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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dealing with a boss from hell can be, well, a hellish experience

I have been lucky at all the organisations I have worked with. I have only had nominal bosses because once they figured out I function best independently and that I produce results I was pretty much left to my own devices.

Though, when I look back, I think at least one of my direct reports must have labelled me a boss from hell because even though I played a big part in hiring her our relationship began going downhill not long after she joined the team in my view she did not take kindly to being taught the ropes even though she was a novice at journalism, and since she could not be taught (she had been a schoolteacher before she switched professions) she could not perform and there were ugly arguments almost every day until she was transferred to another department. I am sure I, too, had a role to play in these developments and I was reminded of those days when I came across two instructive and enlightening features in last Monday's Mint.

In the first piece, Sulekha Nair lists five important no-nos for bosses:

1 Undermining employee confidence
2 Being biased
3 Humiliating team members in public
4 Making provocative personal remarks
5 Behaving unscrupulously

I think I may have been at fault concerning that first point, though I can probably justify my behaviour. Be that as it may, if you're in a position of leadership, and you want a productive and happy team, you should read "5 prejudices a boss should guard against" and take corrective steps if necessary.

On the other hand, younger employees, especially those in their first jobs, will have had to learn to deal with all kinds of bosses. And some of these experiences may have been nightmarish, to put it mildly.  What do you do if you're being hounded by a boss from hell? Writing in Mint, career coach Sonal Agrawal offers some helpful advice by giving the example of one of her clients, a banker whose boss was "the most overbearing, obstructive, conniving, insecure man in the banking industry (and this was the polite version)". Here's an excerpt:

Try to remember that the boss is a person and not a one-dimensional caricature of Dilbert’s pointy haired boss. So what was really the issue? Was it a one-off altercation? Or was the boss always abrasive? Did he flare up during stressful events? Was he under pressure professionally or personally? To analyse and understand his motivations and likely behaviour patterns was essential before taking any decisions.

If you are dealing with a boss who is making your life at work miserable, you may benefit from some of the insights presented in this article: "Are you being hounded by a boss from hell?"
  • ON A RELATED NOTE, if you are a woman who is intent on getting ahead in the industry, you should read this book by internationally recognised executive coach Lois P. Frankel, Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers. (By the way, according to the New York Times, this book offers pointers that work equally well for men and women.) Here's a relevant excerpt from the introductory chapter:
This book is a composite of nearly twenty-five years' experience as a coach, trainer, human resource professional, and psychotherapist. It's about the unique mistakes I see women make at work, the coaching suggestions I provide to help them take charge of their careers, and the ways in which women hold themselves back from achieving their full potential.

The mistakes described in each chapter are real, as are the accompanying examples.... The coaching tips at the end of each section are identical to the ones I provide to women around the world. Many of these women later report that the suggestions helped them get promoted, hired, a raise, more respect from their management and peers, or the confidence needed to start their own businesses.
  • Afterwards, visit Lois P. Frankel's website to access, for free, some very useful career resources.