My boss is picking on me, what do I do…?

Before answering this you need to find out why.  By considering the possibilities (and Lord knows there could be many) we will be in a better position to thoroughly address the situation.

Let’s look at the different possibilities and “counter-attack” options:

1 – My boss fears me:

Recognize that a defensive aggressive reaction is the result of fear and therefore danger.  Would you be better than your boss?  Did your boss’s boss notice you at the last management committee presentation?  What you must analyze is your behavior toward his reactions. The best strategy is either to let the storm blow over and keep your head down for awhile (it may not be courageous or ambitious but it’s safe…), or plan B; shine even brighter to get the support of your colleagues (perhaps they too would like a new boss, who knows?) and take his place (ok it’s a bit presumptuous and risky but if it works: bingo, well done you!).

The most rational solution would be to lay your cards on the table and start a frank and direct discussion in order to understand their reasons (that too takes courage and a good dose of psychology!).  It is very probable that your boss will be a little taken aback but at least there is a chance of resolving the conflict (either he declares war on you (and you will get started on plan B), or the problem will be solved).

2 – My boss is going through a change:

In this case, the aggressive reaction is perhaps related to non-professional elements like for example, my boss just got divorced and I remind him of his ex-wife (warning! Danger! He could even fall in love!!) or even he envies my family success (I found the perfect balance between my professional and private life and leave at 4pm while he gets stuck going over my files, admittedly it is annoying!), you have an MBA, he doesn’t etc…You will know how to better react once you put your finger on the cause, and why not even help him, e.g. “I’ve noticed you’ve been a little preoccupied lately, if you want me to take the XYZ file just let me know, or even I’d like your expertise on such a case…” I’ll bet anything the positive behavior will calm your boss…The more attentive you are and ready to offer help, the more he should improve (think of him as a wild animal to tame…)

3 – My boss wants my skin:

So what have you done to suddenly make him angry with you?  Nothing at all?  Think hard…still nothing? Ok, it is possible that your boss is a cad, a misogynist, or worse an old geezer!  You can’t do anything, except attempt discussion, indeed force it, and if nothing comes of it (and you have REALLY tried everything), you will have to go up a level and speak to their boss.  Don’t forget that human resources can help you and many situations can be resolved without suffering any consequences.  A change in services or division (why not start new challenges?), in certain cases human resources are aware of the situation and expect that employees show their discontentment with certain management principles.  I admit that it takes courage but remember that it is a rare quality sought after by companies!

The best advice (and believe me by experience…) is to COMMUNICATE rather than go into battle or keep the situation to yourself.  Talk about it with your colleagues, ask them what they think, look for support (without trying to come across as a saint) it can help you to get through such a situation.  It is possible that nothing comes of it and in this case it’s up to you to take initiative, don’t forget that positive behavior in all situations will help you to surmount interpersonal problems.

The golden rules

  • Behave in a positive manner
  • Don’t rush into anything, stay calm;
  • Gain some perspective.

Is it true?

  • Evaluate and verify this impression.  What if his attitude was the same with all your colleagues?
  • Evaluate the impact of this bitterness on your work;
  • Identify your allies at the heart of the immediate team and those outside the group who can clarify the dynamics or the political relationships present.  Remember, proceed with caution.

Why

  • An aggressive and defensive reaction is the result of fear and therefore danger;
  • Did your boss’s superior notice you at the last management committee presentation?
  • My boss is going through a change: In this case, the aggressive reaction is perhaps related to non-professional elements like for example, my boss just got divorced and I remind him of his ex-wife (warning! danger! he could even fall in love!!) or even he envies my family success (I found the perfect balance between my professional and private life and leave at 4pm while he gets stuck going over my files, admittedly it is annoying!), you have an MBA, he doesn’t etc…
  • A good understanding of your superior’s behavior is necessary to find solutions.

The solutions

  • Don’t escape from or march straight into battle, plan a well-thought approach.
  • You will know how to better react once you put your finger on the cause, and why not even help him, e.g. “I’ve noticed you’ve been a little preoccupied lately, if you want me to take the XYZ file just let me know, or even I’d like your expertise on such a file…”
  • I’ll bet anything the positive behavior will calm your boss…The more attentive you are and ready to offer help, the more he should improve (think of him as a wild animal to tame…)
  • Since we spend a lot of our time at work, it is better to attempt to improve the situation as soon as possible, initiate or seize the opportunity to start a conversation with your boss on other subjects which can avoid misunderstandings, should there be any.
  • Whatever it may be, is it your boss who is the problem or the company?
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