Ask An Expert: My Boss Is An Egomaniac. What Should I Do?

Collage / Julia Gessler

Top leadership entrepreneur Stella Petrou Concha offers sage advice for a reader dealing with an unlikable boss.

Q: I am currently working in an office with a team manager who has toxic traits and a giant ego, but very little tact. It makes work unbearable. I am trying to be

A: Working for a manager who does not recognise your value or what you do can be very demotivating. But, it can also create a negative narrative in your mind that can be more detrimental than the manager themselves. With that in mind, it’s imperative to address this situation.

I have two pieces of advice. First, if your manager’s behaviours are truly toxic and narcissistic, then you need to realise that you have no control over their behaviour, your manager is the only person who can control that. Your job here is to recognise that you have been triggered. That trigger belongs to you and is something that you can control.

You must learn to detach from your manager’s opinion of you and the way they are behaving towards you. This doesn’t mean discounting any feedback they give you; it’s learning to filter the useful feedback from the judgment. The judgment comes from your manager’s ego and is where you are experiencing the toxicity and the narcissism, it is not based on fact but on the stories they are telling themselves and the lens through which they view the world. Once you cast off this judgment you will find your working relationship much less challenging.

Exploring your triggers is part of your self-mastery and personal leadership journey. Start by looking at the situations that create a strong emotional response before thinking back to other times when you have had this reaction to start building some connections.

This work could also uncover an opportunity to build on your stakeholder management skills. Your role requires you to manage up the food chain and understanding your triggers allows you to detach from them and communicate clearly without your emotions driving you.

This takes me to the second piece of advice, which is to learn how to develop your political power. This is your ability to influence all stakeholders in the workplace. Political power is not reflective of your rank in the company, a child can have power over its parents, for example.

Lean into the challenge; invest time in learning how to ask incisive questions of your manager that will manoeuvre them to see your value and to get the right outcomes.

If you have done all this and are still finding yourself in the same position, I suggest looking into finding a new job. But remember, before you go and resign from a job because of something that is happening in your workplace, do a bit of work on yourself. Reflect on what’s going on.

Go and deal with that trigger, learn the art of asking incisive questions and managing your manager upwards and you might find that your behaviours change, your work environment changes, and it becomes not only bearable again, but you start to have your own sense of the value you are creating in your organisation.

Stella Petrou Concha is one of Australia’s leading influencers and entrepreneurs in the leadership and people development sphere who has dedicated more than 20 years to helping people realise their potential in building confidence within themselves. Working with top executives from some of the world’s best-known brands, Stella has connected them to the right people to drive their business forward. She is also the co-founder and CEO of talent search agency Reo Group and is the author of Stone Heart, Light Heart and Legacy: The Sustainable Development Goals in Action.

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