My co-employees and I read with great interest your advice to Mr. Short Fuse on how he could control his temper (Sunday Inquirer, October 3, 2010, Job Market, Working People, “How to Control Temper Outbursts”, p.5). I wish my boss is like him who regretted his outbursts and wanted to change as it is not only unprofessional but also alienates his employees away from him. We had planned to send it to our boss but we were so afraid of what she would do to us. You see, unlike Mr. Short Fuse, our boss is unrepentant and continues to bawl us out for mistakes we commit. This makes us all the more nervous and wants to avoid her.
I’ve been working under her for only a year now and how I dread our meetings and the times she calls me into her office. Twice she reprimanded me in front of her visitors. I cringed in embarrassment but I still managed to smile. She has never given me praise or recognition for the good work, i.e., when she does not see any error, in the work I’ve done. I really feel very bad about this.
I’ve approached already the head of HR Department to transfer me to another section but she was unsympathetic and simply told me to adjust to her. At age 32, I’ll find it difficult to get employment elsewhere. Besides, I like our company, my salary and the benefits we’re getting.
Please advise me on how I can adjust to her, and not lose my self-respect and preserve my dignity. I’m about to fall apart.
Ms. About to Fall Apart
I can see how hurt you are at your boss’ behaviors: bawling her employees, reprimanding you in front of her visitors, and not praising you for error-free work. Because of these, you dread your interactions with her; you even want to be transferred to another section. However, you are not thinking of resigning; you only want advice on how to adjust to your boss and the situation you are in and not feel degraded.
In order to adjust, i.e., to see your situation and your boss in a positive light so that you don’t feel as hurt as you do, I suggest the following:
1. Change your way of seeing your boss. According to the Hewitt Research on Best Employers in Asia, published in 2004 by John Wiley and Sons (Asia) Pte Ltd.: managers who are predominantly left-brain people — accountants, finance, engineers — are often reluctant to give praise even though they may desperately be in need of praise themselves. Most likely, your boss is not receiving any praise from her own superiors and this is why she doesn’t know how to give it to her employees. Perhaps if you see her in this light, it could change your perception and your feelings towards her.
2. Continue to do well in your work. I suggest you review your position description and see if you are doing everything expected of you, and doing each task according to expected standards of quality and timeliness. It is only when you exceed standards or when you do a project in an extraordinary way that you would expect to be given recognition.
3. If you don’t get a deserved recognition, you can be proactive by asking your boss how she found the work you did. If she says for instance, that it’s “OK”, you can probe by asking “What’s OK about it, Ma’am, so I would know what to repeat or do even better”. If she still refuses to give you the satisfaction of a deserved recognition, then accept it as part of her style.
4. See your boss as your #1 Customer whose needs must be met. To satisfy and delight her is your goal. Doing good work the best way you can is a requirement to please your customer. If she praises you, consider it a bonus.
5. Work on improving your character by strengthening your intrinsic reinforcement. When you’ve done extraordinary work or walked an extra mile with success, feel proud of yourself and enhance your sense of achievement. The “I did it!” feeling can boost your self-worth. This verse from Phil. 4:11 “Not that I say this because of need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient.” might help you when your need for recognition is not being met.
6. When your boss bawls you out for mistakes committed, simply apologize. When she reprimands you in front of others, do not smile. Your smile will reinforce her aggression. After apologizing, just keep silent and look at her.
7. Add a spiritual dimension: Offer all your work and the efforts you exert, and your relationships with your boss to God who knows all and sees all. It is getting His approval that is far more important than any human reward.
God bless you.
Josie O. Santamaria