You’re on an average day at work, trying to get some work done, when suddenly your computer screen is filled with enraged messages from your boss. How will you stay focused? What should you do if your boss insults or belittles you in public? How can you manage stress and anxiety so that it doesn’t distract you from getting your work done?
We’ve put together 9 strategies to help you work with an aggressive boss.
1. Don’t make it personal — Don’t take anything personally. Your boss is probably not attacking you personally; he/she is just letting off steam. Just because your boss screams at you, doesn’t always mean that they dislike you or disrespect your work.
Taking things personal puts you on the defensive and reacting out of defensiveness makes matters worse. It helps to remember that it isn’t always about you— bosses aren’t trying to intentionally hurt you – they’re just expressing their unhappiness with a situation that they feel responsible for resolving. The more you can stay focused on the big picture the less likely it is that awkward moments between yourself and your boss will escalate into full-blown arguments
In difficult situations with an aggressive boss, it helps to pause before reacting or responding. Try to understand what your boss is feeling. “Why might he/she be upset?” Don’t focus on trying to fix the problem so much as understanding it better – how can you help your boss feel more comfortable and respected? The more we care about someone, the more we will do whatever we can do alleviate their suffering (within reason). When we are focused on truly understanding the other person, we become more effective and less likely to do or say things that will make matters worse.
3 Don’t let your emotions take control
Keep your cool-literally. It is much easier to be helpful from a place of calmness rather than from a place of anger. If you want to think clearly, keep physically fit. Engage in physical activity that allows you to work up a good sweat at least 3 times per week for 20 minutes or more. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants which can trigger panic attacks and increase feelings of anxiety.
- Ask open-ended questions
If you are being criticized, the best thing you can do is ask clarifying questions to understand what your boss is saying. Don’t get defensive – write down what you hear him/her say and make sure it’s accurate. Ask “How” or “What” questions that encourage them to explain further – this makes them feel important, because they’re the one teaching you something instead of the other way around. By asking for their advice or opinion, you come across as someone who values their guidance and expertise. This makes it more likely that they will treat you with respect in return, reinforcing a healthier relationship dynamic between the two of you.
- Give them space
There may be times where you feel like yelling at your boss or even quitting your job out of frustration with his/her behaviour. Remember though, if your boss lashes out once in a while, it may be because he/she is under a lot of stress and feeling overloaded. Have some patience and cut your boss sone slack when you can. Even If the attack is unjustified, there’s nothing that says you have to take it. You can simply say something like “I see this isn’t a good time for you” and end the conversation. If your boss persists, tell him/her that you’ll come back when he/she is in a better frame of mind to talk. Then do just that-come back at a later date and try again.
- Look for the lesson
Rather than stewing in anger, try to think of ways you could have handled things differently so you don’t make the same mistakes again. What can you learn from what happened? How can next time be improved upon? Anytime we approach difficult situations with an open mind, there’s always something positive that can come out of it. Remember, just because one person acts inappropriately doesn’t mean everyone will – but if you give up on someone who has continuously mistreated or made fun of you then they’ve won by default. Don’t let people like that win at your expense.
7 . Focus on results
Don’t get bogged down trying to correct your boss when he/she says something hostile or offensive. Instead of dwelling on what was said, focus on the desired results you both want to accomplish. This will reduce your frustration and potential for conflict by pointing your attention toward finding solutions rather than rehashing problems.
8 . Identify triggers
Aggressive bosses often cover for their own incompetence or insecurity by putting other people down. Understanding what triggers the aggression may help you deal with him/her more effectively. Sometimes helping your boss deal with personal problems will improve communication between you significantly. However, your boss must be willing to meet you half way and willing to put in some effort to develop a healthier working relationship.
9 Don’t resort to playing “mind games” yourself
It’s tempting to retaliate when someone is constantly putting you down. While it can be difficult, try not to give in and retaliate. Making jokes at your boss’ expense or acting as if they’re unimportant will only escalate an already bad situation. Even though it may feel good temporarily, retaliation won’t resolve differences and could eventually lead to a loss of respect from your boss and colleagues.
If you tried all the above tips and your relationship with your boss is still very strained and taking a toll on you emotionally, then it’s time to dust your CV and plan your exit strategy.