Does Your Firm Seem Like a Schoolyard?

If you’re like many senior business leaders today, you may often feel like you run a schoolyard or playground, not a professional office. But perhaps the only mood swings in sight are your manager’s mood swings.

Bad bosses, or what I call Terrible Office Tyrants (TOTs™) seem to be making rounds these days, as job loss fears are rampant.  With unemployment at 9.5 percent nationally, it’s no wonder. Your managers may seem like the bullies at recess who goad your staff into jumping down from the top of a towering slide. The real-life version being that they ask subordinates to go into their boss’s office – the lion’s den – to confirm the details of Wednesday’s staff meeting.

If you’re running a company, this undoubtedly makes you cringe.

But take heart. In my new book, Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant™ (TOT): How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job, I remind people that childish behavior at work is not your imagination! Sand may not be seen on the hallway parquet floor, but sandbox politics can be found everywhere if you look closely. Welcome to TOTdom.

So if unruly bosses and children who cannot moderate their power (a.k.a. TOTs) have a lot in common, what can you do?  A few tips:

1.    Use C.A.L.M. – Be the voice of reason to TOTs:

Communicate – Openly, honestly and frequently;

Anticipate – Know when trouble might be coming down the hall, and be prepared to “manage your managers” with solutions;

Laugh – Humor is the great diffuser of tension, so use it to simmer a heated debate; and

Manage all around you – Role model the behavior you want to see in your  team, and keep your ear to the ground. Use positive reinforcement, and set limits to bad behavior.

2.    Don’t allow needy bosses to consume the life of your valued staff. Needy bosses have “separation anxiety,” and want your team to work virtually 24/7. That ultimately hurts productivity and profits. Managers like these require a TOT “countdown” warning, especially, for example, when staff is leaving on a planned vacation this summer: “I’m leaving in 4, 3, 2, 1 week (s), but John is covering for me, and all my projects are under control.”

3.    Know that angry, irritable and generally bad bosses are usually acting out of fear. Corporate anxiety is contagious, so make sure you’re doing your part to foster confidence and independent thinking. TOTs can easily become stressed out about their own jobs; meeting deadlines; reducing staff or pay; or just being overworked, and pass that along to your team. Your workforce will be left wondering: “Is it me?” – wasting precious time.

You can take proactive steps to manage the 20 most common TOT traits, whether they are of the “bratty” or “little lost lamb” variety. Remember that behind your manager’s professional façade is often a small child (hanging from the monkey bars in fright!)

Take a moment to check off how many of these traits you witness directly or indirectly in a day. Please let me know through the blog or site contact forms. There are tons of tips and anecdotes in the new book, but I’d like to hear yours!

Bratty Behavior

1.    Bragging
2.    Bullying
3.    Demanding
4.    Ignoring
5.    Impulsiveness
6.    Lying
7.    Self-Centeredness
8.    Stubbornness
9.    Tantrums
10.  Territorialism
11.   Whining

Little Lost Lambs
12.    Endless Questioning
13.    Fantasy World
14.    Fickleness
15.    Helplessness
16.    Irrational Fears
17.    Forgetfulness
18.    Mood Swings
19.    Neediness
20.    Short Attention Spans