Episode 147: March 15, 2012
When you go to the zoo, it’s pretty easy to tell which monkey is the leader of the pack. It’s the one strutting around with its fur all fluffed up. If this monkey feels threatened, it goes in for the kill. Literally. Threatened monkeys kill the young of their competitors!
While you likely work with humans and your young stand a good chance of remaining intact, these fluffed-up alphas are out there, and maybe you work for one. They’re the reason you dread Monday mornings and are the face on your imaginary voodoo doll.
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Toxic bosses are often insecure, volatile, screaming, micromanagers, who are difficult, if not impossible, to work for. This toxic spill spreads negativity, anxiety, and stress throughout the workplace.
Why do these toxic bosses get to keep their jobs year after year, despite bad behavior? The answer: the toxic boss loophole. Someone higher up in the tree likes this monkey because this monkey, though toxic, makes money. Make no mistake. This money-making monkey is likely to stay. Particularly in this bad economy, it seems as if I am receiving more and more emails asking for ways to deal with this sort of bad behavior.
What’s the antidote for this poison? Firstly, understand that you aren’t going to change them and you shouldn’t take it personally. Save your emotional energy for things you can change.
In this two part series I’ll cover how you can survive a toxic boss. We’ll start with perhaps the best but most difficult way to survive: respond with professionalism
Respond With Professionalism
Were you two days late on your latest project? Humbly accept responsibility. Of course, your boss shouldn’t be yelling or calling you names; you shouldn’t have to be subjected to that. But being a toxic boss, he or she probably will. So you should resist the urge to fight back. Thankfully, you don’t have to take it lying down, either. The key is to remain professional at all times.
For example, you could respond by saying, “Calling me a moron doesn’t solve the problem. How about we deal with this by reviewing what went wrong and how those issues can be addressed,” or “Screaming isn’t a solution to this issue. Can we sit and calmly talk about what is upsetting you and how we can address it?” Drawing the line and reacting calmly and professionally will defuse the steaming geyser and return the atmosphere back to a calmer state.
Build a Reservoir of Positivity
Happen to catch your toxic boss on a rare occasion of professional interaction? It’s critically important to praise the good behavior, but not in a condescending way. “I know this process can be frustrating. I really appreciated your patience as I worked work through these issues today. Thanks.”
Along the same lines, come to the aid of your peers. Like you, they are likely feeling beat up too. Publicly acknowledge the accomplishments and strengths of your colleagues. Together with your co-workers, you can build a reservoir of positivity to counteract the all of the toxic negativity. Don’t allow the boss to divide and conquer.
Confront With Evidence
Is the boss hurting your credibility by bad-mouthing you to others in the office or worse, in the industry? It’s best to confront with written evidence in hand. “In this email you stated that I was an ‘idiot’ and that I never completed the project. Here is the project time-line we agreed to. Here is your sign off on the completed project. I’d like to discuss how we can fix this miscommunication.” Again, professionalism and evidence are your weapons.
Finally, consider the ultimate professional response: be an outstanding employee with a well-known stellar reputation for good work and positive attitude. When you are a model employee, it’s easy to deflect criticism that doesn’t belong to you. If you consistently over-perform, there’s a chance he or she will back down and begin to trust you.
Next week, we’ll pick up from here. This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker, passionate about communication; your success is my business.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker, passionate about communication, your success is my business.
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