By Linnda Durre’, Ph.D., Author of Surviving the Toxic Workplace – Protect Yourself Against Co-workers Bosses and Work Environments That Poison Your Day published by McGraw Hill, February 19, 2010.
As a business and corporate consultant and psychotherapist, I’ve analyzed, worked with, and consulted 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, change negative situations to positive ones, and preserve your sanity.
In my column, I will help you cope with a different type of boss, whether male or female. And remember – all of these toxic bosses in all of my columns can be of either gender. Toxicity does not discriminate according to the sexes. The previous ones include: Dick the Dictator, Bashia the Backstabber, Sewell the Sexual Harasser, Carl the Control Freak, Paula the Passive Aggressive, Clayton the Clueless, Greta the Gossip, Susie the Sugar Coater, Ian the Idea Stealer, Al the Alcoholic, Nancy the Narcissist, Donald the Deal Maker, Vernon the Verbal Attacker, Bobby the Boss’s Relative, Cynthia the Silent Treatment Torturer, Phil the Philanderer, Ned the Negligent, Sal the Slave Driver, Porter the Political Soap Boxer, Michael the Micromanager, Wade the One Upper, Betty the Battle Axe, Phoebe the Phony, Peter the Pig, Bill the Big Picture Boss, Dan the Detail Boss, Ellery the Yeller, Sandy the Snob, Blaine the Blamer, Winnie the Whiner, Eric the Erratic, Hy the Hider, Christine the Cruel,Robert the Rule Monger, and Denny the Distorter.
Orin the Orator goes on and on to make his point, usually in a conceited manner and doesn’t listen to you. Perhaps you are not bothered by Orin’s behavior. You may roll your eyes when you are out of Orin’s sight and just continue what you were doing. You may laugh internally at Orin’s arrogance. If you can deal with it, then you have a tougher skin than most. But this column is for those who can’t deal with his egotistical, superior attitude and his verbal flooding. Compared to Orin, Hurricane Sandy looks like a harmless drizzle.
Situation – Orin the Orator is your boss and he loves hearing the sound of his own voice. He likes to talk and he rarely if ever lets you have a word. He may use long, difficult to pronounce words to impress you and his audience. He is a master of the English language. Orin may be eloquent and quote Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, or Kant, and use large, impressive words that the average person doesn’t recognize. Orin does this because he likes to intimidate you intellectually. Or Orin may just go on tirades, barely stopping for a breath between sentences. He says the same thing over and over because he basically believes that he is smart, that you are stupid, and that he has to “educate you” when he’s really pounding you over the head with his verbal two by four. Then again, he may do both – go on unending, drawn out, soapbox speeches full of pompous, twenty dollar words delivered in a snobby, ostentatious tone, with all the dramatic flourishes of an actor on the English stage and never let you speak.
Orin is usually close minded, determined to get his way, and he always believes he is right. Orin doesn’t like compromising or considering the possibility that he may be wrong. His motto is “Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is already made up.” Orin may even ask you a question and then verbally steam roller you, not wanting to hear your answer. If you do get a chance to respond, Orin usually doesn’t even hear what you have to say because he has already made up his mind. It’s exhausting just to listen to Orin. You’d like to wear ear plugs, but he may just give you an assignment that you need to hear and complete. And woe to you if you don’t hear him! You need to develop an accurate audio filtering system.
Explanation – Orin is most likely a pretentious narcissist and believes he is the center of the Universe. He may have had parents who thought just that. They let him have center stage and complimented him and lauded him for simply sitting down at the dinner table. So he grew up with an exaggerated, false, near delusional sense of himself. He doesn’t have an accurate picture of how boring and tedious he really is. Orin is selfish, self-centered, and his narcissism makes him believe he is special and that the rules don’t apply to him. He can be clueless in reading other people and is insensitive to their boredom, frustration, and how they tune him out. When you work for him that is difficult to do and could be damaging to your job security if you don’t do what he asks.
Another childhood scenario is that his parents may have been attorneys, politicians, public speakers, and/or sales personnel who demonstrated the “gift of gab” and served as a role model for him to follow. They showed him that “he who is long winded, wins.” Not always true, but that’s what Orin believes, so he uses words as weapons to defeat anyone whom he believes is his enemy – which is basically everyone.
Because he is very aware of the power structure at work, Orin tries to impress his boss and his superiors since he is looking for promotions, raises, and climbing the ladder. Therefore, Orin believes that those beneath him are his “slaves” or underlings who need to jump at his every command. He believes you are powerless, stupid, incompetent, and expendable. So he comes across as condescending, egocentric, and power hungry. Be careful because he will create a case for getting you fired if you don’t do as he says.
Solution – Perhaps the most diplomatic and effective tactic in combating Orin’s behavior and verbal tsunami is to get his boss to give him some feedback about his tirades. Orin probably won’t listen to you. Even if he even hears what you’re telling him, he won’t do anything to change because you have no power over him and he considers you an inferior. So getting his own boss or even HR to tell him might be the way to go because he is not a candidate for self awareness, insight, or changing on his own given feedback from an employee. Don’t let him know you are consulting with his boss or HR. Do it secretly and don’t leave a paper trail about it with emails or letters.
You may want to ask other co-workers to join you when you go to Orin’s boss and/or to HR. There is safety and power in numbers in a situation like this and it will impress Orin’s superiors. They will realize that you are not a “whiner” and that something is wrong with Orin’s management style. But whether you go by yourself or with others, center your complaints on how Orin’s never-ending speeches and tirades are wasting employee time, interfering with work productivity, and that the company is losing money. State that Orin is creating a hostile work environment because of his condescension, put-downs, and haughtiness. Businesses and HR usually listen when money and profitability are at stake. They also pay attention when they are threatened with a law suit or informed that they may be violating labor law.
To cope, you must develop screening techniques that enable you to listen for the work orders and deadlines and to shut out the bombastic orations. That may be easier said than done. Working for Orin may be causing you physical pain such as headaches, neck aches, stomach aches and/or back aches. It may also be causing indigestion, anxiety, and depression. Is it worth your health to work for Orin? There are better bosses out there and better jobs. Start looking now. Or better yet, ask for a transfer immediately to another department where you have heard that the boss is fair, a good listener, and uses positive reinforcement to motivate and reward his employees. That beats out Orin any day!
—Linnda Durré, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, business consultant, corporate trainer, international speaker, and magazine, newspaper, and Internet columnist. She has worked with Fortune 500 companies giving speeches, seminars, trainings, and workshops. She hosted and co-produced two live call-in advice radio shows and two live call-in TV advice shows, including “Ask The Family Therapist” on America’s Health Network, which was associated with Mayo Clinic and aired from Universal Orlando. She is the author of Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against the Co-Workers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day (McGraw Hill 2010). The book’s website is: www.survivingthetoxicworkplace.com She has been interviewed on Oprah, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Daytime, Good Morning America, Canada AM, and The O’Reilly Factor (twice), and the national and/or local news on ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, Fox and CW, as well as by Forbes, WSJ, Inc. Magazine, Investor’s Business Daily, Business Week, Job Week, Career Builder, Law Office Administrator, Entrepreneur Magazine, as well as newspapers including Orlando Business Journal, Sydney (Australia) Herald, Pasadena Star News, LA Times, New Jersey Star Ledger, Argus Leader, and many more. She has written for Forbes, AOL, Yahoo, CareerBuilder, Monster, A&U Magazine, Orlando Business Journal, and American Cities Business Journals. For more information about her consulting and speaking, contact her at Linnda.Durre@gmail.com and 407-739-8620.