Crazy-Making Boss Behavior

Every once in a while someone tells me a story of dysfunctional, disruptive, unprofessional, plain old odd boss behavior. Here’s an example, along with some suggestions for how to normalize things with a crazy-making boss so you can get your work done and have a decent day.

The “Keep Me Company” Boss

Some bosses want you to sit with them while they think, or worse, while they write. The “Keep Me Company” boss seems to feel better while you’re there, and calls you back when you go — but still expects you to meet all your deadlines even though you can’t get enough alone time at your desk.

A Coping Plan

Some people really do benefit from “audience effect” — it helps them focus more consistently and think more clearly and creatively. So try bringing some of your work with you into your boss’s office and doing it while you’re sitting there, or asking to return to your workspace once you’ve gotten him started.

Say something like: “If it’s okay with you, I’m going to look at these Snodgrass numbers while you’re working on your report.” Or: “If it’s not a problem for you, once you’ve gotten through that opening section, I’m just going to head back to my desk and bang out the notes from yesterday’s meeting. Then I’ll check back with you in about 45 minutes to see what you’d like to tackle next.”

Just be sure that the thing you suggest heading back to your desk to do isn’t a task that your boss likes to be personally involved in.

Other Kinds of Crazy-making

Besides the boss who wants an audience on hand at all times, there are other easily recognizable disruptive types. Any of these individuals may be highly successful due to the quality of their output or for their ability to get the job “done” — but their style of operation is often costly to employees.

Assuming that you’ve worked anywhere other than for yourself since your lemonade-stand days, you’ve surely come across one or two of these folks. Or you may have some of their habits!

The “Why Aren’t You Getting Any Better at This” Boss: This one loves to tell you what’s wrong with your work — and always has something to say. He may not tell you exactly what’s wrong, but he’s always, always clearly disappointed.

The “Cliffhanger” Boss: She tells you she needs to talk to you. Urgently. Tomorrow. Her voicemail messages, emails, and even brief announcements in the hall are so terse that you constantly worry about whether you’re about to be fired, if there’s a horrible problem with your work, or who knows what!

The “Plan It to Death” Boss: He is so busy updating the planning document that you never get to start on the new work that would make a real difference to customers, the bottom line, etc.

The “It Feels Brainstormy Today” Boss: She holds excessively frequent “all opinions on deck” meetings and includes people who have neither the necessary expertise nor knowledge. She doesn’t discriminate; she takes their opinions just as seriously as those offered by qualified experts.

The “I’ll Tell You When You Need to Know” Boss: He makes it plain that if he wants to give you more information, he knows where to find you; the rest of the time, he absolutely expects you to put your head down and one foot ahead of the other without asking questions or being too curious.

The “I’ll Believe It When I See It” Boss: Because she’s got no confidence in anyone on staff whatsoever, she is always redoing things herself or micromanaging every detail — so much so that you wonder why she doesn’t just clean house and hire some people she can trust.

A Little Sanity

If you have to work with one of these people, write to me about it so we can brainstorm some helpful techniques for you to try. And if you recognize that one of these crazy-making boss labels fits you, do try to get a grip and save your staff a heap of stress and frustration. Get in touch, and we’ll explore some less disruptive, more productive approaches.

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