Dealing with a Boss Who is Killing Us

Dear Dr. Lisa:

One of my leaders means well but really impacts the team in a negative way.

He says he wants us to make choices, but then tells us what to do. And he really does expect us to do what he says. Team meetings are tough because he always adds to what others say and he thinks it is a value add but often it is not. It just leaves the person who just spoke feeling terrible as though what they said was not adequate.

Ultimately, I believe he has an issue with trust. He just doesn’t trust us to get the work done since it won’t be done how he would do it. He really does believe he is the smartest one in the room always. He’s smart but not the smartest always…

Dr. Lisa, how can I cope with this situation. I do enjoy my work. Should I try to talk to him about it? He wants the best, but doesn’t realize how he impedes our growth.


Dealing with a Boss Who is Killing Us


Dear Dealing with a Boss Who is Killing Us:

What is interesting about your question is, I think I hear genuine interest in him as a manager along with your obvious desire to find a solution. This is a tough one because you will have to determine if he can receive the feedback in any form. What we don’t want to do is cause harm to you because he doesn’t like your suggestion that he is not perfect. So, proceed with caution but here are a couple of things to try.

Start with some questions. Ask him – how things are going with the team, what are the team’s greatest strengths, what does he worry about, and what does he want for the team and each member. With those answers, you will get inside his perspective, which will allow you to offer some insight. Find something about the way he does things and offer the compliment. Help him see how that which he does well really helps the team, and how it is appreciated. Then ask him if he wants one observation that might help the team, as well. With a yes, share one thing he could do that might help. And then share why it might help. For example: you, Mr. Manager, do such a great job inspiring us to take action and stretch. In your effort to ensure our success, you offer direct solutions. I would say, holding off on offering those directives might give us a chance to stretch out and live into the inspiration you created. Maybe we could set check in timing so if you need to redirect you can.

You will have to determine if he could be receptive to that kind of affirming guidance. If he cannot, then you may not be able to fix this.

One other avenue to leverage is the Engagement Survey. Talk with the team and agree to all share similar feedback on the survey. It will be harder for him to ignore in that format, and hopefully open a conversation about it as a team. Again, you will have to determine if the team can come together around this, and how he will react. We don’t ever want to cause more harm in our effort to lead change for the better.

I suspect that the disconnect is driven by strengths. I suspect he has one or two strengths from the Gallup StrengthsFinder that are misperceived and likely over used. If there is a chance to do a team building, using strengths, this would be very helpful in opening up discussion on all of the challenges you mentioned. I know a consultant that can help with that.

If nothing works, it might be time to consider who else and where else your wonderful talent can be leveraged.

Best of luck to you,

Dr. Lisa Toppin

P.S. Your theme song is, “Gimme Some Truth” by John Lennon.



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