Managing a ‘Hostile’ Boss

Every team constitutes a structural design including a reporting manager and the team member. The reporting manager, often referred as a ‘Boss’, personifies leadership and inspirational guidance. A team member delivers a task as mentioned in the KRA. The leader guides the team member to ensure that the KPIs are met. The team members are groomed for different roles in their career path. When the behaviour of the boss is at variance with insecurity, personal fears and individual agenda setting in. The boss may micro manage and fail to empower the team member with responsibilities and learning. It becomes hostile when the boss turns a virulent liar and blames the team members in case of any error and deprives them off their credits.

Let us take a closer look to understand how it works in such a situation. The tasks are delegated to the team members. The vantage point is lost, if the deliverables are not totally quantified in the score card. It creates a high scope for blame-game. In absence of yardstick and metrics, any initiative taken by the employee or any work allocated by the boss remains chancy. The more the employee works, the more they are blamed. In such a situation the two entity ends up looking at two different directions at the same point of time. The team member looks at the amount of tasks delivered. The boss looks at the mistakes and the blames. This culminates with the annual appraisal where the team member is marked low, whilst that employee had expected a hike, as a result from the extra initiatives taken.  This brings in a cul-de-sac as the boss and the reportee lock-horns with each other.

Just as every problem has a solution so does this situation. There are few areas to be rewired. Here we discuss how the team member can troubleshoot such a situation.

Indispensible at the role: The employee needs to invest time and effort to become the subject matter expert and indispensible to the job. The closer the gap between the doer and the job, the better it is.

Visibility to the decision maker: The team member needs to gain the visibility to the decision makers. The boss is the first level reporting. If due to the matrix structure or even through the chains of command the employee is required to report to others, it works better for the employee. This may save the employee as the blame-game would eventually get exposed. The employee would get covered. This visibility needs to be balanced and moderated, as the decision maker may change from time to time. Additionally, escalating the boss would require supporting evidence. The team member needs to make sure that they differ in facts and not through broad perspectives. The employee needs to remain vigilant about this or else it may back fire.

Support the opportunity area of the boss: Every boss will have certain areas for improvement or blind spot. It would help the team member, if they can detect such areas and support the boss. For eg : If the boss has low writing skills , offer to edit the presentation without sounding preachy . It’s not about finding faults but changing them to strengths. This would make the boss value and trust the team member in the long run. It may even build a dependency which may turn the boss less hostile.

Document: If an order is given by the boss who seems to be a pathological liar, its best to document it as a supporting evidence. In case any conflicting situation arises, its best to cite the document rather than objectively speaking.

Self-Review: The team member needs to stay on the top of every scenario related to the job including crucial feedback about the work delivered. If the employee is critical and detects areas for development, it may save the unpleasant interaction with the boss. Know the performance scores and keep them ready to be referred at any point of time.

Remain objective: The patience would play a major at a situation like this. The employee needs to take one situation at a time and not let the boss run them in every direction. Every situation is different, consequently require a different approach.

A challenging situation offers more intelligence to be garnered, hence promises more growth in the long term. If this situation is survived and handled by the team member, they would not just become an expert in their roles, but a better manager in future.

  • Priscilla

    A very helpful article. Some times the 360 degree managers are at their wits end, as they have to manage upwards, side ways and downwards. There is a ripple effect, if upward managing is a challenge due to a difficult Boss.

  • Rajesh Deherkar

    A very good Article however I think Boss’ position makes difference i.e. Whether Boss is one of the Employee in the organisation or Employer of the organisation.

  • Aswani

    Good one, adding on – its important to be a good reportee too.One should know how to get things done & gone are the days where ‘The Boss is always right’.At the same time, critics against the boss can be harmful too.It should always be a mutual give and take and things will move on.

    Again, nothing is impossible.its all the attitude and thought process that matters !

  • Dear Aswani,
    Thank you for your appreciation. Agreed with your point. Its not what happens to us , but what we do with what have happened defines the result.
    Regards,
    Nabomita

  • Thankyou Rajesh . Boss is definitely the other employee who have been placed on a higher pedestal due to his/her higher capabilities. When the hostile Boss is the employer…..then it becomes the best place to learn survival strategies !

  • Thankyou Priscilla ! True subjective feedback would always kill an appraisal

  • Backlink

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing it.