Linnda Durré, Ph.D. is Author of Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against Co-Workers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day, McGraw-Hill, 02/19/10
As a business and corporate consultant, I’ve analyzed and worked with many difficult bosses over the years. In order to cope and deal with them, you need to know why they act the way they do and how best to deal with them, in order to earn their respect, get things accomplished, and preserve your sanity. In my twice-monthly column, I will help you cope with a different type of boss. Let’s take one of the most frequently complained about types – Dick the Dictator.
DICK THE DICTATOR
THE SITUATION: Dick the Dictator is used to leading, voicing his opinion, and having his commands carried out immediately. Dick’s philosophy is “My way or the highway!” and “Do as I say, NOW!” You can’t breathe around him. He always has to be right and he is angry when his orders are not followed. He may also be a yeller and a screamer, demeaning and embarrassing you and your co-workers in public. He may also be a micro-manager and he treats you like you’re an incompetent imbecile who has no vision, smarts, or initiative. He tells you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. He rules by intimidation and fear. People usually hate and resent him. They secretly want to see him fail and may resort to passive aggressive tactics to set him up to appear foolish or fall.
THE EXPLANATION: Dick may have a background in the military and he believes that he should run everything just like a military command with him as a four star general. His childhood may have had a very dominating parent – his mother, father or both – who served as role model. Or conversely, one or both of his parents may have been very negligent, passive, and/or weak, which made him feel insecure and scared. Someone needed to take charge, and he took over. He learned to be decisive as a child, to protect himself, feel like he was strong, secure, and in control of his life and destiny.
Beneath that exterior, Dick may be like the Wizard in “The Wizard of Oz,” who inflates himself up through special effects, scaring you and pretending they are someone bigger and more powerful than they are. When Toto pulls the curtain aside to expose a skittish old man manipulating the dials, “The Great and Almighty Oz” yells, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” He does it to cover himself, pretend that it was a mistake, divert your attention, and dissuade you from thinking he’s a charlatan. Be wise and don’t be thrown off by someone like Dick. He is an insecure individual who needs to dominate. Don’t let that happen to you!
What people may not surmise, is that Dick secretly likes others to be strong because they make him feel like he’s supported by other competent people. So being strong and dependable around him, in a more quiet way, is the way to be. Stand up for yourself and let him know you’re not a doormat. You will get along better when you are not intimidated by him. You’ll also be a role model to the people at work when you do and they’ll admire you for it. Dick will respect you when he feels you are as strong as he is because that connotes dependability and reliability to him.
THE SOLUTION: “Dick, I admire your take charge attitude, that you like to get things done and see them happen immediately. Having a mover and a shaker as a boss is motivating and I like your commitment to excellence. What doesn’t work is your style – yelling, screaming, intimidating, humiliating, and demanding immediate gratification that is next to impossible to achieve. People need time to accomplish your goals and you need to have a more realistic expectation about the time involved. You are creating an office of people who resent you and who may become resistant to your demands, slowing production and being secretly and silently rebellious. You don’t want that to happen. We are all competent, dependable people. You can rely on me and on all of us to get things done, and we all expect to be treated with respect, which we will reciprocate. The other people in the department, me included, would all like to get along with you, accomplish our goals, and we would like you to consider our opinions, as we will consider yours. I trust that you will heed my advice, because I’d rather not go to HR to report you for being unrealistically demanding. Thanks for listening. I hope we will accomplish our goals in our department.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linnda Durré, Ph.D., a psychotherapist, corporate consultant, national speaker, and columnist, currently hosts and produces her third radio show, “The Linnda Durré Show” on WEUS 810AM Orlando. She has hosted and co-produced two live call-in TV shows, including “Ask the Family Therapist” on the Mayo Clinic-affiliated America’s Health Network, and has been interviewed on Oprah, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and The O’Reilly Factor, among others. She has been featured in publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Parade, and San Francisco Chronicle, and has written for Forbes Online and Orlando Business Journal.