Threats & Intimidation. Lies & Name-Calling. Short-Term Results & Unending Chaos.
Introducing the Abrasive Leader, who may also happen to be your boss. Although your visceral reaction may be to seek greener (or more northerly) pastures, quitting often isn’t a viable option for many invested leaders.
Abrasive boss or not, you’re still being counted on to lead your team and deliver results, so what can you do?
1. Stick To Your Values.
You may feel like yelling back or even getting physical, but competing at this level is like playing a joke on the jokester. While some may see you as a courageous hero, it won’t be worth the damage to your reputation. As difficult as it may be, keep it professional, hold true to who you are and what’s most important to you. You want to look in the mirror each day knowing you took the high road.
2. Forget Managing Up. Focus on Filtering Down.
Influencing one’s superior can be challenging at the best of times, so forget about it with this boss. Any attempt will be received as a threat, with potentially dangerous impacts to your already tenuous relationship. Besides, just because your boss stinks at leading others doesn’t mean you have to. Protect your team like a shelter in the storm by limiting your boss’ interactions and filtering the extreme messages. Be highly aware of what you say and how you say it, while keeping your team focused on the right priorities. Remember that those smart people you hired are watching closely and taking your lead.
3. Seek Support and Self-Care.
Leverage your highly trusted relationships, be it for support, a transfer, or even to make a formal complaint. Never accept this unacceptable behaviour, but also be mindful that organizations are mysterious places. For unknown reasons someone influential continues to support your boss, and making your concerns public could unearth a political landmine. You also need to be at your best each day, and that means boosting your self-care. Visit the gym, your psychologist, and/or the prayer room more frequently for physical, emotional and spiritual rejuvenation. In the very least, forget carrying over vacation days this year and book a trip. Preferably to a destination with no internet or cell service.
4. Say Thank You.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘This guy’s a jerk and you think I should thank him… for what?!’ Sure, you’ll be thankful when your boss is gone, but in the meantime, you’re being taught a valuable lesson about leadership in how to stay true to yourself, how to protect your team, how to be resilient and the incredibly powerful ‘what not to do’. So while a hand-written note to your boss might be pushing it, deep down you can be thankful knowing this experience is helping you grow. Be prepared: it might take getting through the experience first before appreciating it.
Whether you work for an abrasive leader or not, nobody ever said leadership was going to be easy. I call this the responsibility and privilege that comes with leading others. Be yourself, protect your team, leverage your network, and be at your best each day. Your team, your colleagues and your superiors will see you taking the high road. Embrace and be thankful for the challenge and subsequent learning, as you’ll be a better leader because of the experience.