Higher Unemployment: A TOT Incubator?

A few business executives have repeated an almost identical office scenario to me lately. And with December 2008 unemployment reaching 7.2 percent, it’s no wonder.

The scene: The boss, let’s call him “James,” calls an employee, who we’ll call “Steve,” into his office. (TOT alert?!)

Steve opens and closes the door behind him, and apprehensively approaches the guest chair. He stops, looks at his boss, and then quietly asks, “Am I getting the ax?”

James’ mouth drops, bewildered, as he freezes in his executive chair. “No! Have a seat. I was just gonna to ask you if we hired the Smith vendor.” There’s an awkward, mutual sigh of relief. This scenario brings up several points:

1) Besides the obvious heightened alert level in the office, many bosses like James may not even realize that the mere act of calling someone into their office from behind closed doors these days can make already nervous employees feel like they’re walking into a real-life suspense thriller. (Yet even managers in the company fear for their own jobs today). If the boss “act outs” once you’re there, down goes your performance.

2) Higher joblessness can unfortunately be an incubator for Terrible Office Tyrants (TOTs) – they can emerge with more frequency and fervor because of the increase power they wield in this environment. The result: you must learn how to better discern fear from reality in your daily work – for better focus.

3) Some TOTs may instill so much fear (and keep you working so late) that you barely remember your home address! Or, they may display irrational fears themselves that ripple throughout the company (see: TameYourTOT-Childlike fear It’s incumbent upon you to work hard during tough times, but to also maintain enough balance to be productive.

4) Your boss may assume that employees are working at full throttle, when in fact layoffs and the recession are taking a heavy toll on productivity. If you have a good rapport with your boss, you can diplomatically suggest the need for assurances to the team where feasible. You can do your part to humanize your workplace by being a constructive conduit with this message (see: Humanize your Workplace™ article

5) If you work for a TOT, you can politely intimate: “If our valued people feel ‘unvalued’ and walk, we’ll have no company.”

Now the scene “playback”: Steve confidently walks into James’ office and says, “Morning, James, you wanted to see me?” James says, “Hey. So, what do you think? Should we hire the Smith vendor?”

Best regards,


Got a TOT? You’re not alone! Dare to share your story at the TOT Blog with other TOT tamers in the making, while Lynn helps you: cope with difficult or childish bosses and office politics, and humanize your workplace™. Post your question for Lynn, and she will try her best to answer it in an upcoming TOT Tamer Advice Column. Be sure to visit www.tameyourtot.com.