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Experts share tips on taming your bad boss

POSTED: January 30, 2010 11:00 p.m.
/For The Times

Lynn Taylor

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The office is no place for a whiny, bratty child.

Especially when that child is middle-aged and screaming about a deadline that was absurd to begin with.

Not all employees have a horror story of a bad boss, but there are plenty of them out there. And with an economy the way our is right now, it’s not so easy to say “see ya later” when you find yourself faced with a coworker or boss who is driving you crazy.

Instead, says workplace expert Lynn Taylor, try to find ways to better communicate with your boss and diffuse a hazardous workplace situation before it even starts.

Taylor has studied workplace issues for 18 years and her latest book, “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant (TOT): How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job,” explains how to “parent up” —aka, “manage up” — without patronizing your boss.

“Many bosses have this syndrome of holding all the cards — this tot, terrible office tyrant,” she said. “I call them tots because all of them are tyrants all the time, but when they’re getting pressure from above to produce, many bosses can reduce to terrible, childish behavior.”

The other version of a tot is a boss who turns to “little lamb” behavior, she said. Think Steve Carell’s character in “The Office.”

As a mother of toddler boys, she said, she realized while researching this personality trait that her boys and the bosses shared many of the same personality characteristics.

So how do you work around this? As an employee, you have to work one step ahead of your boss.

“Try to understand where they’re coming from. A lot of times they’re getting demands to meet quotas, and when you understand things like timing ... you can know your boss’ patterns,” she said.

It’s also important to reflect on how you are reacting to your boss. Are you presenting problems in a non-threatening way — or are you shifting the blame onto your boss?

To counteract this, Taylor has a four-step method — CALM — that involves communicating, anticipating, laughing and managing up to change the office situation.

Another step workers can take is to make themselves invaluable. That way, even if you do get in an occasional scuffle with your boss, your value to the company is worth more than an argument.

“In 2010 it’s all about making it happen on your own,” she said. “Don’t expect anyone to solve this high-unemployment problem for you.”

Be proactive, she said. Get involved in hobbies, do public speaking in your area, write a blog or even volunteer to take on multiple projects at work. If you’re taking on more responsibility, she said, it’s going to look good to your employer.

That training aspect was echoed by Cindy Mallett, human resources/risk manager with city of Gainesville. She said with many companies cutting back on raises and other benefits, it can cause a lot of stress for employees.

So, she said, find a different focus.

“One of the things I’d recommend for the employee who thinks, ‘I don’t want to be here,’ health and wellness is critical to happiness and being able to deal with stress,” Mallett said. “Getting plenty of exercise to get those endorphins moving, eating right, getting enough sleep.

On your daily commute, listen to an audio book. After work, take an art class, start a new hobby and make sure you’re spending time with your friends.

“The things you do outside of work help you decrease how much you rely on work for your happiness,” she said.
And when you’re at work, Mallett said, try to stay positive.

“We need to remember that we attract what we are, and the more negativity we put out, the more we attract,” Mallett said. “Criticizing doesn’t really help; those words get back to people and you’re looked at as a complainer rather than someone who has an open, honest dialogue.”

The result of focusing your energy on improving yourself, Taylor said, is increased job security.

All these options work out for employees, she said, because the job market isn’t conducive to switching jobs simply because you feel like it.

“It’s really hard to just say, ‘I quit’ today, because the employers hold all the cards in this time of high unemployment, and you don’t have another job lined up,” Taylor said. “You can either run from your job, which is high risk, or you can take the bull by the horns and make your job into as best it can be.”



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