ARTICLES - HANDLING DIFFICULT EMPLOYEES

My Boss Thinks He Knows Everything

Did you every have to work for a boss who was never wrong? This has become a critical issue for many persons in the managing hierarchy of their organization. How do I cope with this kind of arrogance? 

This kind of situation results in either a very disgruntled manager or a very angry and frustrated "boss" who can't  understand why the manger resists his "great ideas". Ultimately this scenario plays out in devastating ways. Often  the manager is so frustrated he/she leaves, or the "boss" becomes so disenchanted with this manager that he/she  looks for ways to limit, demote, or at its worst get rid of the manager. 

Why does this situation develop? Is there really something wrong with the boss? Maybe there is something wrong with the manager. Or, is there something wrong with both of them?

The answer is often not as clear-cut or easy as it would appear on the surface. 

Actually, this situation is not extremely rare. Many times men and women elevate to positions of power and control (becoming the "boss") because of their strong (and sometimes offensive) personality. It takes a person who believes in him/herself to be able to get to the top levels. However, the unfortunate accompanying characteristics embedded in some individuals approximate what many refer to as the narcissistic personality. This clearly is not the personality of all or even most bosses, but it is often the traits seen in the boss who thinks he knows everything. (The word narcissist stemming from Greek mythology about a youth who looked into a pool of water and fell in love with his own reflection.) This often means that these "bosses" are so wrapped up in their own self value, importance, and/or greatness that they have difficulty understanding how others can not see their point of view or how utterly brilliant their ideas are. And they believe it! Without going into the etiology of this personality development, it is important to understand how to effectively work with them. 

It is certainly not new news that we often have to make adjustments to accommodate others in a work environment that have serious personality problems. These typically result in demoralization, frustration, and conflicts that frequently do not seem to ever get resolved. (Coping with other personalities will be a future topic.) 

Nevertheless, when dealing with a "boss" who exhibits narcissistic traits, it is critical to know what to do and  what not to do, in order to keep a positive attitude and a constructive relationship. The great temptation is to  be angry and critical of the boss. This is clearly the most destructive thing you can do with this kind of  individual. You need to remember that it is more important TO BE EFFECTIVE THAN TO BE RIGHT  about things that are important to you. By this I mean that you have what you believe to be important  ideas and ways of doing things that need his support. 

You will be weakening your position considerably if you challenge the boss directly or indirectly (indirect comments usually get back to the person). If you do want to find ways to work with this person use the following guidelines to improve your effectiveness.

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The "DO NOT" list is as follows.

1. DO NOT criticize anything he/she says in a direct confrontation, or in a "back stab".
2. DO NOT say "no" to requests he/she makes of you.
3. DO NOT argue with him/her.
4. DO NOT question them, or their authority, in any situation.
5. DO NOT minimize any issue they consider important.
6. D0 NOT take their critical comments too personally. They only see people as being good and valuable if they
    agree with them.
7. DO NOT think others see you the same as the narcissist "boss".

The "DO" list.

1. DO find something about their idea to compliment.
2. DO treat them as important as they believe they are.
3. DO defend their ideas in front of others.
4. DO ask for their advice even if you already know what to do or what is needed. 
5. DO show appreciation for their input on anything.
6. DO remind them how "brilliant" they are.
7. DO make them (in all their wisdom) be accountable for their decisions regarding unreasonable timelines or 
    requirements for increased production that are unrealistic (remember that whether they really know what is  
    possible or important, they believe they do know, and will not accept resistance to their ideas). They will only
    need to prove you wrong or blame you for your incompetence if something doesn't work the way they
    expected it to work.
8. DO look for ways to cooperate with them and find creative ways to work within their system, or you will
    always be frustrated and seldom rewarded in this job. (You never beat a narcissist boss. They have the
    power and control, despite any facts or evidence you may have to the contrary.)
9. DO adjust to them vs. fight them. You gain power, respect, influence, etc. by inflating their ego and 
    thereby gaining their respect for understanding and appreciating their greatness. They actually are more
    likely to listen to someone who develops strategies to support and implement their ideas as you 
    creatively weave your ideas into their program. Do give them the credit for successes, your goal is 
    being effective in your job/company.
10. DO remain positive about the company and the "boss". If you can't, it would be in your best interest to look
    for opportunities to develop you career elsewhere. 



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Though this is one of the most difficult work personalities to adjust to, you can make it work to your advantage by knowing what to do. You will find your attitude will improve and your dignity will be saved (along with your job).

 

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