It's not your imagination. Bosses can display inexplicable, hair-trigger mood swings without warning, similar to teething toddlers. They start out the morning as giddy charmers, then morph into raging bulls by afternoon. If your boss has more mood swings than a toddler birthday bash on steroids, you can bravely prepare for managing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
In toddlers, this yo-yo syndrome is understandable. It's a developmental issue. But as human beings grow (and this includes your boss and co-workers!) - they normally learn to manage their emotions. Unfortunately, this sometimes feels like an unfulfilled wish in the office. Here are some tips.
Managing Moody Mayhem
The good news is - if you can determine what causes your boss's moods swings, then you can develop "mood radar" and be prepared to deal with sudden changes in temperament.
1. Watch Your Timing. Know the best times to approach your boss.
• Is he typically upbeat in the morning or does he come in with a dark cloud hanging over him?
• Is after lunch better - or during a coffee break? Study her patterns to determine the best times to approach her, and plan your interactions accordingly.
• Resist the temptation to ask for approvals when you get signs that the timing is wrong. Most meetings are worth the wait!
2. Get the Scoop. Open a line of communication between yourself and others who interface with your boss, or "Terrible Office Tyrant" (TOT). Reach out to that person for information on the "mood-o-meter," and offer reciprocity in ways that you can. The person closest to your TOT, such as an assistant, will often have the best read on the current temperature - and the long-term forecast. Offer to help out your TOT's assistant whenever you can, to show sincere gratitude for the tip-offs you receive.
3. Mood Swing Analysis 101.
Think about the following from a big picture perspective:
• What are the approaches that your TOT appreciates? What sets her off? You can actually sit down with your boss and ask diplomatically what works and what could be improved in your relationship. But make sure it's a calm, casual setting.
• Consider how can you best position yourself to mitigate mood swings, or at least stay away when they're in high gear.
4. Don't Swing Back. Don't let your boss's mood swings become yours.
• When your TOT's mood pendulum swings to the dark side, be a beacon of balance. When your boss seems ready to sway, bring him back faster by role-modeling a relaxed, in-control demeanor yourself. Lighten things up and use distraction to "jam the system."
• Remind yourself that he'll settle down soon enough.
• Don't react in kind with your own staff, or you'll create a ripple effect in the company - akin to a sugared up schoolyard.
5. Depress Stress. Mood swings can be brought on by outside stress factors. Your boss may be overwhelmed by personal responsibilities, financial pressures, or issues at home. These stressors can easily bring moodiness into the office.
• Be aware of your own emotional triggers. Emotions can be contagious, especially with this type of boss.
• You can occasionally offer support if you feel you can have that kind of trusting relationship - while maintaining a healthy distance. If crises arise, and you want to be empathetic, be sure you can draw the line - and it doesn't become an intrusive habit or interfere with your work. You don't want to coddle your boss, or enable bad behavior that decreases your productivity.
• A level of professional, mutual support and friendship can benefit you if you can maintain a healthy distance.
By examining some of your boss's mood swing triggers, you'll likely have many more moments of a sea of calm - and fewer of the wild 'n wacky. Here's to smooth sailing.