Self-promoting bosses are not new to the corporate DNA; overconfidence and hyperbole can run rampant. But when bosses start to believe the world really does revolve around them, know that you can take steps to manage it – especially when you see the behavior start to resemble a schoolyard brag-fest.
You know the feeling. It seems as if your boss won ‘Employee of the Year’ every year since kindergarten - or maybe actually is 117 years old. Or worse, when the “Big guns” from senior management arrive and everyone is poised for praise because you’ve all gone beyond the call of duty - upped production, lowered costs, gained new clients...your boss brags to the CEO, “I saw how we could do it faster, smarter and cheaper.” So it’s time for Terrible Office Tyrant (TOT) training and office diplomacy for a brag-prone boss, before morale tanks.
How can you manage irritating braggadocio in your office? Before you ask, “Would you like fries or onion rings with that Whopper, boss?” - try these tips to deal with the over-the-top at work:
DON’T Do This. Encourage a Brag-Off. Let your TOT know that there are other TOTs out there making bigger and better claims than he is. Tell him, “Boss, when our customer service director heard you say that our team was the greatest team ever, he said that his group was the greatest times two. And then the regional sales director said they were the greatest ‘times infinity!’ So I said you’ll face off with them in the conference room at high noon.”
Do This. Help Dial It Down. Your boss truly might not be aware of the impact her competitive bragging has on others. You can let her know in a gentle way by saying something like, “It’s great news about your performance at the management training program, boss…very impressive. I do think poor Ron was devastated when you said that you smoked him. I hope he isn’t too bummed out. Maybe you could give him a word of encouragement?”
DON'T Do This. Crow Louder. It’s essential that you establish yourself as the smartest, fastest, coolest employee in the universe, so that you get promoted when the time comes. Adorn your office with every diploma you ever earned, including your dog’s certificate for most-improved fetcher.
Do This. Model Compassionate Behavior. Reign yourself in when you have something to boast about—and gently show your boss the friendly way to shine. Take your manager aside quietly and say something in conversation such as, “I didn’t want to make a fuss about getting nominated to the President’s Circle because I didn’t want Randy or Joanne to feel bad. They’ve worked so hard, and are good team members, so I’d rather keep this low-key.”
When a Bad Boss Takes Credit
An immediate morale zapper is a bragging boss who takes credit for his team’s work. That requires more immediate action. Of course no employee wants to win the battle and lose the war (meaning his or her job). But if you bottle up anger over repeated behavior like that, it will cause you stress and ultimately hurt your performance.
Try approaching your boss on a friendly basis and cover other non-threatening ground at first. Start and end on a positive note, but in the “middle,” diplomatically point out that the team needs occasional encouragement. For example, the middle: “When the CEO stopped in recently, I think some of the team members were hoping for a little recognition. They really worked hard on xyz project and were proud of the outcome. I hope you were. I guess we all could use a little public praise from time to time.”
Bragging as a boss trait is generally more of a nuisance than a threat, thankfully. Your boss may not be getting enough reassurance at work, and may be seeking it for what seems an eternity. Using your “schoolyard lens,” however, you’ll be able to level the tallest tales - and focus on doing stellar work (which, of course, only others will brag about!)