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How to cope with an explosive hothead for a boss

by on
in Career Management,Workplace Communication

You like to avoid confrontation. But you work for someone who thrives on it.

This person’s short fuse, volatile behavior and childish antics make you crazy. A seemingly minor mishap can throw your manager into a tizzy.

Whenever the two of you talk privately, your boss can explode at any moment and bark, “I just want this done my way!” As a result, you avoid face-to-face interaction and dread even engaging in small talk.

You use e-mail and voice mail when possible. But your manager still visits your office and spreads discord. You never know what will trigger a tirade—and such unpredictability adds to your stress.

First, try a direct appeal. In a calm moment, say, “I can perform at an even higher level if we can make a few changes in how we communicate.”

Then highlight what needs to change. You might add, “If you want me to do something, the best way to let me know is in your normal voice tone without raising the volume” or “When you turn up the volume, I get distracted because I’m used to working for people who don’t do that.”

If that doesn’t work, enlist third-party support. Ask a rotating band of colleagues to join you when meeting with your boss. Or consult your human-resources rep for advice. Meanwhile, leave a paper trail that describes specific incidents.

At some point, you may need to throw down the gauntlet with your manager. Say, “This situation isn’t tenable. I’m going to explore ways that we can sever our reporting relationship.”

Hinting that you’re going to consider new jobs—and possibly share your concerns with higher-ups—may cause your boss to shape up. Most bosses don’t want to get a reputation for driving away top performers.

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