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Managing a mean boss

How to cope, decompress and defuse anger

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in Dealing with Bosses,Office Management

You dread going to work. The problem isn’t your job, which you love. And you’re blessed with a great staff. But your boss makes you miserable.

We’ve heard lots of stories from readers about bosses from hell. There’s the manager who crumpled every page of an engineer’s memo and shot each wad into a wastebasket while saying, “This is crap.” A salesman told us of a VP who responded to any ideas by barking, “I’m not paying you to think, just to sell.”

You need unshakable confidence and thick skin to handle a hothead. You must not let such taunts ruin your days. And if you constantly strive to please a demanding boss, you’ll suffer.

Here’s how to fight off intimidation and get support when you need it most:

Depersonalize what you hear. Even if a boss tries to insult or humiliate you in front of others, you choose how to respond. Don’t lapse into a defensive or petulant counterattack, which will only add to the heat. Keep quiet and remain still and stone-faced.

Think, “This outburst isn’t my fault. My boss is battling with internal demons that have nothing to do with me.” Disengage yourself from the proceedings; don’t take what you hear at face value.

Use visualization. When a boss antagonizes you by leveling personal (rather than job-related) criticism or lashing out unfairly, train yourself to “see” a peaceful scene that relaxes you. Example: Mentally picture a happy moment with your family or friends. Then you can return to work as if nothing happened.

Realize that when most bosses display their anger, you don’t need to react. They’re not in the mood to listen, so you don’t have to prepare a comeback.

Find an outlet. Expand your support network so you can safely unleash your frustrations with a cruel boss. Find a trusted colleague who’s willing to take your calls or see you on short notice when you need to unwind.

Link cause and effect. Note when your boss seems most agitated. Avoid contact during these high-risk times— such as after he meets with the CEO to report bad news.

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