Five Ways Lousy Managers Destroy Your Confidence
Via Forbes : One of the biggest problems you’ll run into when you work for a lousy manager is that you end up spending so much mental and emotional energy trying to please your boss, you have no energy left for yourself. Your job description shifts from “Accomplish these goals” to “Keep the boss happy, whatever it takes!”
In that state, your thinking is impaired. You can’t come up with great, out-of-the-box ideas when you’re under pressure and an unforgiving, critical boss is breathing down your neck.
That’s why I counsel managers that there is nothing more important in their job than to back off and let the brilliant people they’ve hired handle their own desks.
Unless they need help or they’re having problems, the manager’s job is to reinforce people and clear the way ahead for them, not to stand over them and beat the work out of them!
Most of are going to run into a poorly-equipped or poorly-trained manager at some point. Most people are not going to be able to quit their jobs the minute they realize they work for a lousy boss, so we have to develop tools and techniques that will allow us to work with a difficult boss long enough to get what we came to the job to get.
It’s important to keep in mind that every time you get a new job, you are not there to park yourself in the job and hope to stay there forever. That’s the worst career strategy there is, to hunker down and hope your job sustains you for years on end. It probably won’t, and the more you fall asleep and forget about your career, the worse off you will be when the wind changes.
You come to every new job to get something valuable. A new job is like a new level in a video game. There is something you can accumulate on each level of a video game, and ironically in video games, the evil people or monsters you have to deal with at each level are called “bosses.”
You have to hold off the boss long enough to get the good thing, which might be gold or a sword or a pot full of money.
What is the good thing you came to your job to get? Maybe it’s international experience, or experience in an outside sales role or experience with a new kind of software. Whatever you came to get is your focus. You don’t have to be best friends with your boss and you don’t have to be his or her star employee.
Often those internal rewards and designations are distractions that will keep you off your path. After all, your goal is not to please somebody else, including your boss. Your goal is to follow your path and please yourself!
Working for a lousy boss can destroy your confidence. You have to remember that he or she is only one person on this earth, and there are seven billion of us here. Does it really matter what your boss thinks of you? Maybe your boss cannot praise anyone, because he or she feels unappreciated. That’s his or her baggage — it has nothing to do with you!
You have to keep your job. You can’t say or do anything that will get you fired, not unless you have another job waiting.
At the same time, you don’t have to stress and obsess about staying on your lousy boss’s good side. In fact, the more you do, the more a lousy boss will see that his or her needling or casual insults are affecting you, and the worse things are likely to get.
They blow hot and cold.
On Tuesday, the boss says “Great job! You should apply for that Team Leader position” and your heart leaps. On Thursday, the boss says “Seriously, you don’t know how this process works? That’s terrible. Step your game up!”
How do you deal with a hot-and-cold manager? Here’s how: you don’t get hooked into his or her approval. You don’t need your boss’s praise to feel competent, do you? Neither should his or her barbs get through your armor.
Your lousy boss goes through many emotions and sometimes you’ll happen to be standing there when he or she is upset about something else. So what?
Could your boss be alternately praising and insulting you to keep you off-balance? Many lousy managers do just that!
They pass along second-hand criticism.
It’s bad enough when a manager tells you “I think you could have done a better job on this report” but it’s even worse when they say “The VP was really disappointed in your work.” Bad managers love to pass along criticism because it makes an employee dependent on them for both instruction and information from the outside world.
You can cultivate a relationship with your VP that will allow you to casually ask him or her “I heard my sales-by-region report wasn’t what you were looking for. Tell me your issue, and I’ll fix it!”
Face-to-face, the VP is much more likely to be pleasant and agreeable while s/he tells you what was wrong with the report. At least half the time, the VP in this situation will say “Why do you say that? The report was fine.” Lousy bosses do not always feel bound to tell the truth!
They never lose an opportunity to threaten you.
Lousy bosses can be experts at threatening employees while keeping a happy smiles on their faces. Here’s an example of how a lousy boss will accomplish this. He or she will see you in the hallway and casually say
If you have a chance, would you run over to Accounting and fix that problem paying our vendor Acme? The sales guy tells me we won’t be able to get any more orders until we’re caught up with our payments. It’s not going to look good for you if that happens.
Why did your boss have to go there, and turn a simple request into a threat?
Here’s why – because he or she doesn’t have the maturity, the self-confidence or the leadership chops not to stick a knife in, just to be sure you know who’s in power.
Don’t freak out — rise above and consider the source. Your boss is a fearful ninny. Of course he or she uses fear as a weapon, but fear is only a weapon if you react to it. Don’t react. Don’t move a muscle on your face. Smile and say “No problem, I’m going to Accounting anyway.”
Let the threat float right by you as though it were never said. When your boss’s threats don’t affect you, your boss will have less reason to throw daggers.
They get emotional.
Few things freak working people out as effectively as an angry boss, and that’s why lousy managers so easily pick up the hammer when things go wrong. They have learned that management-through-fear is fast. It’s expedient. It’s terrible for your team’s mojo and it makes people hate you and quit their jobs, but if your boss is fearful enough he or she may not care.
When your boss gets emotional, take a deep breath. Sing your favorite song to yourself in your head. If you want song suggestions, try ”Godzilla” by Blue Oyster Cult, “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley or Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
You won’t help yourself or your manager by getting emotional, too, and by staying calm you will grow your own muscles and help your boss calm down, too. In the moment, it seems like defending yourself from the boss’s verbal assault is an essential thing to do, but it’s not – not while your boss is overheated.
They mislead you.
A lousy manager who can intimidate and frighten other employees — but not you — will try new tactics to bring you to heel. He or she must know that you are an important part of the department’s success, and for that reason your boss will be reluctant to fire you.
He or she needs to get you into the fold of people who fear him or her, but your boss’s scare tactics aren’t working, so get ready for a new approach!
The new approach your lousy boss will try is to befriend you. “Wow,” you will tell your friends when the thaw first appears in your relationship. “My boss is acting really chill with me now.” Be wary!
This is how lousy bosses keep control of people like you — they pretend to be their greatest friends. I’m not saying a lousy boss has never reformed and become more reasonable on their own – I’m just saying that “You can trust me now” is the go-to approach for a fearful manager whose bullying has not had its desired effect.
As soon as you open up to your boss about your true feelings, Wham! you will see that you probably should have kept your mouth shut. The boss who was temporarily your pal will waste no time stabbing you in the back.
Keep your cool and stay professional and friendly, but don’t believe that a lousy manager has evolved into human form until you see the proof for at least six months.
Maybe it only takes you six months to grab the good stuff you came to get on this level of your video game. Maybe you’ll be long gone before you have to worry about whether your lousy boss’s personality transformation is real or fake. He or she will be a minor character in your screenplay, years from now. Don’t give your lousy boss a drop more of your precious mojo than he or she deserves!
Liz Ryan is the CEO and founder of Human Workplace.
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