Horrible Bosses Part II: The Passive Aggressive

Posted In: The Office
Posted On: 11/14/2014

This post is part II in a six-part series from Jane Miller's book, Sleep Your Way to the Top (and other myths about business success). The passive aggressive boss is tricky, because on the surface, he appears to have your best interests at heart.  In meetings, he will defer to you as though he is supporting your efforts.  That is how he lures you into his confidence. He pretends to be tuned into what you are doing and supportive of your actions. But, the passive aggressive boss is very low on personal self-confidence and that manifests itself in a strange way.  He will work behind the scenes to take credit for your work thereby enhancing his self-importance.  He won’t confront you directly with an issue, but will instead plant seeds with others (usually the most senior person) that will lay the groundwork for others to question your abilities. One tactic this boss always uses?  He will want to be the key liaison with senior management.  He will couch it like “you are entirely too busy doing real work to have to deal with the nonsense of reporting this to my boss.” So as he is stroking your ego about how important you are; he is simultaneously taking credit for that real work with his boss.  Ingenious?  Yes.  Underhanded?  No doubt. How to deal with this jerk?  Don’t let on that you have him figured out.  Because he is sneaky by nature, if he thinks you have his number, he will just burrow deeper into his subterranean world and even more subtly try to sabotage you. Make sure you don’t fall for his bait about doing the real work and not reporting to senior management.  I know entirely too many young managers who will just keep their head down and work
hard, feeling like their good work will get noticed.  Yes, good work will get noticed, but YOU should get the credit, not this conniving boss. When he says

The passive aggressive boss is very low on personal self-confidence and that manifests itself in a strange way. 

that he will represent your work to his boss? Politely suggest that you would like to do the presenting because you need the experience. Yes, of course, you appreciate his support in managing his boss, but say that you need to learn how to manage up in the organization. Don’t go around him! Instead, include him and solicit his help in your efforts.  Because he is non-confrontational, he will be forced to accommodate this request. The key thing with this boss is to stay highly engaged and make sure you give him credit for his contributions when you are with his boss.  You can actually play a key role in getting him to support you, versus undermine you. Read On Next Time: The BiPolar Boss...oh my...