Coping with Ogres


Do you have a difficult boss who overwhelms, intimidates, or generally runs over those that work for them? One such difficult boss is the Ogre. In Coping with Difficult Bosses, Robert Brahmson writes about how to cope with Ogres.

The Ogre and Fire Eater difficult bosses openly attack, with little provocation, driving their victims into silent confusion or speechless rage. Ogres are the product of three personal factors: a thinking process that is attuned to rapid and confident decision making, a need to feel powerful and influential, and a hidden – at least from themselves – vein of self-doubt. Coping with them may require little more than you letting them know that you know they are in charge.

Coping with Orgres
The essence of coping with Ogres is showing you have your own source of strength and you are not a threat to the Ogre’s own need to feel strong and competent. Bramson provides recommendations for coping with Ogres:

  • Avoid silent acquiescence. Dont’ react with silent, still mobility. To the Ogre, this is a stance the Ogre doesn’t respect or understand.
  • Avoid righteous complaining. Whining, passive tones are a sign of weakness. An Ogre’s defensive response is another attack.
  • Avoid appeasement. Trying to placate the Ogre with friendliness does little to reduce the Ogre’s demeaning attitude. It depletes your own self-esteem and you gradually take on a more passive stance.
  • Avoid rebellion. You’re likely to lose the fight. Ogres resort to levels of personal insult. If the person you have squelched is the one with power to reward, punish or promote, your satisfaction is likely to be short lived.
  • Watch your posture. Signal that you’re someobody of substance, neither retreating or getting ready to fight.
  • Humanize the relationship. Ogres get a lift when they hear their name. A few stories of adventures and family will help the Ogre realize you’re a person meeting the challenges of a unique life.
  • Don’t argue, disagree. Using expressions such as “In my judgement …” or “In my opinion …” will keep you in the conversation without directly contending your boss is incorrect.
  • Break the spell. Interrupt the flow from whatever is happening, For example, rise from your chair. Your purpose is to produce a brief, natural break to help you think through your coping strategy.
  • Capitalize on interruptions. Calmy say, “Tom, you interrupted me.” A simple statement of fact, doesn’t carry the same emotional baggage as “Don’t interrupt me” – fighting words – or “Please don’t interrupt me,” a weak appeal.
  • When you can’t talk, write. Many intimidators have discovered that a deliciously abusive way to display their superiority is to verbally put others in their place, and then cut them off by walking away, switching off the fact, or hanging up the phone. Don’t trail them. Instead, respond with an informal note to make the points that were lose when you were abruptly cut off.
  • Keep them posted. Timely notifications of potential problems can help prevent angry confrontations with Ogres.
  • Acknowledge the Ogre’s strength and competency. Comment frequently on the merits you see in the Ogre’s points. If you need to make corrections to your boss’s strategies or tactics, use “And’ over “But.” For example, “And, here are a few more thoughts for the action plan.” Also, rather than refute your boss’s logic, propose modifications. For example, as an alternative to “We’re moving to fast” — a direct challenge — try “And it might even work better if we stretched out our marketing thrust over three months so the others won’t feel we are railroading it through.”
  • Prepare a fall-back position. If your coping techniques go awry, for example, perhaps your “I think I disagree” provokes an angry tongue lashing, sketch out a fall-back position. For example, “Wait a minute, Larry, it sounds as if you think I don’t know you’re the boss. That’s not the case, and whatever you decide on, I will do.” Follow up with, “Just like you, I want to make sure we do our job as well as possible.”

Key Take Aways
Here’s my key take aways:

  • Use assertive over defensive language and approach.
  • Avoid emotional reactions. Do this by planning, preparing mentally and with practice.
  • Focus on what you genuinely value or like in your boss. This is key to rapport.
  • Avoid threatening your boss’s need for self-affirmation.

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