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Is Your Boss a Grown Up?

Topics: Career Advice
Boss Grown Up
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A person doesn’t automatically turn into a mature and considerate adult the moment they’re given an executive title. This is unfortunate because it can be awfully difficult to work for someone who acts more like a child than a grown up.

Does your boss reliably behave like a responsible adult? If so, consider yourself lucky. Too often bosses act and interact in entitled, self-absorbed, ego-driven ways, and it can be hard to know how to cope. Even if you love your job, working for a boss who acts more like a child than someone you can look up to or ask for support can make going to work every day pretty darn miserable. Here are three telltale signs you’re working a childish boss and some tips for how to make it work.

1. They’re emotionally unpredictable

One of the most important leadership qualities is emotional stability. You encounter weightier and more challenging problems the higher up you are in an organization, and you have to learn how to roll with the punches. A boss who sometimes acts supportive and level-headed and other times lashes out in anger is frustratingly unpredictable. It can be more than a little difficult to work with someone like this. How do you work together effectively when you never know what to expect?

It can be pretty easy to fall into a routine of coddling or even enabling a boss when they act like an emotional infant. It can really drain your time and energy. You need to manage a relationship like this very carefully so that you don’t end up being walked all over. The key is to muster up all of the maturity and stability your boss lacks. Respond without reacting. Maintain emotional distance and boundaries from your boss, and try not to take all of the erratic behavior personally. It’s not easy to let childish and emotionally selfish behaviors roll off your back, but it’s better than letting them get under your skin.

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2. They change their mind

Children change their minds all the time. Adults know how to stay the course, at least for long enough to give something new a reasonable try. If your boss tells you to do one thing one minute and then totally shifts gears and tells you to do something else entirely the next, it can be challenging. It’s tough to see your time and effort go to waste. But you can’t very well say no to the boss, can you?

It’s not easy to turn down a boss’s request, but in certain circumstances it is possible to say no. Or, you could try something a little different. When your boss asks you to reverse course on something, see if you can’t sign on while also moving forward with your plan. For example, you might use “yes, and…” language to agree but also share your own feelings at the same time. “Yes, I will get on that right away. And I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this other piece when I’m finished. I think you’ll be pleased with how it fits into your new vision on this.” Besides, rolling with the punches in a creative way might also set a good example for your boss to follow.

3. They can’t admit their mistakes or ask for help

It’s childish to behave as though you’re incapable of making mistakes. However, that doesn’t mean that this kind of stuff isn’t in a difficult boss’s wheelhouse. Some bosses are insecure. Plain and simple. They lack the self confidence that you’d expect from a successful adult. Sure, they might seem downright arrogant on the surface. But, often when someone can’t admit their shortcomings, or ask others for help, it’s because they’re insecure.

There is almost nothing worse than a boss that seems to have a need to be flattered all the time. But these types are definitely out there. The important thing here is to think about the advantages of this rather than the drawbacks. You know what makes your boss tick. All you have to do is shine a little light your boss’s way and suddenly you’re on their good side.

Still, over time, the struggle to work with a boss who acts more like a kid than a full-fledged adult can really wear on you. Be honest with yourself about whether or not this particular job is worth all the hoop-jumping you’re required to do. Eventually, you might decide that moving on is in your best interest.

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Does your boss act more like a child than a mature adult? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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