In the U.S., we spend about 1,353 hours a year on the job. So how we feel about our boss makes a big difference in our lives. It’s not unusual in the corporate world to have a real life baby boss – a childlike manager who can wreak havoc in the office, and with your job. In fact, having a bad boss is the number one reason people leave their positions.
The good news is, like the recently released Boss Baby movie, there can be a positive twist. The trick is how much emotional intelligence you can muster to “manage up” and get control of the boss who acts like a bratty, needy or demanding infant.
Your Terrible Office Tyrant TOT) may not look as cute as the boss baby in the movie (due to a spell, a man in a baby’s body spying on his company’s rivals), but may nevertheless exhibit the same childish traits.
Tyrant bosses are those who have trouble moderating their power when stressed or frustrated. Their fallback plan is to take control by “acting out” like a toddler needing attention. There is, after all, a fine line between seething and teething.
Oh they can be charming at times... with compliments, perks and other bright moments that make your otherwise childish boss seem adorable. But when their mood swings back to “bratty” or “little lost lambs” they can make you want to crawl under your own favorite blanky.
Bratty bosses can brag, demand, ignore or throw tantrums – roaring like bears – at the slightest offense. They like to get their way and unfortunately can’t be put into a playpen until they calm down. Little lost lambs behave like confused or anxious little kids - but can be just as annoying as their boisterous counterparts, though they are the lesser of two evils.
The "little lost lamb” variety is akin to Steve Carell in The Office. Those traits include – endless questioning, fickleness, helplessness or irrational fears. Some exhibit BADD – Boss Attention Deficit Disorder, otherwise known as ignoring you when you need project approvals. Unfortunately, timeouts are clearly not in the cards (if you want to keep your job, that is).
A childish side exists within all of us at different times and is triggered by different stimuli... to different degrees. The problem is, unlike the cute baby boss in the recently released film, those with authority in the workplace can use it to the disadvantage of many, and be adept at keeping bad behavior under the radar.
So what can you do to keep your job, reduce stress and advance in your career when your boss is a big baby in the high chair? Here are some empowering tips to consider:
1. Use C.A.L.M.
Communicate. Openly, honestly and frequently. Effective communication is a two-way street. Listen to what your boss has to say, remain sensitive to his needs, but fair and straightforward, and reflect back what you heard.
Anticipate. Know when trouble might be coming down the hall and be prepared. This does not mean be prepared with arguments or reasons why something won’t work. Be prepared with solutions.
Levity. Humor is the great diffuser of tension, so use it to simmer a heated debate and lighten the mood. Nothing offensive though. Clever, well-placed humor is the key.
Manage up. As you would with a child, role model the behavior you want to see in your boss. Use positive reinforcement and set limits to bad behavior. Consider it a form of parenting sans patronizing. However, if the behaviors are egregious or intolerable, then you need to take more serious steps. You may need to consult HR and/or look for greener pastures.
2. Set boundaries. Going above and beyond the tasks assigned will help your managers do their jobs. However, managers are not aware of all the work that's on your plate and unless you set some guidelines, they may keep pushing. If you keep complying and become a doormat, you may actually lose their respect. That's not to say you should get in the habit of saying "no" to your boss. But if you're always the last to leave in the first to get to work without speaking up, eventually you'll burn out. You're not doing yourself, your boss or company any favors.
3. Use Emotional Intelligence. EI is the ability to get along with others without sacrificing your own opinions – being the voice of reason. Something as simple as being nice and having manners can move mountains. Being able to empathize with your manager will help relieve tension and stress. When everyone gets along, massive amounts of work get done.
It is empowering to take the high road, not to mention a boon to your advancement. EI skills are transferable (and highly valued) in future jobs, not to mention in your life overall.
4. Be assertive not aggressive. Assertive people stand up for themselves without wielding a weapon, and they always consider the views of others. If you constantly yield to the temptation of fighting fire with fire, meaning having a shouting match with your boss, you’ll likely fall into the aggressive abyss, and find it hard to regain solid ground. On the other hand, a gentle, diplomatic nudge that gives your little lost lamb direction; will cut through stagnation; and get your projects rolling.
5. Think strategically. It’s easy to get off course. Stay focused on getting the job done without letting bad boss antics get in the way of the prize. Steer your boss in the right direction by offering rational information, timely facts and being able to discuss the project logically and clearly.
You may never want your baby of a boss to become part of the family, but at least you can rise above all the blustering and keep your job... and sanity, intact.