Typists. By Lewis W. Hine (1874-1940). ca. 1915. George Eastman House Collection.

When Your Boss Is Undermining You

Forrest ChristianCareers, Coaching Leave a Comment

Tom Foster has a post recently about what to do when your manager starts to give your management tasks to a coworker, all the time saying that you are still the boss.

I’ve had this happen and I wish that I had known this bit of advice back then. It wouldn’t have helped any — but I would have perhaps resolved things earlier. It also complements some things I’ve been telling my private clients in my coaching of Hidden High Potentials.

Politics uncovered. This is a script from Dunder Mifflin, but it’s not funny when it’s your job being worked around. You are either already out and your boss doesn’t have the guts to tell you or the “substitute” project manager has an alternate agenda, probably hidden.

Either way, your response is still the same. As you enter this conversation with your boss remember this:

The person who can best describe reality without laying blame will emerge the leader.

I’ll add something that Tom would probably not recommend but that the research shows is highly effective: angry outbursts. It’s amazing how effective doing this sporadically can be. People respond to this, partly because it makes you unpredictable, which is an effective trait when it’s a small part of your reactions. You have to figure out how to pull it off, whether to do it on your boss or the usurper.

People who worked with him commented that George Washington always seemed to be controlling a massive temper bubbling just below the surface, ready to explode at almost any time. It made people fear him a bit, and that’s useful. It’s amazing how many of his “You dishonor me!” outbursts worked, even early on when there was considerable bad talk about him. But it showed that he was willing to actually fight to defend his honor.

You have to seem like you could come across the table and rip someone’s head off but be totally controlling it. So it’s a limited outburst.

Psychopaths pull this off really well. When you are confronted with someone doing the outburst thing, a good technique is to stand your ground and be levelheaded, just like Foster recommends. This disables one of the psychopath’s most effective manipulations and shows you as someone who is fearless when everyone else, including the managers, is cowed by this person.

I should emphasize that I’m saying follow Tom’s advice first and most often. Outbursts can be very useful when they are seen as you defending your honor. Tricky to pull off.

Anyone else used angry outburst to good effect at work?

Typists. By Lewis W. Hine (1874-1940). ca. 1915. George Eastman House Collection.

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