People have strengths. People have weaknesses. People are not perfect. We all have problems. Some problems are easy to deal with, others…not so much. We all have had to work with that one-person who really rubbed us the wrong way.
Remember that boss who knew everything, who didn’t like other people’s ideas, and belittled everyone? You know, that one who was the boss but there was no logical explanation for it? The trick to working with people who are egotistical, self-centered, and delusional is two-fold: make sure they think, you think, they are incredibly awesome (then find a way to believe it yourself); and develop a path for success in spite of them. Doing this takes extreme emotional intelligence. Something I learned the hard way.
Tim*(name changed, obviously) was awful. He was horrible to work with. He couldn’t sell anything, never could gain consensus and always made bad business decisions. He did have one thing going for him though; his last name was the same as the one on the company’s letterhead. Tim had zero emotional intelligence. Or maybe he did and just didn’t use it; either way – Tim was the worst.
Tim would assign me tasks/projects. I would do them. Then I would do more. He would assign me more tasks. I would do them. He would ignore me. I would ask for feedback, then he would ignore me. When it was time to formally review performance, his response was always “adequate”. No details. No discussion. It took a few months but I learned how to win him over, I learned what I needed to do to engage and succeed, not with him, but in spite of him.
Working with Tim was difficult but not impossible. What I learned from Tim I have been able to apply over and over again with all types of colleagues. Here are the strategies I use:
Write Down What Bothers You
Write down all the bad things. Then burn the paper that you wrote all those horrible things on. Really. Actually get a lighter and burn it. There is something cleansing about fire that allows you to move on. Burn the problems so there is no going back.
Write Down the Good Things They Do
Don’t burn this list. Keep it. Read daily if you have to. Remind yourself of the good in this person (even if it is just their last name). This will help you see them as a human rather than an object. Every time they do something good, right it down.
Stop Thinking About Yourself
It is almost impossible to feel sad/angry/worried if you are not thinking about yourself. I am not talking about self-care, self-respect, or self-confidence. Those are all very important. But, if you focus on other people, your worldview changes and you are able to help more, provide greater value, and become a bigger influencer.
Start Thinking About How You Can Help Them
Let go of your pride. People like it when others think about them. Think about your boss’s needs and find a way to meet them. Right down the needs in list format. Cross them off when you fill that specific need. Done.
Never Let Their Actions Determine Your Feelings & Actions
Emotions are temporary. Feelings are long-term decisions. Emotions come automatically; once they come, how you respond is up to you. Your long-term feelings and subsequent actions are 100% determined by you.
Make Sure They Feel Important
Self-explanatory, do what needs to be done. Compliment them. Praise them. Ask them for advice even if you don’t use it. Getting someone else’s opinion can help clarify your thoughts and no one is always wrong (hopefully). Respect their authority but don’t let it limit your influence either.
No matter how hard you work, there is a way to work better. Work smarter to deliver better results. Focus on the needs of the business and your boss and then work harder by working smarter.
Never talk bad about this person or about anyone. Gossip spreads fast. Gossip kills relationships. Gossip destroys trust. Never gossip. If you wouldn’t say it to this bad boss and it is not being asked of you by HR or their boss, don’t say it.
Gratitude is powerful. It will change you as a person and it will change the person receiving the appreciation (eventually). Tell them why you are thankful for them and be specific (except don’t say: “since you are so horrible I have now developed emotional intelligence”, find something else).
Just because they are not changing, growing or progressing doesn’t mean that you can’t. Look for the good in others. Deliver results first then find even more ways to help. Focus on being aware of and then controlling your own emotions. Then you can focus on understanding the emotions of others so you can help them too. You might even forget how horrible that boss is, I know I did.