TOT Taming Tips: Lynn Taylor’s Career & Management Advice

Surviving Tough Times

Dear Lynn,

Things are pretty tense in our office. Sales are down, there are rumors of budget cuts, and even layoffs are possible.

On the whole, we're trying to stick to business as usual, but it's been hard. On top of that, our boss has been hard to deal with. Some days, she's been an ally, but other days, she's tense, nervous, and short-fused.

She often says to my colleagues, "You're lucky to have a job."

How do I keep from losing my cool — or worse, my job, in this environment?

The Worried Worker

Dear Worried Worker,

It’s perfectly understandable (and normal) to be concerned about this situation. I want to assure you that you’re not alone. Although you can’t completely control these challenges, there are many things you can do to empower yourself in this environment.

First of all, try thinking: C.A.L.M.: Communicate, Anticipate, Laugh and Manage. This approach will help you deal with your co-workers, your customers, and your boss in a more positive manner. Communication always helps reduce confusion and tension; anticipating challenges makes it easier to address them when they arise; and managing up demonstrates that you are capable of dealing with problems while supporting your boss.  Now… you may be wondering about laughter. (In fact, you might even be thinking: “Laughter? Are you joking?”)

Laughter is the best medicine, especially in difficult times. It will keep you sane! Look for the lighter side. I don’t mean you should become a professional juggler, moonlight as a stand up comedian, or worse, use humor at the expense of your colleagues. Instead, use laughter to help you and others defuse tension. I call it using a “levity lens” wherever and whenever possible. It’s much healthier than living in doom and gloom.

Finally, simply do your best work at all times, even when the storm clouds are overhead. Success comes from a positive outlook. If you model yourself as a strong, collaborative performer, your boss will recognize your talents. And even if the worst should happen, you’ll be poised to take on new challenges in a new job. Remember, we’re all in this together. Treat your coworkers and your boss with respect even if they don’t always reciprocate.

Tough times can bring out the worst in your boss (and all of us). If you can empower yourself with emotional intelligence and managing up skills, you’ll thrive in your career and help build a more productive workplace.

—Lynn Taylor, Career & Workplace Expert

TOT Turf Wars

The New Guy

Dear Lynn,

I've just switched jobs and joined a big software company's sales team.

I've been assigned to work with one of the team's star employees - a legend in the business that I've heard about for years. He was great to work with at first, but lately, he's been sending signals that I'm stepping on his turf.

Initially I had so-so results, but now that I've had a great quarter the problems have started.

He's beginning to ignore me - and when he does talk to me, he's very critical and negative.

I think he's insecure because I'm beginning to surpass his sales numbers. How should I handle this?

Dear New Guy,

Sounds like you’ve got a TOT who is playing defense, but you can work around this. First, you’re off to a good start by being sympathetic to his own insecurities. Many TOTs worry that, despite having a prestigious title, a smart, new employee may jeopardize their position. Beyond your regular duties, your “other job” is to now build trust and demonstrate that your real goal is to support him.

There are some steps you can take immediately. Be diplomatic and complimentary — show your boss that you respect him and admire his work. Prioritize being a team player. In group settings, talk up your boss’s achievements by diverting the spotlight away from yourself. Lastly, since he’s an expert in a particular field, let him mentor you. Continue to do your best, but remember the timeless value of making your boss look good. Remember, if you both play defense, no one puts points on the scoreboard.

—Lynn Taylor, Career & Workplace Expert

The All-Day TOT

Dear Lynn,

My boss absolutely freaks out if anyone leaves the office before 6:00 p.m.

He'll scream, and complain, and throw a tantrum if we even act like we are leaving.

What can I do?

No More 24/7

Dear 24⁄7,

It sounds you have a classic TOT in your office! Tantrums are one of the most common traits shared by TOTs and toddlers, but before you grab a pacifier, you should try to figure out the tirade triggers.

These fits are typically caused when your boss is facing a situation that’s out of his control. You should give some thought towards the bigger issues he’s facing. It could be a revenue shortfall or a competitive threat that’s fueling his desire for his team to “work harder.”

If you can help him understand that you want to work with him to solve those big problems by working smarter, you will calm him down and show him that it’s not the hours you keep…it’s the results you accomplish.

These managing up skills are portable. They’ll not only help you thrive in your current job, but you’ll add greater emotional intelligence to your skills set – and achieve greater career success.

—Lynn Taylor, Career & Workplace Expert