Does Your Mean Boss Cry Himself To Sleep At Night?
New study reveals that angry bosses are actually unhappy and unfulfilled. This article originally appeared at HR.com. To read the full article, visit HR.com.
A new management study has just uncovered something surprising: ‘Mean’ bosses often feel sad and empty at the end of the workday. The study, which was published by the Academy of Management Journal, also found that bosses who believe themselves to be powerful and commanding are the most likely to go home feeling unfulfilled.
This study has revealed what many of us have suspected for a long time, especially those of us who work with these types of leaders for a living. As a CEO coach, I have often found that the bosses who most crave power and control over others are almost always suffering from a great deal of insecurity and personal pain.
It might be hard to believe, as tend to imagine that highly-successful people must naturally be quite pleased with themselves. However, the opposite tends to be true. CEOs are often so successful because they are driven by their own feelings of inadequacy and their own fear of being ‘unmasked’ as an unworthy person.
So how can employees try to win over an angry, impossible-to-please boss?
Understand his point of view. The key is to realize that your ‘mean’ boss is actually a victim in his own head. He has no clue that he is the one in the wrong. As this study showed, your mean boss sees himself as a victim.
Again, I know this sounds hard to believe, but as a CEO coach I have witnessed this, every time. The most critical and aggressive bosses often come to me and complain that their employees are ‘ungrateful’ and that they don’t appreciate him. Although the thought of him as a victim might sound laughable to you, it’s crucial to understand your boss’ POV if you want to survive and thrive under his leadership. Of course, this doesn’t mean that your CEO’s behavior is okay (it certainly is not), but as Sun Tzu says, “Know thy self, know thy enemy.”
Mirror his statements. Victims feel empowered when they are heard. Help your boss feel empowered (and ergo less likely to lash out) by mirroring his statements. If he is highly stressed about a deadline, you can say “I hear that this project is really important to you. You really need me to finish this quickly,” rather than just saying ‘Okay’ or ‘Sure.’”
Don’t ask questions that begin with ‘why.’ When you ask a question that starts with why, it tends to put people on the defensive right away. they feel a burden of proof, a need to give you answers and explanations. This will trigger your boss’s victim persona. Instead, use declarative statements like, “I could use some guidance on this particular issue” or “I wonder if there is another approach we could take.”
Don’t overdo your presence. The recent media dustup over Steve Harvey’s memo demanding space from his employees highlights an important issue: Many CEOs and managers simply feel overwhelmed from constant questions and needs all day. Try to corral all of your questions, ideas and concerns into one face-to-face with your boss, rather than popping in and out randomly to ask questions as they arise. Pretend you’re George Costanza—always leave ‘em wanting more!
Be careful about emails. Studies prove that emails are less persuasive than in-person interactions. So, if you’re asking for a vacation day or you need to leave early, ask in person. Other studies show that emails with succinct subject headers get opened more than those with long subject lines. Keep it short, sweet and face-to-face if you want to stay on your mean boss’s good side.