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How to Succeed Working For a Manipulative Boss

Published on Monday, 09 Apr 2018
You may be able to keep interactions with annoying or lazy colleagues to a minimum while in the workplace, what options do you have when the offender is a manipulative boss? Your human resources representative may be a helpful resource, but many professionals avoid coming forward with their concerns out of fear of retaliation. If you cannot have someone at your company intervene on your behalf, here are some ways you can cope with your current situation.
 
Take heed of any lingering rumours. It must be said that rumours are not always true or reliable, but you should at the very least be aware of what is circulating on the floor about your boss. Take the whispers with a grain of salt, but proceed with caution. if it’s commonly known that your manager is unfair or has had problems in the past with other team members, you can use that knowledge to your advantage. Are there certain triggers that you can avoid to preemptively prevent your manager from lashing out? Are there specific habits he seems to irrationally care about? Can you incorporate any of the widespread information into your work style?  
 
Draw clear boundaries. Many professionals expect to dislike their boss in some respect, but it’s important to understand the difference between normal tensions in the manager/subordinate relationship versus being subjected to some sort of abuse. Stand up for yourself if you feel that your boss is overstepping. Know your rights as an employee of your company and involve those who are legally required to intercede on your behalf should it escalate.  
 
Reframe. Often, controlling or manipulative bosses act the way they do because they feel insecure in some way about themselves and their own abilities. If you have no choice but to work for someone like that, look for ways to reframe your actions to help soothe their fragile ego. Without pandering or becoming a doormat, approach your manager in ways that will make you, your work, and your professional goals seem less intimidating and threatening to their position. Asking questions that start with “How can I help you achieve...?” can do wonders for aligning you with your boss and may help prevent them for further undermining you. 
 
Don’t cower or back down. Manipulative people tend to take advantage of others they feel they can dominate. Even out the playing field by remaining strong, confident, and self-assured when you interact with them one-on-one as well as in a group setting. If you make it difficult or impossible for someone to control to you, they will eventually learn to leave you alone. 
 
Tackle the issue head-on. If you notice bad behaviour from your manager, speak directly to them about it. Manipulative bosses will try to skirt the issue or dodge your questions, but it’s important to confront the situation as candidly and as professionally as possible. If your boss continues to avoid the discussion, designate a date and time for the conversation to take place. If you continue to get brushed aside, address the issue with a comprehensive email, noting the number of attempts you’ve made to work out a solution together. At best, this will be an effective scare tactic to get your boss to be more fair to you because it shows you’re not afraid of him or her. If that doesn’t work, at least you now have a paper trail in your favour.  
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