a cruel or ruthless supervisor

Coping With a Ruthless Boss

Today’s scenario is about how to deal with a demanding boss who wants results at all costs, without concern for his people. Or, as some might call it, a cruel or ruthless supervisor.

The Situation: Dealing with a Cruel or Ruthless Supervisor

Jake is a middle manager at a tech firm. He tries to employ a Q4 collaborative style when working with people, and so far, it’s worked. Jake gets along well with his boss, who has a similar Q4 style.

For advancement purposes, Jake has applied for another position at the firm. It’s in a more interesting area of the company and includes a salary bump. Jake had a good interview with his prospective new boss, Leo, and ended up getting the job.

On the downside, Leo has a reputation of being a hard-driving, dominating Q1-style leader. People call him “Leo the Lion.” He’s very effective — but he’s also controlling ruthless, and sometimes, cruel. Jake isn’t used to that kind of behavior from a boss.

Surviving a Q1 Boss

Jake doesn’t want to act Q1 himself. It’s not his style — and it’s not good for job security to fight with your boss. Yet, he feels that he can’t be a doormat when dealing with that kind of Q1 aggression. What kind of behavioral strategy would you advise, in terms of working with this Q1 boss?

Dimensional Model of Behavior

How to Handle a Cruel Boss?

A. Jake should set a tone and working relationship with the boss that can minimize Q1 outbursts by understanding Leo’s intangible needs and communication preferences.

B. While remaining Q4 in his other working relationships, Jake might want to play it a little more below-the-line with the new boss.

C. Jake can think about matching the boss’s Q1 behavior with some of his own. Maybe he can become more of a cruel or ruthless supervisor himself so that Leo will respect him.

Here’s Your Q4 Answer!

Hi, I’m David Rowan, VP of Organizational Consulting and I have the Q4 answer.

How do you work with a Q1 Boss?

We can’t usually pick our bosses and that’s especially true when we’re transitioning to a new role. Jake is excited about this opportunity, but it will be a challenge to maintain his Q4 leadership style and leadership skills. That’s why A is the answer, since Leo will have the advantage in terms of power from his role as the manager. Jake needs to strategize ways to manage Leo proactively to overcome those Q1 behaviors.

Jake can’t allow himself to be bullied or bulldozed, and he shouldn’t try and match Leo’s Q1 behavioral style. Neither of those will result in a collaborative and collegial partnership that Jake is seeking. The good news is that he can bring his Q4 style by being confident, forceful, open, and solution focused.

What Are Some Good Tips for Working With a Q1 Boss?

People with a lot of Q1 behavior often have big egos, so you don’t want to threaten their status or power. Instead, show respect and think about the benefits, highlighting their intangible needs. Jake should work to learn the expectations of Leo and find his preferred methods of communication, whether that be face-to-face, email, IM. If jake can match Leo’s expectations, he’ll have more success, and with Q1 behavior you always want to be prepared.

Which Probes Work Best With Q1 Behavior?

When talking to Leo, Jake should use open-ended probes, reflections, and summary statements to acknowledge Leo’s perspective, show understanding, and give credit to Leo’s position.

And Which Probes Should I Avoid?

You want to avoid using closed questions, leading questions and you don’t want to box someone in. Individuals with Q1 behaviors may feel manipulated or like you are trying to control them and they could push back or even lash out.

To Recap…

By using the right probes and highlighting intangible benefits, Jake can increase the receptivity of Leo, his boss with Q1 behavior. By becoming a problem solver for Leo, Jake can avoid a career derailer.
Thanks for watching.

Ready for More?

If you liked this tip, check out our other leadership tips for challenging situations.

Do you work with a difficult person?  Take our behavior quiz to learn actionable tips for handling the person more effectively.

You might also enjoy reading our Leadership Through People Skills Book.  Or taking our Q4 Leadership seminar.

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