Walking on the Right Eggshells: Learning How to Anticipate the Moods of Your Boss

I had a boss once who constantly screamed at me for doing my job. My position required me to deal with the media, but he hated the press. Whenever I spoke with them, he criticized me for doing my job.

I think this was a perfect example of an executive who knew he needed a person in a particular position because it was expected of a company of that size, but didn’t understand the real purpose for the job – and certainly didn’t see it as being necessary for success.

Because I genuinely liked and respected this man, I put up with his less than stellar behavior. However, I did not hesitate to argue with him when he threw his hissy fits.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have this luxury.

In a perfect world, all of our bosses would be understanding, smart, compassionate, and reasonable. However, that hope is not just realistic. Most bosses are focused on the overall needs of the company – budget, profit, staff, and reputation. While you may have all the same goals, your ideas of achieving success may not meld with his.

It’s important to realize that a misunderstanding with your boss – even as overblown as those I had with my former boss – is not the end of the world, and certainly not the end of your tenure with a company. However, short of filing a lawsuit, sometimes the only way of dealing with an over-anxious boss is to just deal with him. There won’t be any professional consequences, especially if you are right in the long run. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the emotional ramifications of these run-ins.

It may be my long history with a dysfunctional family, but I have to give my parents kudos for my ability to anticipate mood shifts and to deal with temper tantrums. I’m not talking about outright abuse: I really do mean petty, little power plays. If your boss abuses you or your position, sue him. That move may make your next job more difficult to get, but right is right.

My focus is really on bosses that don’t behave badly all the time, but are prone to temporary fits of temper.

Everyone should have a boss whose behavior fits all the textbooks, but when your boss gets out of line, you have to make the decision whether to deal with it. If your answer to the problem is to fight via the legal system, know that you’re unlikely to be employed again without a lot of explanation; it’s not legal to not hire someone because of a previous legal action, but with so many candidates available for any given job, a prospective employer can find about a billion reasons not to hire you. People are afraid of people who file lawsuits, because it costs them money when it happens to them.

The main point you need to realize is that if your boss is a little vehement in questioning your work, it’s probably not personal. Make that your mantra – it’s just business, it’s just business – and you’re going to find it a lot easier to get from day to day. And when your boss has the opportunity to recommend someone for promotion, he’ll probably remember the employee who faced his wrath head-on, rather than running for help.

Dave Saunders helps people stand out and “Be the Brand” as a personal branding and marketing specialist. Manage your career online: Create, Enhance and Share a better resume, free at VisualCV.com

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