Do you frequently feel manipulated by your boss? Do thoughts about the relationship keep you up at night? Do you overindulge in alcohol, food, or drugs in search of relief from the relationship? Is your self-esteem suffering since you began working for this person? Have you begun to doubt yourself and your capabilities? Do you sometimes question your sanity?
For purposes of clarity, we’re going to make a distinction between two kinds of emotionally challenging bosses – difficult and extreme. Difficult bosses are those individuals who operate under a different set of rules from “normal” supervisors. These people aren’t malicious by nature. They are emotionally and psychologically limited in some way. Each difficult boss operates from a predominant belief or fear:
Fearful of confrontation, this manager avoids any situation that could trigger a negative reaction in others.
Afraid of receiving certain kinds of negative information, this leader blasts those who deliver bad news.
The Sacred cow
A likeable figurehead, this person fears being exposed as incompetent.
Charming Cheating Liar
Invested in making deals at any cost, this charmer believes that he or she must bend the rules to get ahead.
Beyond “difficult” lies another brand of thorny superiors. These individuals exhibit extreme behaviors that put the people underneath them in no-win positions. Except for some rare cases, working for this breed of boss is a losing proposition. Because they are constitutionally incapable of feeling empathy for anyone but themselves, they tend to run roughshod over their employees in a variety of ways.
The Controlling Egomaniac
Extremely driven and unusually bright, these individuals believe they must control everything and everyone around them.
Physically absent and emotionally checked out, these missing leaders secretly feel that life owes them a living.
Emotionally needy yet impossible to please, these demanding directors presume that your only function is to serve them.
The Credit Stealer
Chronically insecure and professionally greedy, these people assume that other people’s ideas are fair game.
The Four Ds
While they may not be capable of praise or appreciation, unpleasable bosses do give you opportunities to do interesting projects and grow professionally. Some people can work for this kind of leader for a long time. The key to handling these needy-yet-critical superiors involves setting limits. Unhooking from Extreme Bosses requires the four D’s:
- Detect – Identify that you are caught in a fatal attraction, and it’s causing you pain.
- Detach – Accept that you aren’t going to change the other person.
- Depersonalize —Learn to take the other person’s behavior less personally.
- Deal – Devise a plan for protecting yourself and managing the relationship.
You have to determine how much time you’re willing to give them. You have to define the range of duties you’re willing to perform for them. You can spend hours trying to fulfill one request, and your unpleaseable boss will always find the next thing for you to do. You also have to be willing to disappoint this kind of manager when you fall short of his or her lofty standards.
Since 1989, Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster have helped retool hundreds of companies by training individuals in the art of achieving business goals while managing difficult personalities and emotionally charged situations. They are the authors of Working With You Is Killing Me and Working For You Isn’t Working For Me.