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Jerk Boss? What Parenting Has Taught Me about Dealing with an A***ole

Being a mom has definitely taught me more about dealing with members of the human race, both small and big, than any other role. To save you some tears, here’s a recap of some transferable advice:

1) Notice and praise the behavior you’d like to see more of. Of course you cannot control the boss’ behavior, but you can control your responses. So consciously wait for the (rare) occasion when the boss does something you wish to see more frequently: she gets back to you quickly, he lays off the email for 12 hours, they let your work past without micro-editing. Jump on those with words of appreciation about how happy you are to be treated that way. Praise will release dopamine, a drug that we always want more of!

2) Read the signals, time your interactions. Parents know how tricky it is to get a 4 year old in the bathtub when they are in the middle of watching their favorite show. Wise parents listen for the theme music and scoop them up during that transition. Similarly, learn to know the rhythm of your boss’ other demands. Lay low when they are tense about the upcoming meeting. Sally in to chat on Friday afternoon if that’s when things are winding down.

3) Lose it. Yup. After being level-headed, calm, and never raising your voice, it can be very useful to raise your voice and stamp your feet. Just once. My advice is you do it in frustration at the situation, and not make it personal. But for making the point that something is NOT OK, this really works. Just remember, it’s the contrast to your normally cool and collected self that makes it effective!

(image from Wikipedia Commons by Kyle Flood from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)

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