Is your boss perfectly nice and charming one day and aggressive and bad tempered the next? If so, you have a problem, like millions of others. Dealing with a moody boss is no easy task, but have you thought the whole issue through? Read on to discover 10 ways you can manage her/him and still survive to tell the tale.
1. Try to understand what is really going on
There may be several reasons why your boss behaves like this. Have you thought that any of the following may be an explanation?
- He or she may be having private personal issues which are spilling over into the workplace
- There may be intense pressure from higher management to reach targets with reduced resources
- Lack of self confidence in doing the job
- It could be a cover up operation for some failure and a temper tantrum can be a camouflage tactic
2. Try to discover the triggers
You may notice that there is a certain regularity in these outbursts, so it is a good idea to do some detective work here. There could be tension before and after meetings, deadlines for financial returns, or before an audit.
This will help you to use your mood meter radar. If you are successful in this, you can make sure that you avoid your boss at those times and keep out of the way!
3. Seek out an ally
A co-worker who is close to your boss may be an invaluable ally in that they can alert you as to when a storm is about to break. They know the normal signs too, but are also aware of emergencies and crises. They may also be able to give you some of the background.
4. Could you be the cause of the boss’s moodiness?
You should ask yourself honestly if this is a possibility. A boss may be irritated by poor performance, so you have to ask yourself if any of the following could apply to you:
- Frequently off sick
- Failure to meet deadlines
- Inability to get along with co-workers
- Asking for time off or special arrangements
- Objectives are not met.
If any of these apply to you, then you can start working on improving them so that you can eliminate this from your list.
Also ask yourself honestly if you yourself are subject to moodiness too. Are there days when you are in such a bad mood that nobody wants to even to talk to you?
5. Don’t get infected
The risk of being resentful and hurt when the boss is moody could affect the way you work and how you are treating colleagues and subordinates. This is a vicious circle and could affect staff morale negatively. Resolve to be calm, shrug it off, but also note what is going on. This is the advice offered by Lynn Taylor in her book, ‘Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant’
6. Limit the fallout
If you are getting too much of your boss’s moodiness and it is affecting your work negatively, have an escape plan so that you can get away. Use some of these excuses to reduce the flak and also protect your own mood from going toxic:
- Report to finish
- Urgent phone call to make
- Client or representative waiting
- Splitting headache
7. When things get serious, record everything
If your boss’s behavior turns from moodiness into regular harassment, then you should keep a note of what is happening. Sometimes there is a very fine line between abusive behavior and having a bad day. If you are close to breaking point, this will be really useful when you seek help from HR or actually get to talk to your boss about the issue. You will have legal rights and there should be procedures in place to deal with bullying.
8. Try to get and give feedback
Performance assessment is ideal for this. If you have a choice about the actual meeting time, choose it wisely, based on your research above. Do your homework. When your boss asks you, ‘Are there any issues troubling you?’, you can point out very politely that certain behavior such as yelling, bad temper and so on are affecting your performance. Your boss may be a ‘histrionic personality’ although you should not point this out!
Having the documentation here is a great plus because the boss may pretend not to remember or to lack certain self-awareness. You could also point out that certain privacy procedures mean that any feedback on your work is done in private and not in front of other staff.
It is two-way traffic so your boss may point out some defects in your own working methods and this can be really useful to help you improve. Watch the video on how to approach this meeting.
9. Don’t act as a therapist
When your boss flies off the handle or vents his rage, there is no need to act as therapist. You are neither qualified nor paid to do such work. Try to put your escape plan (see #6 above) into action if this is taking too long and you want out.
10. Be a good listener
Unfortunately, when a boss lets off steam, he or she is usually trying to make a point or get things done. It could, of course, be just criticism, but usually there is an action point to be emphasised. Yes, it really sucks that they have chosen this way to deliver the lecture!
Now, here is where good listening techniques come in, because if you switch off, interrupt or make certain assumptions, then communication has broken down. Later, when you have to mop up and ask a lot of questions, the boss may become even moodier!
Have you had to deal with a moody boss? How have you coped and are there any techniques you would like to share with us? Let us have them in the comments below.
Check out How To Be A Good Boss
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