Dealing With a Moody Boss


Ever feel like your boss is capable of transforming into more personalities than Jim Carrey? Most employees welcome variety and challenge in their work -- but not when it comes to dealing with the boss. Unfortunately, in most jobs, success lies not in just managing your own work, but also by what career counselor Anita Dorsey calls "managing up."

"Managing up is a way to manage the moods and actions of your superiors through careful understanding of what makes them tick," Dorsey says. The key is in knowing what your boss thinks is important and understanding what is placing pressure on him or her. When the boss feels pressure, invariably he or she will displace it to employees. "You have to understand the motivations for the moods, and then you'll know how to handle them and how much effort you should put into reacting," she says.

While some bosses with broad mood swings may have conditions that require medication, others simply have a personality that is more demonstrative of moods. "The classic A-type personality is going to display a wider range of moods more regularly than a more passive personality," Dorsey says. If you have a moody boss, you probably know it. But here are some examples of types of moody boss and what makes them tick:

The Fickle

This boss loves you today but hates you tomorrow. Otherwise known as the "what have you done for me lately?" boss, "This type probably is under extreme pressure from the top to achieve specific objectives -- some of which may be moving targets," Dorsey explains. Talk to this boss about upper management's expectations and how you can contribute to meeting tough objectives.

The Chinese Fire Drill

This boss is happy-go-lucky until that looming deadline is, oops, tomorrow! Then she'll move your cube to the copy room if you don't pull an all-nighter to finish that 75-page presentation by 7 a.m. This boss needs some time-management help. "Make sure you ask questions regularly about work load, anticipated projects and objectives, and how you can help establish a communication and scheduling process for your department," Dorsey advises.

The Work/Life Acrobat

Trouble at home for this boss spells trouble for you. "Unfortunately a lot of employees bear the brunt of their boss' displaced aggression," Dorsey says. "And like everybody, bosses struggle to balance home and work life."

If you believe issues at home are causing your boss' moodiness, it helps to remind yourself not to take it personally. And whatever you do, don't get mired in your supervisor's personal life. If you think that your boss' moods are making it impossible for you to perform your job optimally, or are influencing how your boss perceives your performance, then it's time to talk to Human Resources confidentially or your boss' manager (depending on the state of office politics) about the issue. "Many companies now offer a variety of counseling services to assist employees with difficult personal issues and work/life balance which can help this type of boss," Dorsey says.

The Pretender

Quite frankly, this boss doesn't know squat about his job -- or yours for that matter. As long as he's not challenged, he's your best buddy. But ask him a tough question like "what makes our product/service/process better?" and he'll turn on you faster than Donald Trump can fire his latest apprentice.

Dorsey cautions: "When you're working for someone who is in over his or her head, you have to make sure you're networked with those who will outlast this boss." You have to put up with the Pretender until someone at the top recognizes his incompetence. In the mean time, make sure you don't go down with him. Document your accomplishments and network with others who can help you continue to progress in your job.

Many employees believe that by simply following the boss' orders, they will do well in their career. "This is utterly untrue," Dorsey says. "In nearly every career, you have to actively manage your boss, moody or not, to make sure that you get the training, direction, and work environment that will enable you to perform your best."

Next: Worst Boss Stories -- Ever ! >>

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