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Silk Route to Tough Bosses - Managing the Toxic Manager!


Silk Route to Tough Bosses...Managing the Toxic Manager !

(This is last of the trilogy preceded by 'Understanding Your Boss' and 'Six Brands of Problem Bosses'.)

Only after I got sufficient requests on wanting to know how to cope with 'Problem Bosses' did I decide to consolidate my thoughts on this theme. My personal experience to cope with the 'Problem Boss Challenge' is rather deep. I can recall coping with one in Dubai, one in the US and one in India.

Blending my experience with the contents of a Sr Leadership capability building Session that we subsequently designed on the theme - 'Silk Route to Tough Bosses & Boards', I have come up with some basic mechanics of coping with Toxic Bosses, which could be of quick use to you ! It is a 7 step detox process.

Take charge. Do not make the mistake like most managers do to either flee or fight and go down suffering. Do not ignore such a powerful source of detoxifying this relationship. Follow the 7 steps and detox yourself. Learn to live and grow with your tough bosses.

Step 1 : Invest time to investigate his patterns of behaviours. Is it only towards you, towards some, towards all ? Try and establish a pattern. You will on detailing see it. Establish occasions, triggers and such other patterns, for patterns narrate unspoken stories of behaviours.

Step 2 : Use 80-20 Paretto Principle. Are you part of the 80% that has gone through a similar experiences, one time or the other or are you part of the 20% only that is singled out and made to go through this harsh treatment. Still worst, has no one experienced what you are undergoing ? That would indeed be a real problem. Once you classify, you will see patterns and will be able to analyse your toxic managers behaviours towards you.

Step 3 : (a) If you are part of the 80% who has experienced similar treatment, I would say, play below the radar. Study your Manager deeper and avoid those behaviours which make him angry.

(b) If you are part only of the 20% who is subjugated to such treatment, you have a problem. Sometimes bosses get insecure with some bright stars in the teams, in the hostile world they see around. Could be you are one such. I would say cluster his behaviours and categorise them into 2 parts:

  1. those of his asks which are non-negotiable by you and you would prefer to abandon the game than compromise.

  2. those which you can make adjustments and afford to live by which are 'negotiable'.

But for God sake do not bad mouth him during the journey. Such messages fly to bosses through your 'confidantes' and will create a sinking 'quick sand' situation for you. You will convert your simple cold into pneumonia !

Step 4 : Moment of 'Sincere Conversations' . You need to seek a special time-slot from your boss and have this conversation with him. Do your objective home work, be mature and astute but convey your authentic feelings and seek inputs, be ready for non-defensive feedback. Tell him your non-negotiables. Convey what you will change. Tell him what you like and value. Clarify and gracefully tell him what you do not appreciate. Arrive at reconciled 'term-sheet'. But do not go all out and tell him that he is a crap-pot that git lucky.

Step 5 : Sincerely work on Path of relational recovery. Change the negotiable. Observe and avoid those behaviours which make him angry. Keep yourself ready and prepared all the time to maximise the small windows of time you get. Send periodic reports. Short achievement messages to update him, may help. Periodically send small messages. Be graceful. Show earnest effort. Make friends with their support teams. Convey reports through them.

Step 6 : Hopefully it should work. Sometimes it doesn't. Seek a change of assignment. Speak to your Super Boss. Keep HR in the background informed. Speak to other departmental heads of your desire to look at other available options.

Step 7 : Old behaviours continuing.. new assignment not happening ... tension mounting ... futility creeping in ...sense of hopelessness built up...time to cob- web dust your 'Resume' and start reconnecting with search firms. Until then, find a short-term balance in equation.

Life is beautiful , don't let toxic bosses ruin it. Go all out, adjust & work sincerely to improve the relationship & situational equations within. But if nothing changes, find a bluer sky.

But on a one-aside, ensure that your direct reportees are not suffering the same plight at your hands as you do at your Manager's hand ! Don't you be a toxic boss to your team members.


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