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What Do You Do When You Have a Toxic Boss Part 2

Your toxic boss is really a Fed Ex guy!!

Toxic bosses are a plague the world over. If you are unhappy at work an unpleasant boss is, more likely than not, a major reason. In my previous article I gave you some suggestions on how to retain your cool while your boss is losing his. Here are some more tips.

It is very likely that you have a mental model of a boss and this does not serve you well.

He appears all powerful but is really not

Don't waste your time asking if this mental model is "true" or "false." At some level it is true and at another level it is ludicrously false. A better question to ask is if this model works well for you. Odds are that you have been using this model for years and it has been useful. But it also has significant drawbacks and introduces much stress into your life. Let me suggest another model that you may find even better.

In this model all the good things that come to you or happen in your life come to you from the universe. Thus promotions, bonuses, exciting assignments and so on are gifts of the universe. True, your efforts and other factors - including your boss' actions - may have helped but the universe is the 800 pound gorilla that decides whether you get the banana or not.

You don't have to cower under your desk!

Your boss is merely an instrument of delivery. He is like the FedEx guy. The FedEx guy gives you a package and you thank him because you are polite but you never, not even for an instant, think the package came to you from the FedEx guy. Someone, somewhere sent you that package and FedEx delivered it and the FedEx guy giving it to you was the final step of that process.

If you have worked for any length of time you have seen evidence to corroborate this. Has there been an occasion when your boss promised you something but was unable to deliver? One of my students joined a startup and worked long hours and weekends. He did a sterling job and his boss penciled him in for a substantial bonus. The company filed for an IPO that week and all bonuses were put on hold to boost earnings and thereby garner a higher offering price.

Has your boss ever tried to shaft you but found himself thwarted? An executive I know joined a woman dominated consulting firm and promptly fell on the wrong side of his boss. He tried to build bridges and mind fences but found her obdurate and difficult to work with. At his annual review she gave him a strongly negative evaluation and a month's notice. Before the month was up a male who had been fired earlier sued the company for gender discrimination. Facing a blizzard of subpoenas and discovery notices the CEO took a precautionary step. No more males would be let go till the suit was resolved. His frustrated boss transferred him to another division where he flourished.

Contemplate this model till it sinks in and you become comfortable with it. When you see your boss as a FedEx guy, much of your stress goes away. You will be polite and correct in your behavior. You will try to build a solid relationship. But there will be no anxiety behind your actions. And without that anxiety you are more likely to succeed. And you will sleep much better.

Bear in mind that there will be occasions when fostering compassion and hewing to an enlightened perspective will not be sufficient. If your boss is personally corrupt and expects you to collaborate in this, if you are asked to do something that is illegal, then you will have to take decisive action whether it is to turn whistle blower or leave the company. But you do what you have to do from the emotional space of considered action as opposed to frantic reaction.

The big advantage of using the model I recommend is that it takes away the personalization that we impute to actions and, with it, a lot of the bitterness. Suppose, for example, that your boss turns down a vacation request. In the old model you would see this as a personal attack or an affront to your dignity and the resentment would fester. In the new model, the boss is the FedEx guy and you don't get mad at FedEx guys do you? No you don't. Not even at the delusional FedEx guys who may actually believe that they originated the package they hand to you.

It is easy to intellectually understand the advantages of the model I propose. It is not as easy to actually adopt it and have it become a guiding principle. But it can be done with practice and persistence. And, trust me, the benefits are huge.

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