To be a really effective boss you need to have asshole tendencies. Ever met a boss that is all sweetness and light and then watched your co-workers take full advantage of them. A better question to ask is “why is my boss an asshole”, so you can work out the best strategy to handle them.
Let’s look at life as a boss. Their job is to do one thing above all others – to make money (or if you’re in the public service – it’s to make a politician look good by saving money). And, making a profit in our tough economy is really, really tough.
When a boss looks at their employees, they have a “how are they making me and the business money” filter running. When employees do things that cause unnecessary stress (aka cost money) then the asshole switch is likely to get turned on.
I’ll give you a few real life examples that can trigger the asshole switch: staff that leave the front doors unlocked and air conditioners on – all night, staff that ring in sick and then post about being at the pub, staff that are distracted on mobiles, staff that let substandard goods out the door, staff that openly talk about hating their boss while taking a pay cheque from them, staff that need to be told the same instruction over and over and over again.
There’s only so many times that most people can cop this before they lose their cool. But the thing is, bosses aren’t really allowed to lose their cool because they will get into trouble. And they build up a lot frustration under that sort of pressure.
Over time, bosses look for ways to reduce this pressure and they become less trusting and more cautious towards their staff – they’ve been burnt and don’t want it to happen again.
And employees then go on to interpret their bosses actions as “asshole like”. This interpretation is guaranteed if an employee is told they can’t have something they want or they get into trouble for not doing their jobs well enough.
Enough with making it all the employees fault, what about making the asshole bosses take some responsibility!
I’ve come to learn that there are 2 types of asshole bosses: conscious asshole bosses and unconscious asshole bosses.
Most unconscious bosses just need a better set of skills to manage the pressures of the job – easy fixed. These bosses can learn to manage their underlying frustrations better so they avoid becoming assholes and therefore dragging down the trust levels and performance of their businesses. That’s what I teach bosses to do and I’ll write about it another time.
The conscious asshole bosses are totally different.
They like being the way they are and actually believe it works with people. How dumb is that? If you are an employee and you have one of these, my advice is…run.
If leaving isn’t an option, just yet, try these:
- Muscle up yourself – learn to be a little more asshole like and don’t be a pushover. You’ve got to meet like with like, in a weird way I’ve seen this actually cause the boss to respect an employee more (in some situations).
- Show respect for the role and follow the rules. After all they are your boss and that gives them some authority, but don’t let them step beyond that authority. This means understanding the boundaries of their role by understanding the rules around employment.
- Be wary of throwing out the bully word without evidence. If you are being bullied then get your story in order; you’ll need examples, witnesses, times, dates to support such a serious allegation. Just saying I feel bullied doesn’t make it so when it comes to winning these arguments.
- Make an exit plan. If your boss’s behaviour is really hurting you emotionally, then a plan to leave will relieve some of that pain. In the mean time keep your head down and get on with your work as best you can. Don’t beat yourself up for not giving 100% under those circumstances but don’t underperform and give your boss a reason to sack you either.
- Check in with your inner victim. We’ve all got one of these – it says stuff like “it’s not my fault” and “It’s not fair” and “I shouldn’t have to put up with this”. In some instances there is a victim (eg real bullying) in most cases it’s just us feeling frustrated, powerless or hurt. Deal with those underlying feelings and you’ll find the right strategy that will make you feel more powerful and in control.
Remember, we can all be assholes when the pressure is on. My preference has been to help my boss resolve the underlying issue that is causing them to act out. I also self manage my emotions when I am under pressure to try to make more conscious choices around the impact I am having on others, so we can all get on and make money.