When You Bang Heads With Your Boss

Your boss may be wrong. And he may be a bully. But he has the power. And pitting yourself against him in a head-to-head confrontation is a bad idea. It’s like some famous bullfighter said in response to being asked how he trains for strength: “The bull weighs half a ton.
I am not going to compete with him in strength.” Use your brains (your savvy, your shrewdness, your sense of timing) to gracefully move your boss’s great bulk where you want it. Seem to yield. But do so in a way that makes you more powerful. Remember that the ultimate goal is for both of you to get back a good relationship.
But in doing that, you can work yourself into a beneficial position. Start by saying something calming and action-oriented, such as, for example, “Mr. Jones, I know we have a big job ahead of us. Our conversation this morning didn’t seem to help us get it done. I want to correct the situation. How can we get back to work on this project and accomplish our goal?” If you do this right, you’ll get a positive response. It might at first seem begrudging. His tone may still be combative. Ignore the tone and focus on the work.
By reminding him of the work, you’ll get him in the right position. Bit by bit, he’ll come around. It probably will be easier than it seems at first. Chances are he will be just as eager as you to get back on track. Resist any invitation on his part to talk “frankly” about “the problem” if by “problem” he means your relationship.
This kind of discussion will likely get you both right back into the same bad place you just got out of. Your relationship is not the issue anyway. Neither of you is being paid to have a good relationship. You are together to get some work done.
Three things you should never do to your boss:
1. go over his head without giving him a chance to fix the problem first
2. embarrass him in front of other employees
3. try to emotionally manipulate him
Three things your boss should never do to you:
1. scream at you
2. embarrass you in front of your peers
3. try to emotionally manipulate you
[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]