• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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How to respond when your leader is frustrating you on the job

How to relate with a politically hostile peer leader at the workplace (1)

Following last week’s article, I will respond to another email from a marketing communications executive who is a faithful reader of this column by discussing how you can start your new role as a leader and navigate the uncharted waters of managing a new team.

The leadership process is an art, and it involves practising mindfulness and self-awareness as a skill. However, you must be conscious that your team members are not restricted to your direct reports alone; it includes a broader network of peers that you rely on but do not control. To start with, see the mail below.

Greetings Dr Sobande,

I trust this email finds you well.

I am an ardent reader of your column, and the insights you provide each week have helped sharpen my perspective.

Please, I need your counsel. I am a marketing communications executive. To begin with, I am drained emotionally, psychologically, and physically. I am sure my boss has a chronic condition that requires a medical diagnosis. She is so impatient and impulsive.

She acts without thinking and finds it difficult to focus and prioritise because of her addiction to social media, leading to missed deadlines and forgotten meetings or social plans. She is in the habit of yelling and interrupting conversations. She jokes that some of her close friends have suggested she has an attention deficit and hyperactivity. However, this has become a serious issue because my life has been in total chaos since I started reporting to her.

No sooner is the plan written up and sent out on every project than the ideas come flying in. She second guesses the plan, adds action steps, most of which have already been considered and discarded, and adds more significant ideas that are not in the scope of what was discussed. These ideas come at me on WhatsApp, text, and email, and she calls me at all hours of the day and night with more. I put my phone on silent when I go to bed and wake up to her slew of random thoughts.

I can’t get through an hour of focused work time without at least three interruptions from her. I must respond because she is my boss. She is always late, puts everyone under pressure, and asks questions she doesn’t give me time to answer. I must confess she is driving me crazy.

I am at wit’s end, but I like the job and the company. What can I do to get control of this situation?

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Abubakar.

You have a lot of ideas, which I appreciate. I wonder if you expect me to respond to every one of them, or are you simply hoping that I will weave them into a work plan and deliverable as I see fit?

To appropriately connect the dots for the readers of this column, I have provided my response and explanation below.

Dear Mr. Abubakar,

Thank you for your email and the kind words of encouragement.

Interestingly, I spent the past two decades developing my leadership competencies and working hard to be a nice and respectable manager, which was not easy for me. So, I can relate to your situation, so let me first say I am sorry for how hard this is for you.

Read also: How employers can curb entitlement syndrome in workplace

It would help if you accepted that leadership role opens you up to criticism, putting the spotlight on your blind spots. Reminding yourself of some of your boss’s good qualities might be helpful. The positive aspects of people who fit her profile are often intense creativity, the ability to be flexible, excellent troubleshooting and problem-solving skills, and more than average amounts of energy.

Clearly, she does some things well enough to have come as far as she has. But if she is wreaking havoc with your ability to concentrate, you must find a way to protect your sanity. Your boss knows she drives people crazy, so at least she has some awareness. You may think she is living in denial. I guess you must involve her in crafting a working relationship that you can live with.

Note that it is not so much about giving her feedback. She may have already heard it all, I am sure. But you can seek clarification about exactly what she expects from you regarding how you respond to her. It could be a series of questions because how you communicate your challenges to her is very important in getting your challenges resolved. Some examples might be:

– You have a lot of ideas, which I appreciate. I wonder if you expect me to respond to every one of them, or are you simply hoping that I will weave them into a work plan and deliverable as I see fit?

– When you send me instructions based on your thoughts and ideas, how do I know which ones you want me to prioritise and respond to directly and which ones are simply for my information?

– I often plan focused work time to get things done timeously. When you message me about another not-so-urgent task during those times, I feel obliged to respond because you are my boss, but would it be okay with you if I respond to such a less critical task when I take a break between focused work time sessions? What is your thought on this?

– It is hard to distinguish which communications you expect me to act on and which are just tips you think might be helpful in my work. How do you suggest I do this?

– Is this fun speculation, or is this something you want me to flesh out and include in the deliverable?

Please look out for a continuation of this article.