What to do when your boss is clueless
Sooner or later you’ll run across a boss who has all the characteristics of a first-class jerk. These people are insensitive at the worst times, and their inappropriate comments make you wish they had a better filter. They just don’t seem to care how their actions slow down or harm the individuals they manage on a daily basis. So, without committing a felony, how do you deal with these devils of management mayhem? Here are six quotes by people who just might have known what it’s like to be in your situation and, most importantly, how to cope.
“We must all hang together or, most assuredly, we will all hang separately.” —Benjamin Franklin
Remember that you’re not alone. Your coworkers share your situation. Recently, I watched a practice owner berate a practice manager for something that, in actuality, the practice owner had done. Several other team members and a client witnessed this tense moment. After the owner left the room, a team member put a hand on the upset practice manager’s shoulder and said, “It happens to all of us. You do a great job and care about all of us. You’re not alone–we carry this weight together.” In one moment, the manager went from the verge of tears to a smile that was returned by her team and the client.
We’re not responsible for other people’s behavior. However, we do have control over our response. In this situation, the healthiest response is to let it go. Don’t allow it to eat you up for the rest of the day or into your evening. That doesn’t mean you won’t do something about what occurred. You’ll remember you’re not alone and be comforted by that thought. Then, when your emotions have calmed, you can determine if this is something you’ll address with the boss. Sometimes the burden of these occurrences is too much and a serious conversation with the offender is the only way forward.
“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity and the emotions to affect other people.” —Jim Rohn
Look at your interactions with your boss as a learning opportunity. What can you do to ensure that your communication is clear, that you’ve expressed your expectations in a productive way and that you are understood? With people who communicate in a similar manner as you, it’s easy to know they get you. The biggest communication challenges happen when we communicate with people in our lives that have a dramatically different communication style from our own. Think of times you felt you had really connected with your boss. What was different then, and what could you do to repeat that success? Did it work because you picked a good time to talk, or was it when you sent a written review of the topic before your discussion?
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” —Lao Tzu
Be careful—there’s a fine line between manager and micromanager. If your boss leaves the majority of the decisions up to you, make sure you don’t go over the top and try to make every decision yourself, thereby micromanaging your team. Team members won’t realize their potential unless you give them the opportunity to make good choices and, on occasion, learn from their mistakes.
Try this out: When team members ask you what they should do in a certain situation, ask them what they would do if you weren’t present to answer their question. Then, let them know that if it’s a good decision, they don’t need to ask you the next time. If you find there’s a line outside your door or Post-it notes all over your computer monitor when you’re gone for 15 minutes, you may need to start this process now!
“I would like to take you seriously, but to do so would be an affront to your intelligence.” —George Bernard Shaw
The next time “You’ve got to be kidding me!” pops into your head during a discussion with your boss, remember the space between what people want and what they have is endless. For example: Sarah is dumbfounded when her practice owner asks her to oversee the conversion of an old office into a new exam room to be completed two days from now. While inwardly she may question the sanity of her owner, Sarah knows that trying to talk the practice owner out of this idea is a bad idea. And firing back, “Do you want it now or do you want it right?” won’t end in a pleasant exchange of ideas. After acknowledging she understands what her boss wants to accomplish, this is a good time for Sarah to withdraw and consider her best next steps. Give the boss time to cool off. When you return to the topic later, you may find that the initial energy has deflated and the boss now realizes the expectations were unrealistic. At that point you can provide some options on how to scale down the timeline, or the outcome, of the original idea. Remember, this person is truly in the “clueless boss” category, and the original idea just may have not been a smart way to commit manpower and resources from a business point of view.
“The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.” —from the film Mulan
As you read through these thoughts, maybe it’s become obvious that this sounds like your boss, your workplace or your life. Remember, you’re not responsible for the behavior of others—you are responsible for how you respond in the situation. The skills that you learn from this situation may be meaningful and perhaps useful in the future. Not sure if this is the case? Take two minutes and write down everything you’ve accomplished and learned that would be benefits if you described them to a prospective employer. At the end of the two minutes, you’ll most likely find it’s a formidable list filled with reasons to celebrate your success. Can’t come up with a list? Ask a friend for help and stop being so modest! After all, no one else needs to see your list. Not much to put on the list? Maybe you’re too stifled and it’s no longer a learning experience but a toxic work environment.
“Don't spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” —Coco Chanel
You tried and persevered through it all over the last year, including sleepless nights, endless hours and sometimes sacrificing parts of your sanity, but it still doesn’t work. Now it’s time to consider another position. Your gut tells you it won’t work and, as you consider the experience you’ve had over the past year, your heart agrees. Make a resolution not to settle. Start actively looking for the workplace where you will be appreciated, encouraged and acknowledged for your contribution. Know when you’ve done all you can and it’s time to move on. Take control of your career path. Stay or go—you decide.
The "Management Matters" blog features the writing of veterinary practice management consultants Monica Dixon Perry, Mark Opperman and Sheila Grosdidier. Come back every month for their unique take on current and future trends in veterinary practice as well as tried-and-true tips for improving patient care, team member morale and practice revenue.
Been there? Done that? Tell us about your experience. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org