The Employee Approach: First, be grateful for having a boss who recognizes praiseworthy performance. Not all do, as is described below. Thank your boss when you are praised, but, in private, go beyond simple thanks to ask your boss what in your actions most prompted the praise, and what you should continue doing to further improve. Further, ask your boss what meaningful areas for improvement he/she sees for you, and then act upon these. By asking about both the positive and the not-so-positive, you help yourself, by getting meaningful feedback on what to do and what not to do or what to change. Further, you help your boss, not only in helping to feel comfortable in continuing to praise employees for work well done, but also to feel comfortable giving critical, meaningful, and constructive feedback on what you can do to further improve yourself. You can help shape your boss from a good boss to a great boss, and both of you will be better for it.
The Employee Approach: If the Tearer-Downer is approachable, he/she should be approached, in private, to let him/her know how destructive and demoralizing this negative style really is. An open boss will react positively to such a discussion and change his/her attitude. Unfortunately, few such managers really are approachable, and when you try, you may likely receive even harsher invective. In this case, first try to address the Tearer-Downer’s concerns and point out what you’re doing specifically to address them. If you get even grudging acknowledgement from this, continue doing it – there may yet be hope. If continued attempts to satisfy him/her continue to get you nowhere, then talk to peers of this mis-manager with whom you have a good relationship, and get their advice on how to best proceed. You may want to talk to this mis-manager’s boss to let him/her know what is going on, and the negative impact it’s having on you, your group, and the company; but recognize that there is always some danger in going around your own boss, and this could backfire. If nothing seems to work to improve the situation, then you have a choice to either seek a position under a different boss, or to seek a position in another company (see Know When to Fold 'Em). Living forever under a harsh mis-manager is no way to live in the long run (see When It's Time to 'Walk Away', Don't Turn Back!). Your health and happiness are too important to sacrifice for such an ungrateful boss.
These are just two of many Mis-Manager personality types that you will come across in knowledg worker-based (and other) organizations. I’ll get into more in subsequent blog posts. The negative impact of Mis-Managers on companies cannot be overstated. The key is to recognize the various personality types and to approach them in the most effective way to help both groups and their Mis-Managers. Employees must recognize that Mis-Managers hold positions of direct authority over them, and so must approach them carefully. They must walk a fine line and find what works best for them. Their work environment, and future, may depend upon it.
[Note: If you have a Mis-Manager personality type you would like to see spotlighted, please let me know. I will do my best to accommodate you.]