Turn a Distant Boss Into an Interested One

In my recent article for Psychology Today I consider one pretty unpleasant workplace situation – when your boss is behaving like a passive-aggressive kid, blocking communication and leaving you high and dry, not knowing what to do and what to expect. Don’t despair – there is a lot you can do. Read on.

Dealing with a Passive-Aggressive Boss

If you’ve ever experienced the great shut-out from a passive-aggressive boss, you know how nerve-wracking such treatment can be. And if you’ve followed the dynamics of the “Terrible Office Tyrant” or “TOT,” you can easily picture your boss as a child who doesn’t get his way and chooses to ignore you. But you can empower yourself to manage this kind of boss – and create a less stressful, more healthy job environment for yourself. It’s a career skill you can take to any job.

Let’s first analyze what exactly is going on here. It’s one thing to have a toddler cross his arms and refuse to acknowledge you because you’ve locked away the cookie jar. It’s quite another to have a grown adult shun you for no discernible reason with more outwardly sophisticated, workplace mind games.

When a manager treats you like you have the plague, your first natural thought is: “What did I do?!” You feel you’re in hot water, but don’t see any obvious reasons for it. You whip up your trusted arsenal of “tricks” to coax a response from your suddenly distant TOT. But as those fail, your anxiety grows. As the silent treatment goes on, you’re increasingly haunted by prospects of a pink slip.

Your elusive TOT isn’t necessarily trying to punish you or make you fearful. The problem is that it’s not easy to know where you stand. You may feel consciously frozen out, get stared at blankly, or even smiled at in an insincere manner. Yes, it’s very possible that your passive-aggressive TOT of a boss may be angry with you – or be aware of some impending bad news, such as a layoff.

But it’s also possible that he might simply be overwhelmed, distracted, self-absorbed, or oblivious. Either way, you can take control and be the wise “parent”. If you don’t take matters into your own hands, you may be headed for a pretty disappointing stretch in your career.

For more, including some important (and funny) dos and don’ts, read the complete article on psychologytoday.com.