As women continue to take the corporate world by storm, we must learn to deal with the added stress of intricate coworker relationships. Sometimes these coworkers are our bosses… and sometimes these bosses are awful. How do we deal with these people without breaking down and getting pegged as the “emotional woman” or the “sensitive girl in the corner cubicle”? How do we get them to see that we really are as awesome as Anne Hathaway (post Vogue makeover) and they really are a less amusing version of Meryl Streep… aka the devil…who wears Prada. Here are a few simple tips to survive a hostile boss and work environment.
1. Leave work at work. This one is tough because you get upset and frustrated throughout the day so when you get home you might feel like crying or venting. While it is important to work through these emotions (see #2), you don’t want to drag the stress you feel during the day into your home life. If you bring your work drama home, it becomes your home drama. Suddenly your relationships are struggling and your mom is rejecting your phone calls. This is not the space you want to create for yourself. Instead, create a “letting go ritual” for your way home. Make a mental transition and become consciously aware that you are leaving work behind and going to a safer, happier place. Release your negative energy through deep breathing or singing at the top of your lungs. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Wilson Phillips “Hold On” is probably the most effective way to let it all out. Break free from those chains!
2. Compartmentalize. Leaving work at work does not mean ignoring your emotions. The more we try to subdue our feelings, the more they build up. It can be really helpful to set aside a time or place to deal with the anger, sadness, guilt, grief, etc that is caused by your work and or your boss. For example, schedule a weekly counseling session and know that it is your time to let it all out! Cry, yell, vent and complain. Your therapist can handle it. When the session is over, imagine putting all those emotions into a little compartment somewhere and put it away until the next session. If your emotions begin to come up again at work or at home, tell yourself that you have made a time and place for them, and now is not it. Knowing that you have a future session scheduled is also helpful because it is your light at the end of the tunnel.
3. Don’t fight a loosing battle. The hardest part about dealing with a difficult boss is the different level of status you both hold in the company. Unfortunately, the boss has more power and more leverage, no matter how bad at their job they really are. Engaging in a power struggle will not end well for you, even if you are right! Rise above the urge to butt heads. It makes you the bigger person and the higher ups in the company (aka your boss’s bosses aka the ones who really matter)will see that.
4. Bosses are humans too. Remind yourself that you are not the crazy one in this situation. They definitely have their own issues that are infiltrating their work relationships. Whatever it was that happened in their lives that made them an evil, jaded, backstabbing boss, it must have been really hard on them. Sometimes we continually try to please a person that just cannot be pleased. This is not because of anything you are saying or doing, nor is there really anything you can say or do. Their behavior and attitude exists independently of you. Take a moment and let that sink in. Don’t feel bad about yourself because your boss is unhappy with his or her own life! Just do your work the best you can and try to survive.
5. Manage your manager, or should I say “Jedi-mind manage” your manager. Casually mention something they should be doing and when they acknowledge it, act like it was their brilliant idea in the first place! In the rare instance when they act like a good boss, praise the crap out of what they did (positive reinforcement… dogs respond well to it too). The sandwich trick is also helpful. This is where you sandwich in a negative critique in-between two positives. This really stumps a lot of difficult people because who can get upset when you open and close a statement with praise. For example, “Hello Boss, I just wanted to say I really learned a lot in our meeting this morning (positive), but I was discouraged when you interrupted everything I was saying (negative point, say what you need them to hear)… but it was great when you mentioned that new idea (close with a positive). Try to be somewhat sincere in these strategies. Swallow your anger and your pride for the moment so you can really get your point across in a professional manner. You catch more bees with honey…
6. Take this as a learning opportunity. There are good leaders and bad leaders; you can learn from both. Sometimes learning what NOT to do is better than learning how to mimic how someone else runs things.
7. Be grateful for the law of impermanence. This basically means that nothing in life is set forever. People, things, jobs and circumstances change. Wait it out, eventually a change will occur in either your life, or theirs. You won’t be stuck in this position forever. Eventually you will get a better opportunity, or your boss will move on, or you will get promoted, or someone will have to move out of state… we can’t control change, but we can acknowledge that change is inevitable. Most people resist change, but in this situation, we can be grateful for it!