My Boss is on a Power Trip

December 4, 2017

My Boss is on a Power Trip

What it is

This one is pretty easy to spot although not that easy to deal with. A boss on a power trip tends to:

  • Take credit for others’ work
  • Uses ‘I’ a lot not ‘we’
  • Blames others for his failures
  • Is never wrong
  • Makes unreasonable demands
  • Is a control freak
  • Spends more time brownnosing the big bosses than on his job

What it looks like

Lisa (your boss): You made me look bad in front of the VP! The prototype burned out before we even got started.
You: But I told you we needed to rewire—
Lisa: Don’t give me that. You set me up!
You: I didn’t. I told you that it wouldn’t work—
Lisa: Yeah sure, try to cover your ass now. Well, I’m not wearing this—I made sure everyone knew whose fault it was.
You: But Lisa, if we had put in—

What to do

You might as well have saved your breath. Lisa has to find someone to blame. Let’s do over the conversation.

An example

Lisa: You made me look bad in front of the VP! The prototype burned out before we even got started. DO NOT get defensive. She knows you warned her.
You: Oh, no! So maybe we should have rewired after all. But I’ll get right to it. Notice the ‘we.’
Lisa: Don’t give me that. You set me up! Don’t engage.
You: Well, I wish we’d done the rewiring I thought it needed. Still, should work fine once that’s done. Keep the ‘we’ and try to get her focused on the situation rather than the blame.
Lisa: I’m not wearing this, you know. She might be coming down a bit because you’re not pointing out whose fault it really is.
You: But once it’s rewired, it should be perfect. You’ll look great for fixing the problem. Laying it on a bit thick can work, unfortunately.
Lisa: You think so? Bosses like this are often unsure underneath the bluster.
You: Absolutely. You want to avoid a problem not win truth prizes.

So, admittedly, you have to be very fast on your feet to handle this situation as described. You might be a little shell-shocked by the outburst. So, if you can’t manage this preternatural level of calm, here’s another possible way.

Lisa: You made me look bad in front of the VP! The prototype burned out before we even got started. DO NOT get defensive. She knows you warned her.
You: Oh, no! That’s a shame. I’ll have a look at it.  
Lisa: Don’t give me that. You set me up! Don’t engage.
You: I’ll take a look to see what went wrong. Keep focused on the task. Basically ignore the outburst.
Lisa: I’m not wearing this, you know. Keep ignoring.
You: I should have something by tomorrow. Is that all right?  
Lisa: You’d better. Delaying the discussion until she’s calmer is a good move.

Lisa wants you to accept blame to make her look good to herself. For the sake of your soul, you want to avoid doing so. Being silent on who’s to blame may be the best you can do.

So, jerk bosses can come in many sizes. If you have decided that, for any number of reasons, it’s worth staying in the job, you need to find ways to maneuver around and manage the jerkiness. Not easy but often doable.

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