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Managing Your Boss

How to Handle a Hothead Boss

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Managers should strive to be role models, setting an example of mature, professional behavior. Unfortunately, however, some managers do just the opposite. These immature individuals refuse to control their emotions and freely vent their frustrations by yelling at employees. Amazingly, however, their own bosses seldom see this childish behavior. If you're stuck with one of these stress-inducing supervisors, here are some coping suggestions.

1. Accept the fact that you have an immature manager. Lower your expectations.
This boss is never going to be the wise, mature mentor of your dreams. So just expect him to act like a tantrum-throwing two-year-old. Then you won't be disappointed.

2. Don't take it personally.
Hothead managers yell at everyone except people who have more power. So remember that this has nothing to do with you personally.

3. Don't respond in kind.
Yelling back at your hothead boss will only escalate the situation. And since this person has some power over you, that could lead to career suicide. This may not be fair, but it's a fact. And watch your non-verbal behavior – grimacing and eye-rolling will not be helpful.

4. Remember that one of you needs to act like an adult. That will have to be you.
If two people act like children, the result is a playground fight. So, since your manager is already acting like a kid, you're the only one left who can keep the situation under control.

5. Take a deep breath and mentally disengage.
To stay verbally calm, you must first be physically and emotionally calm. Breathe deeply to reduce your physical tension. Then mentally take yourself outside the situation. One trick is to think about something totally outside of work, like a vacation spot or fun activity. Another is to mentally step back and view your raging manager as an outside observer might. (He will then look pretty stupid.)

6. Wait until the storm passes.
If you don't feed the fire, the managerial temper tantrum will gradually recede. You can't have a rational conversation with an angry person, so keep your responses neutral and minimal until she burns herself out.

7. Focus on the topic, not the tantrum.
Once your boss is able to converse normally, forget about his outburst and just continue with the discussion.

8. Keep your sense of humor.
Although being yelled at is certainly no laughing matter, sometimes these ballistic managers really look like idiots. If you can find anything amusing about the situation, it will help you retain your sanity.

9. Provide feedback in a calm moment (but only if your hothead boss is a reasonable human being).
Some otherwise okay managers simply lose it from time to time. These folks may be open to hearing about the effects of their behavior. And some of them actually try to change.

10. Educate about the costs of anger.
Hothead managers usually fail to realize that their volatile behavior will cost them in the long run. Employees avoid giving them bad news. In fact, people tend to avoid them altogether. As a result, they are often blindsided by problems that could have been avoided and not given information that might be helpful.

11. Strategize with other victims.
Since hothead managers usually berate everyone, it's pretty easy to find a support group. See if your colleagues have found any strategies for heading off tantrums or calming them down.

12. BUT – if your boss crosses the line and becomes abusive, talk with HR or upper management.
A hothead manager is one thing, but an abusive boss is another. If your manager's behavior is extreme or causes ongoing emotional stress, you need to talk with someone. Companies should not tolerate such managers, so someone in HR or upper management needs to know.

13. And if it doesn't improve, get out of there.
Perhaps you can learn to cope with the situation. Or perhaps you can change it. But if neither seems possible, you need to find a more professional place to work. Abusive managers can be damaging to your mental and physical health, and no job is worth that.

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