WORKPLACE / AUG. 09, 2014
version 3, draft 3

Bosses are from Mars, Employees are from Earth

Mars alien

Your boss called you during the middle of the night to blab about a new project. He seemed extremely excited when he told you to get started first thing in the morning. But when you arrived two hours earlier than your normal schedule, your boss wasn’t there. He did, however, send you an e-mail with some ambiguous instructions and a noon deadline. You called and sent him an e-mail around 8 a.m. with questions; but he never responded. So you slogged away at your interpretation of the assignment and e-mailed it around 11:30 a.m. A week later, he held you hostage in his office while he nitpicked over the project. Now he expects you to start from scratch.

With such unrealistic demands, vague assignments and overly critical reviews communicated in gibberish, it may feel like your boss is from another planet. Here you will learn six tips on how-to understand and speak your boss’ language in order to remain productive, while hopefully maintaining your sanity.

Alien Bosses

Your boss issues unclear directions and is never available to answer questions. But he still expects you produce exactly what he has in mind. The problem is that you are only human and unable to mind-meld with him like Spock the Vulcan.

In order words, your boss may be just too “Impossible to Please.” Dr. Neil J. Lavender and Dr. Alan A. Cavaiola, who co-authored a book of same title, offer advice for workers, like you, who have outlandish bosses.

“When we wrote this book, our goal was to provide a survivor’s guide for people who find themselves subject to the impossible demands and unrealistically high standards that these controlling perfectionist often place on others,” said Dr. Neil J. Lavender, a Psychology Today contributor. “When you find yourself working with or for a controlling perfectionist it’s often common to feel angry and frustrated or even worse is when you feed into their hypercriticism and you begin to feel inferior or feel like you can’t do anything right.”

According to the authors, your boss may be suffering from "Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)". Do you think that’s the reason for your boss’ strange behavior?

Close Encounters

Meetings with your boss also are unusual. And you often get the impression that you are having an extra-terrestrial encounter with him.  When a boss lacks essential communication skills, they are often confused about why their staff members fail to follow basic instructions, says Forbes.

“Show me a leader with poor communication skills and I’ll show you someone who will be short-lived in their position,” said John Mariotti, a Forbes’ contributor. “Great leaders can communicate effectively across mediums, constituencies, and environments. They are active listeners, fluid thinkers, and know when to dial it up, down, or off.”

Whether or not your boss has OCPD or is just simply incompetent, working with him has left you feeling unappreciated and aggravated. You can, however, remain productive and maintain your sanity, without feeling like you are being abducted by a Martian. Here are six tips on how-to understand and speak your boss’ language.

  1. Investigate Strange Occurrences. First, you will need to determine if your horrible boss has a real personality flaw or just poor leadership skills. In other words, it will be easier to comprehend his instructions and actions when you know more about him. Note: In addition to communication, other bad bosses’ behaviors include shortsightedness, unavailability, unaccountability, and uncompromising, says Forbes.
  2. Discover Intelligent Life. Decide what he can do to help you do a better job. According to Forbes, you need to “figure out what you need from your boss and communicate that to him in a way that he will understand”. This step will make you the bigger person. It also will go a long way toward maintaining your productivity.
  3. Develop Survival Skills. Once you have decided what you need to survive working with your horrible boss, write it down on a piece of paper. Match your needs with your job description. This will be helpful for the next step.
  4. Make Contact. Schedule a face-to-face meeting with him. Make sure that the meeting is not project-related and during down time. Use the Jedi mind trick to reveal your boss’ expectations, which will become a very effective strategy in terms of being able to meet them.
  5. Succumb to the Invasion. Try monitoring how your boss interacts with other senior executives and employees. Use this information to adjust to his management style. Remember: your boss’ success is your success.
  6. Lead the Charge Against the Alien. If none of the above tips work, you may need to have a conversation with his boss. Needless to say, snitching on your horrible boss for bad behavior can be tricky, says Forbes.

“Chances are, you probably aren’t the only one who’s noticed, and given how difficult it is to broach this subject, it’s likely no one has ever reported it,” said The Muse, a career development firm and Forbes’ contributor. “Which means that’s your cue to drum up some courage and take one for the team.”

The key, however, is to document each and every occurrence when your boss has screwed up and try matching it to company policies or procedures. If the above steps don’t cause your alien boss to escape Earth and return to his home-world, then perhaps it’s time to start looking for another job.

References:

Mind-Meld, Vulcan

Top 75 Films about Aliens

11 Habits of Highly Ineffective Managers

Controlling Perfectionists in the Workplace

 

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