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Hothead for a boss? Use kid gloves

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “My boss is sarcastic and likes to yell.  When I confronted him about his behavior, he blew up, threw his arms around and got red in the face. I said that I had to get back to work and walked out of his office. Now, he barely speaks to me. I’m tired of all this drama. What should I do?” — Sick of Fighting

Marie’s Answer: Hothead bosses are immature managers who refuse to exercise any emotional control.  They anger easily, lash out quickly, and make life miserable for everyone around them.

If you trust your HR manager, have a confidential conversation about your boss’s temper tantrums. Then consider the following approach to handling your interactions with him:

•    When your manager acts like a child, you have to be the adult. Remain calm when he gets angry, and don’t add fuel to the fire. Wait till he settles down, and then try to have a productive conversation. 

•    Common sense should tell you to stop criticizing him. If you were locked in a cage with a lion, would you poke it with a stick? Your boss is in the power position, so antagonizing him could be hazardous to your career.   

•    Since he’s being sulky and petulant, take the initiative to begin repairing the relationship.  Start a friendly conversation about some safe and pleasant topic. If you smile and speak normally, he’s likely to respond in kind.

For additional Office Coach advice on “managing up” see Five Types of Difficult Bosses. And remember that if the drama becomes too stressful, you can always choose to take your talents elsewhere. Life is much too short to be miserable 40 hours a week.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Struck March 18, 2009 at 1:26 pm

RE: hotheaded boss. Pick a time when there isn’t conflict and asked to speak with him. When inside share that it really bothers you when he gets angry and blows up. In those moments you tend to shut down and this isn’t good for the company. The company misses out on your experience and expertise during those moments. (If you have a reasonably good relationship you can also share how his actions contribute to your feelings, but that is a higher risk. I have had clients who were very successful with the above approach because it appeals to their focus on the company. Hotheads often are very dedicated to excellence and the company doing well. They simply haven’t figured out how to do that with an adult response.


Betty Sue Holliday November 13, 2008 at 8:32 am

I have worked with a “mean” boss. I realized early in my career that I have to show her love and acts of kindness, because a “hurting person will hurt you with their unpleasant behavior. The more loving I was towards her the better she treated me and others. I saw her transformed into a wonderful boss! Just give unconditional love…it works!


Leotis November 12, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Choose to work with him/her with establish boundaries or leave. Sometimes working in an atmosphere for of stress and tension is unhealthy and not worth it.

If you are truly sick (emotional and/or health) find another employee. Until than discuss and put in writing about your feeling on his/her outburst. Establish some grounds rules as to what is acceptable and what is not in the work place when dealing with your fellow co-workers, clients and you.

It does not matter if you are at fault or not because you are a human being with feelings. Do not let anyone belittle to or tell you what you are worth.

I have worked with some mean B.O.S. in the past and have found that some of the phrased below has worked for me.

– “Attack the problem not me.”
– “Can you lower the volume of your voice because it is hard for me to understand what you are saying.”
-“If you need a moment to regain yourself I will be happy to come back.”
-“You seem to be a little upset to me….”
-“Should I have my lawyer speak to your lawyer or you about this situation?”

It is your health and you have to take control of it…Remember it is your world too and you have the right to be treated fairly.


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