So, which boss is it going to be today? Are you going to get the reasonable, intelligent and fair boss? Or will it be the irrational, impulsive and abusive one? The real problem, of course, is when it’s the same person.
If only they would post a schedule as to which personality would be appearing on any given day.
Jekyll and Hyde bosses are tough to work with for two reasons. The first is the dramatic shift in direction and priorities from day to day. Just when you think you’re on the right track and doing the right things, Mr. Hyde comes in and tells you to make a left turn. The second is the constantly swinging emotional pendulum, resulting in that delightful on-edge workplace atmosphere.
What can you do? Excluding the situations where there is actually a serious, organic psychological issue involved, there’s one strategy that works pretty consistently. It’s all about learning how to push the right buttons.
Your boss, like all of us, has emotional states that are activated by specific triggers. Maybe it’s financial issues that bring out his (her) Mr. Hyde side. Maybe it’s problems at home, or even just a bad drive into work. You don’t really have a lot of control over those, but you can try to reverse the effect by pushing some of his positive-emotion buttons.
It starts by paying attention to those things that seem to put your boss in a happy mood. Maybe it’s talking about his family or his favourite sports team. Maybe he’s passionate about restaurants or cars. Once you’re armed with this knowledge, you just have to start using it to your (and everyone else’s) advantage. When Dr. Jekyll shows up at work, bring one of these topics up. Send him an FYI email with a link to an article about one of these things. Get him talking about the game the night before, or the restaurant you just went to. (Try to be at least a little subtle. If he’s in mid rant, for example, it’s probably not a good strategy to interrupt him with “Hey, how about those Packers?!”) Do it right, though, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can turn things around.