How to Deal with a Selfish Boss

07/21/2017 11:36 am ET

Work is life and life is work. It is not always fair or easy. There are good days that remind you why you love what you do. You finish an important project or receive an encouraging word from a colleague. Other times, you put in a big effort but fail to achieve the goal. And you wake up at 3 a.m. mulling over what went wrong.

No one is awake but you. And in this moment, you will know whether your boss really cares.

We all know that sometimes stupendous effort does not equal stupendous achievement. So, are you worried about what it means for your future? Or do you know for certain that your boss and the organization values your effort and contribution?

The answer will help you either fall back to sleep peacefully or pass the hours wondering how you wound up at a company that really does not care.

Selfishness can take many forms. I have seen organizations that hoard knowledge, deliver cruel feedback, or simply ignore how hard people work. Selfish bosses have one thing in common. They are blinded by the pursuit of a specific type of growth — the kind that leads to more, more, more for them.

Not all companies are like this. Some take an unselfish approach, where both employees and leaders give each other 100 percent.

At these unselfish organizations, leaders realize it is not enough to throw praise when everything goes perfectly well. It is also how they react when a team member had a plan and acted with purpose, but fell short of the goal and now needs an encouraging word. It is taking responsibility and rallying the team to begin again.

In my new bestselling book Lovability, I share how lovable companies put people on the same level as profits. They treat their teams with respect, helping them to do their best work and removing obstacles from their path. But unfortunately, some companies have not learned these lessons yet.

Here are a few ways to tell if your company may be selfish:

Greedy — Selfish bosses are preoccupied with making money — no matter what the cost. They demand your hard work but do not want to hear your concerns or perspective. They expect you to contribute 100 percent but deliver considerably less to the relationship themselves. And they are quick to blame others if something goes wrong.

Careless — Goals should be communicated widely, so you know what you are working on and why. But at selfish companies, leaders shoot from the hip and act impulsively, sending people scurrying around in chaos. And if they have any goals, they do not bother to share them with the rest of the team.

Narrow-minded — Selfish leaders discourage others from speaking up, which explains why the boss seems irritated by your questions. Then, you must wait days for an answer because the boss sees no reason to threaten the status quo. In this prickly work environment, there is no room for a healthy dialogue.

Manipulative — At a company with a selfish mindset, a good idea is welcomed — as long as it comes from the top. You have seen it firsthand as your manager takes full credit for your contributions instead of sharing the praise. Much of the workday is spent managing perceptions. All this manipulation leaves little time for any real work.

Disrespectful — A self-absorbed boss does not worry about sparing your dignity. Criticism is not tempered with kindness but delivered with a hard edge. Unprofessional behavior is common and occurs throughout the organization. Instead of feeling valued in this environment, you feel expendable.

If any of these descriptions hit too close to home for you, what should you do about it?

Well, I will not say you can singlehandedly transform your boss or workplace. But you are not powerless in this situation either.

Start by remembering your worth and treating everyone with kindness. Focus on setting your own goals, working to be a top contributor, and continually searching for answers. And if the bad behavior shows no signs of slowing, perhaps it is time to seek a new opportunity with another company.

Either way, you will not work for the selfish boss forever. So concentrate on building your own confidence and that of others. That grit and compassion will serve you well — now and in the future.

What are other signs of a selfish boss?

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