Help! I'm About to Lose It With My Boss

Last Updated Jun 9, 2010 4:34 PM EDT

Dear Ron, My boss has made some bad decisions recently that have really affected our group's reputation within the company. I've tried to correct his course, but he resists me at every turn. It's gotten to the point where I'm afraid I'm about to lose it with him. What should I do?
First, let me say you should never get into a "dirt fight" with your boss. By dirt fight, I mean some type of situation where your emotions become engaged and you wind up fighting over even minor details with him or her in a very emotional way. You never want things to escalate to that point.

First of all, you're never going to win. You could prevail momentarily, but there could well be consequences later. So your boss may relent on a particular issue and you may feel like you've won, but there could be an impact later on, say, your performance review, or your ability to get key assignments. Secondly, responding this way opens up a window into your character for your other superiors and your colleagues. They will have noted your inability to manage your boss and handle disagreements gracefully, and this will not reflect well on you.

When things get emotional like this, you need to get an outside perspective from a trusted colleague or a coach that can give you some objective feedback and advice. Note that I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't disagree with your boss or propose alternative solutions. But when it spirals into an emotional issue for you, that's when you have to step back.

One former client of mine is a woman who can't stand her boss, and they're constantly fighting with each other. She's tried to switch groups, but he's basically told her that there's nothing available for her elsewhere in the company; it's unclear whether her boss has had a hand in that or not, but if I had to guess, I'd say he did. Better that she should have walked away from the fight and not gotten so emotionally involved, and found other people at her company who would give her broader support.

Similarly, you need to keep in mind your larger career goals and your goals within your company, rather than focusing on simply winning an emotional argument with your boss. Good luck.

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  • Ron Brown

    Ronald B. Brown is a leading expert in the fields of leadership development and organizational change. He is the founder and president of Banks Brown, a management consulting firm that specializes in providing leading-edge skills to optimize the performance of leaders and organizations. He has served as a consultant to Fortune 100 corporations such as the Procter & Gamble Company, Avon Products, Inc., McDonald's Corporation, General Electric Plastics, Kaiser Permanente, Shell Oil Company, Eastman Kodak Company, General Mills Inc., and Motorola, Inc. Brown holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. and B.S. from Michigan State University.