Dear Dave -- We have a new general manager that is making life difficult for all of us. Our old manager always took time to get close to us, and we always knew what he meant and what was really important to do. The new manager has no people skills, has not made any attempt to get to know us, and his communication with us is confusing. Plus, he hides out in his office all day and every so often comes out only to belittle and criticize someone, and then retreats back to his office. What can we do to cope? -- C
Dear C -- First, let me say I feel sorry for you. And sadly, your manager will not change unless he absolutely decides to or is forced to. I am always confused and irritated when bad bosses acquire good positions.
However, if you believe in karma, your boss will ultimately be ratted-out and given the ol’ heave-ho from his job and the company.
The bad part is you need to deal with him until that happens.
Maybe your boss lacks training and is so overwhelmed with his job requirements that he can’t provide support for you. Perhaps he has been promoted too quickly or his reporting responsibilities have expanded beyond his reach. I truly believe that good managers are visible and interactive with both employees and customers. Your manager appears to interact, but only with ridicule and abuse. Maybe that is the way he was taught to lead.
Managers may fall victim to their own insecurities – they become overwhelmed with the work, their staff, and the voluminous goals sitting before them. When managers feel vulnerable and are unsure of themselves, some really strange things happen -- and I don’t mean strangely good.
Some managers will try anything and some – as your manager reveals – will close up in their shell, communicate very little, and pounce on the unsuspecting employees. Simply put, they do their best to muster up the energy and ambition to berate employees with periodic “drive-by shoutings,” just to let the employees know who is boss.
It appears your manager has a trust issue, too, since there is none. Research reveals when managers possess low self-certainty and low self-esteem their actions and attitudes typically follow a pattern of mistrust and distancing themselves from employees. In essence, if they do not feel good about themselves, they will not feel good about their employees. This causes good employees to leave and the ones who remain are miserable, jumpy and frightened.
So, how do you put up with all this?
First, analyze your own self-worth. You are what you think you are. Your boss may be filling your head with negative, degrading comments, but it is what you think you are that counts. Try to think of the positive achievements that you have made. By doing this you will develop a thick skin that will shield you from that negativity.
Second, have a plan. How did your boss get into the position he is in? Think about returning to school. There are many choices in the region. Don’t let your boss’ attitude put you into a depressive state that affects your work or home life. A great release valve crossed with sage advice is to get yourself a wise and skilled mentor. Mentors make all the difference when you need knowledge or just someone to discuss your problems.
You may not like this one , but get to know your boss. Ask questions about his life. Become familiar with him. Show him you care. Say hello to him every morning. It may not stop the negativity but you will be surprised at how it will make you feel. Above all, rise above all this, as hard as it may be. If your boss likes to see people squirm, then don’t go there – be mentally tough and perform admirably.
Work as hard and as smart as you can. Once you have learned about your boss’ priorities, get busy and turn them into a positive motivation and sense of urgency for yourself. If your boss is keen on reducing costs, decreasing turnover, delivering higher quality products and services, and satisfying the customer, then your mission is before your eyes. Try to turn this knowledge into positive actions – or at least well-thought-out suggestions or recommendations – that even he can’t ignore.
Offer your help. Oftentimes managers are missing in action because they’re swamped with demands. As such, an MIA boss may respond well to your offer to take something off his plate. If you take over some difficult task – while performing well in your job – it not only frees up your boss’ time, but it also creates “critical goodwill” between the two of you -- which is a home run for you both.
Contact Dave Conrad with questions or comments at email@example.com. Conrad is an associate professor of business at Augsburg University in Rochester.