22 Mar How to Deal with an Irrational Boss
Everyone has a Boss. And some of you have an irrational Boss. And your Boss’ Boss is putting ongoing and increasing pressure on your Boss to “do more with less.”
Unfortunately, your Boss is passing that pressure on to you by making ever more unreasonable and irrational demands on your time and energy, whether it be unreasonable deadlines, crazy travel schedules or more additional projects than any human can possibly handle. Because of this “not gonna end soon” situation, a frequent discussion issue in my coaching sessions is “How do I deal with my Bosses when their unreasonable demands become irrational demands?”
So, making the distinction between unreasonable and irrational behavior, here are some of my recommendations for dealing with an irrational Boss:
When dealing with an irrational Boss, here are some of the best techniques for communicating with said Boss:
- Never disrespect your Boss! Regardless of how vehemently you disagree with your Boss, always treat him/her with the respect due them as a person and as the person holding the position of authority and responsibility. Conversely, you are entitled to that same degree of respect from your Boss.
- Never disagree with your Boss in public! Unless you want to get fired. Or your judgment is so impaired you should get fired!
- Express your disagreement directly to your Boss! When you disagree with the Boss, immediately take that disagreement directly to the Boss. Don’t express your disagreement with your Boss to your team or co-workers.
- Choose the right time to disagree with the Boss! We all react with varying degrees of defensiveness when facing disagreement. And the higher the stress level at the time of the disagreement, the less likely the reasons the disagreement will be properly heard. Disagree only when there is an opportunity for you to talk to the Boss about the basis for the disagreement.
- Don’t make the disagreement personal! Make the disagreement about the Boss and you vs. the problem and not the Boss vs. you. Be professional, objective, constructive and – above all – respectful as you express the reason for disagreeing. Also, offer alternative solutions along with the disagreement.
How should I respond to coworkers who want to vent about the Boss’s irrational behavior?
Unless you are the organization’s shrink, only listen and interact if the person who is complaining so vocally about the Boss is willing to join you in gathering and presenting objective evidence about the Boss’s irrational behavior to HR or your Boss’ Boss. Otherwise, these conversations will drain the energy out of you while they make the other person feel better without taking any positive action to correct the Boss’s intolerable behavior.
What should I do about a Boss who is “objectively irrational”, yet not so inappropriate as to warrant reporting their behavior to HR or my Boss’ Boss?
There is no such Boss! Once there is objective evidence of a Boss’ irrational behavior then it can and should be reported to HR and/or your Boss’ Boss. And the key word is “objective.” “Subjective feelings” about a bad Boss are not enough to go to HR or their superior and complain about their irrational behavior. Those subjective feelings needed to be supported with facts and examples. They are there, you just have to record them. Remember poor writing is always better than a good memory when it comes to making a case about your Boss to HR and/or your Boss’ Boss.
How can I continue to perform to the best of my ability in the workplace when my Boss has irrational expectations?
The basis for every meaningful relationship, workplace or personal, is respect. Irrational/unreasonable expectations are a clear indication of lack of respect. The reality is, it doesn’t matter how hard you work to meet those irrational expectations, you can’t. This realization eventually destroys the motivation to give the discretionary effort necessary to do great work. Staying in an abusive relationship will take its toll mentally and physically. Commit to doing the best you can and if – after reporting your Boss’s irrational behavior to HR and/or their Boss – no action was taken to improve the situation, begin the plan to remove yourself from the toxic environment your Boss has created.
How can I be one step ahead of a Boss who is objectively irrational and never seems to be satisfied?
The fantasy of the outcome in “The Devil Wears Prada” bears no reality to the real world work environment. You cannot win this race with your Boss. As with any bully, the more you comply with their irrational/unreasonable demands, the more irrational and unreasonable your Bully Boss will become. The belief that the Boss’ behavior will improve on its own is a false belief. For the sake of your sanity, it is time to move on.
The Bottom Line:
If you follow these recommendations and the situation does not improve, its time to quit working for your Boss. For a variety of reasons, this is seldom an easy decision. However, the reality is, a toxic Boss makes their employees miserable, more susceptible to illness and can shorten their lives. So, even though the compensation and benefits may be good, they will never be enough to make up for the misery an irrational Boss causes.