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Practical Middle Management Tips: When Your Boss is the Hoover

Photo by heather powazek champ

Photo by heather powazek champ

After Tuesday’s post, I got several private messages about the boss’s suckage.  What?  No comments on the blog?

So, what do you do when your boss sucks the air out of a room like a human tornado?


OK, you knew that and it was too easy. And, we’ll get back to that.

Let’s start with looking at what we know about human behavior and how we may be missing some opportunities.  When someone isn’t performing the way we’d like, we often make assumptions about their motivations.  We tell ourselves a story, because that’s the way our brain works to create memories.   “My boss sucks” or “My boss is an a$$hat” fall into that category.

Also, when people are afraid or under stress, they have certain “stress behaviors” that they use to cope.  These are automatic and habitual (and sometimes not pretty), and may be completely out of alignment with who the person really is.  That said, what are the potential opportunities?

One potential is to find the person underneath the hat by building a more trusting, more two-way relationship.  I work with middle managers to help them build the skills to navigate this difficult conversation, and many times they are shocked at the change once they’ve created that conversation in a different way.  By looking at the patterns, changing the roles and creating the environment for honest dialog, everything can change.

This works a lot more than people give it credit for, because they usually find conversations with a boss they don’t like fraught and and so they just avoid them.  In my own personal experience and that of my middle management clients, having this conversation has fixed the problem.

But I am a realist, and there will be occasions when the boss really is clueless person masquerading as an a$$hat.  In this situation, it’s just best to tell them what you want them to do.  Nicely.  As a request. Because, sometimes they really don’t know.  (And, we have to get over that they really should know.)

And, sometimes the boss just is an a$$hat.  Many times the clue-in is the crowd.  They tend to flock together.

What then?

You could just wait it out.  This is not a good option if you’re using it to avoid dealing with an issue because then it festers and you get the added bonus of feeling victimized along with stressed out and unappreciated.

So, when would you wait it out?

When you sense that the problem will be dealt with. Remember, many HR actions can take more than 6 months, but it isn’t like companies make this public, although people may hint.  When you really like the whole package that the company offers in terms of experience, growth and culture and this is just one bad apple.

There are times when the situation is impossible, and it is time to go.  I worked for a Vice President who enjoyed tormenting people, so I understand from painful personal experience that sometimes the situation isn’t salvageable.  However, wallowing in the burnout and turning into a bitter, depressed victim doesn’t attract opportunity nor help our reputations as a brilliant leaders.

Understanding that it may take 6-9 months to find that next position in this economy, perhaps quitting outright isn’t a great option for you.  Building your exit strategy and executing on it is.  It becomes much easier to be unruffled when you are in action.  And, we feel proud and confident when we’re in action.

Here is something to keep in mind.  When we don’t build the behaviors we need to navigate those difficult relationships, we often find ourselves in the same boat again and again.  (Have you ever found that you’re working for basically the same a$$hat again and again?)  We tend to attract what we know.  This is one reason why clients hire a coach.  They want to see what they can’t see and then build a grow in a way that lasts.

I invite you, just for today, to adopt a more generous view of why your boss sucks like a hoover.  It has the power to open up possibilities you may have missed.

Be Your Best You Today,


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Terri Schepps

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