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When the boss’s OS seems out of whack

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in Your Office Coach

Q: "I apparently crossed a line with my manager and made him extremely angry. 'Chad' never acts like a boss, so his reaction was quite a shock. 

"Chad and I work together closely and talk about a wide range of topics. We have even discussed starting our own business. He is very approachable, so I’ve always felt that I can be completely honest with him. 

'Earlier this week, a co-worker and I decided to clean up our rather cluttered office area. We left three boxes of trash neatly stacked next to the wastebasket. The department looked much more professional, so we expected Chad to be pleased.

"Instead, he sent a nasty email saying that the maintenance staff is not paid to clean up after us and we should haul our trash out to the street. I replied that we would remove the boxes and 'would have done it even without your crappy email.' It never crossed my mind that this was out of line. 

"Later that day, Chad came into my office, shut the door, and angrily exclaimed that this was not an appropriate comment to make to one’s manager. I apologized, but would like to discuss the matter further. However, I’m not sure what to say." Concerned

A: Unfortunately, you have learned the hard way that the boss is always the boss. Even friendly managers expect to be treated with a certain amount of deference. This realization often comes as a huge surprise to people whose bosses are particularly chummy.

That said, however, Chad’s overreaction to the trash boxes seems both inappropriate and puzzling. Perhaps he was having a bad day, or maybe something else is bothering him. But since you’ve always had a good relationship, there’s not much to be gained by rehashing this incident. 

If Chad’s behavior has returned to normal, then just let it be. Sometimes the wisest course is to simply allow unpleasant events to recede into the past.

Do you have a hard time figuring out what makes your boss tick? This may give you a clue: Do You Understand Your Boss's "Operating System"?

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