THE BLOG

How To 'Handle' Your Bossy Boss

03/09/2015 12:02 pm ET | Updated May 07, 2015

Klaus had always had a good relationship with his boss, but this new guy was a different kettle of fish altogether. He had an arrogance about him that was hard to stomach. Discussions with him were always one sided -- he never listened. For him it was 'my way or the high way'. He had a habit of picking holes in what people did and said. He could be bullish and sarcastic. Klaus had been hired because he was a 'details' man, but this new guy had little or no tolerance for detail.

Characteristics of a Bossy Boss
It is important in the first instance that you understand the nature of the person that you are dealing with. In order to do this it is necessary to identify his/her behavioural style. A person's behavioral style refers to the way the person acts and interacts with those around them. Disc Insights is a personality profiling system which identifies four primary behavioral traits -- the first of which is "Dominant." The DISC Profile is based on the work of renowned psychologist Dr.William Moulton Marston, a contemporary of Carl Jung. Marston developed the DISC Personality Profile after studying the personality traits, behavioral patterns, and instinctual reactions of thousands of individuals.

Dominant Behavioral Style
If your boss has a direct style of communication, is demanding, forceful, strong willed, impatient and openly skeptical with little tolerance for those who do not live up to his demanding expectations and standards, then the likelihood is that his behavioral style is primarily 'dominant' in nature (I am using 'his' here, but it could just as easily be 'her'). In fact, with those kinds of characteristics and traits, he may be on the extreme end of the style. The bad news is -- this style is the most difficult of the styles to deal with.

Individuals who have a dominant style frequently rise to positions of authority. As self-starters, they are often business owners/directors or in other cases have risen to prominence because of their determination and ability to get things done. They are goal oriented problem solvers, who don't take no for an answer. They are often seen as a great asset to a company, because they are not limited by roadblocks -- focussing instead on outcomes and goals.

His Behavior Is Not 'Personal' -- It Is Not About You
In order to handle this kind of person, the first thing that you need to realize, is that what your boss does and says is not personal, it is not about you. This may be a difficult concept to get your head around when you are on the receiving end of his vitriol. However, it is important that you see that his behavior is driven by his own behavioral style -- his way of 'being' in the world. His natural tendency is to dominate and demand, to challenge and to control -- this is about him, it is not about you -- it is not personal. Though you are on the receiving end, you are not the cause.

Personalization Distorts Reality
When you personalize your boss's behavior, believing that what he says and does is about you, you are engaging in a form of thinking that distorts the reality of the situation facing you.

Personalization has been identified as a distorted thinking habit or style and as such takes no account of the personality, characteristics or temperament of the individual doing the controlling or dominating -- instead it says the fault lies with the one who is on the receiving end of it.

Why is Personalization Bad for Us?
Personalization is bad for us because it makes us doubt ourselves. It makes us question our own abilities and strengths. When we believe that another's behavior is about us, rather than about them, we invariably look to ourselves as the source of the problem. Seeing ourselves as the source of the problem prompts the question "What is it about me -- that makes my boss treat me like this? Does he think that I'm not up to the job? Am I up to the job? Maybe I am not up to the job. What if I get fired? I'm not coping well. I should be coping better. Other people would be able to cope better than me. I am getting stressed. I shouldn't be getting stressed etc. etc. As I think in this way, my boss's behavior has become 'all about me' and what I am or am not doing. His behavioral style -- his 'natural' drive to control and dominate has become irrelevant.

A Question for You
Is your boss's behavior 'all about you' or do other people find his behavioral style equally oppressive and difficult to deal with? Does he have 'history'?

Knowing that you are not alone, will help you gain perspective and will reduce your sense of isolation and vulnerability.

Knowing that his behavior is not 'personal' will help you to detach and to see your boss's attitude more objectively.

Becoming aware that his behavior may be driven by a fear of being seen as vulnerable or by a fear of being taken advantage of, will help you to detach further from his dominant, controlling style.

As a consequence, his behavior will have less of an impact on you. You will be better able to distance yourself from any disparaging remarks or comments that he makes.

Seeing him in a more objective light will enable you to evaluate him as the person that he is and will help you to determine how best to cope with the demands of his particular behavioral style.

It was only when Klaus gave up his habit of personalization that he was able to identify the best ways to cope with his boss's dominant style. The following is a list of what he came up with:

  • Stick to business -- don't try to become his buddy
  • Be competent, clear, concise and to the point
  • Know the bottom line -- be able to sum up findings and objectives
  • Have facts and figures at the ready
  • Don't promise what you can't deliver
  • Use objectives and results to persuade
  • Be specific when asking questions

Would this approach help you 'handle' your bossy boss? Please leave a comment -- I would love to hear from you.

For further tips and resources you might like to check out my website.