business (or are related to someone who owns the business); or people who possess skill or knowledge so critical that their bosses feel it outweighs the horrible effect they might have on morale and staff retention. And make no mistake; they have the ability to singlehandedly create a horribly toxic work environment.
If you have a boss like this, the first thing to recognize is there is unlikely anything you can do to change them in any significant way. This is a behaviour pattern which is firmly embedded, and probably extends well beyond the work environment and into their personal lives. There are really only two options open to you:
1. Change their behaviour with you
While you can’t realistically change someone’s overall behaviour patterns, you can sometimes change the way they behave around you personally. If (and only if) you are a valuable employee, and your boss respects the value you bring to the organization, you can try this approach: Find a quiet moment to talk with your boss. Use a good stuff – bad stuff – good stuff approach, and present your position in terms of how your boss might benefit by changing his behaviour when you’re around.
For example, ” (Good stuff) Boss, I really like the work I do – it’s engaging and really interesting. (Bad stuff) I have to be honest though, when you shout at me like you did yesterday; I completely lose focus and totally lose my productivity. (Good stuff) I’ll get a lot more done if you just talk to me…”
This approach can work, and it’s worth a try. You may find you have to repeat the conversation a few times. Unfortunately, it won’t always work because, sadly, some bosses just don’t get it. This option is really only worth trying when you see some long term benefits coming from your current job. Otherwise option 2, below, is your best choice:
2. Get out – fast
Life is too short to work for a toxic boss. Seriously. There are lots of good bosses out there looking for great employees. Get that resume out there!