Do You Report to a Schoolyard or to Work?

If you’re like many working professionals today, you may feel like you report to a schoolyard or playground each day, not to an office. But perhaps the only mood swings in sight are your boss’s mood swings.

Bad bosses, or what I call Terrible Office Tyrants (TOTs™) seem to be making rounds these days, as job loss fears are rampant.  With unemployment at 9.5 percent nationally, it’s no wonder. Your boss may seem like the bully at recess who goads you into jumping down from the top of a towering slide. The real-life version being that she asks you to go into her manager’s office – the lion’s den – to confirm the details of Wednesday’s staff meeting.

If you’re running a company, this undoubtedly makes you cringe.

But take heart.  In my new book, Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant™ (TOT): How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job, I remind people that childish behavior at work is not your imagination! Sand may not be found on the hallway parquet floor, but sandbox politics can be found everywhere if you look closely. Welcome to TOTdom.

Now that you know there’s is nothing wrong with you, and that unruly bosses and children who cannot moderate their power (a.k.a. TOTs) have a lot in common, what can you do? A few tips:

1.    Use C.A.L.M. – Be the voice of reason to TOTs:
Communicate – Openly, honestly and frequently;
Anticipate – know when trouble might be coming down the hall, and be prepared with solutions (don’t add to the problem);
Laugh – Humor is the great diffuser of tension, so use it to simmer a heated debate; and
Manage up – As you would with a child, role model the behavior you want to see in your TOT managers, co-workers and your team. Use positive reinforcement, and set limits to bad behavior. Also, avoid enabling your TOT’s management style – it’s an easy trap, as she will often reward you for it!

2.    Work hard, but don’t allow needy bosses to consume your life. Needy bosses have “separation anxiety,” and want you to work virtually 24/7. You might want to take a summer vacation, so give your TOT a “countdown” warning: “I’m leaving in 4, 3, 2, 1 week (s), but John is covering for me and all my projects are under control.”

3.    Know that angry, irritable and generally bad bosses are usually acting out of fear, so stay clear. TOTs may be stressed out about their own jobs; meeting deadlines; reducing staff or pay; or just being overworked.  Don’t allow yourself to be a punching bag.  Know your timing, keep your message concise, be focused and non-emotional, and above all, remember that TOT behavior is thankfully NOT ABOUT YOU. Isn’t that a relief?!

You can take specific proactive steps to manage the 20 TOT traits, whether they are of the “bratty” or “little lost lamb” variety. Remember that behind the professional boss façade is often a small child (hanging from the monkey bars in fright!)

Take a moment to check off how many of these traits you face in a day, as an employee or manager. Please let me know through the blog or site contact forms. There are tons of tips and anecdotes in the new book, but I’d like to hear yours!

Bratty Behavior

1.    Bragging
2.    Bullying
3.    Demanding
4.    Ignoring
5.    Impulsiveness
6.    Lying
7.    Self-Centeredness
8.    Stubbornness
9.    Tantrums
10.  Territorialism
11.   Whining

Little Lost Lambs
12.    Endless Questioning
13.    Fantasy World
14.    Fickleness
15.    Helplessness
16.    Irrational Fears
17.    Forgetfulness
18.    Mood Swings
19.    Neediness
20.    Short Attention Spans