It seems from your description that you are faced not with a single
problem but with two problems intertwined. First, you have a manipulative
boss who is hampering your performance and therefore your ability to
satisfy people higher up the chain of command. Second, you are looking
for ways to stay afloat during an organizational change that may be
imminent. My web research has turned up a number of resources that I
hope you will find helpful in this complex situation.
There are many documents available online that deal with the problem
of resolving workplace conflict. However, if you are a bystander in a
workplace conflict rather than a participant in it, your primary goal is
presumably to avoid getting caught in the crossfire rather than taking
an active role in defusing the situation. It is likely, therefore,
that the usual conflict-resolution advice is not directly relevant to you.
Government of Victoria (Australia): Work issues - difficult bosses
About: Human Resources: Personal Courage and Conflict Resolution at Work
Because you are not engaged in an open clash with your boss but you
nonetheless perceive that he is engaged in hostile behavior such as
withholding information, perhaps the best description of your quandary
is that you are the victim of manipulation. Dealing with manipulative
personalities in general, and with manipulative bosses in particular,
is a problem with its own literature.
Amazon: Managing Your Boss, by Sandi Mann
Amazon: Managing Your Boss, by Christina Osborne
Amazon: How to Manage Your Boss: Developing the Perfect Working Relationship
Amazon: Manage Your Boss
Amazon: Managing Your Manager : How To Overcome Your Boss Blues
Bear in mind that 90 per cent of the time if you take your boss
on, you will lose. The reason is companies rely on you to work
as part of a team. The boss has been selected as a leader, so
if you are not following the leader, it is you who is perceived
as not being able to work with the team.
So if you have a personality conflict with the boss or a
difference of opinion, it?s better to look for another
boss. Whatever you do, be sure to appear as team-oriented and
co-operative as possible until you stop working for your boss.
iVillage UK: Work & Career: Toxic boss problems
An extremely manipulative and uncaring boss is often described as a
psychopath. If your boss is indeed, as you say, "able and clever" yet
has no compunctions about sabotaging your work, this may be precisely
Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Corporate Psychopaths
Fast Company: Is Your Boss a Psychopath?
Board and Fritzon found that three of 11 personality disorders
(PDs) were actually commoner in managers than in disturbed
criminals. The first was histrionic PD, entailing superficial
charm, insincerity, egocentricity and manipulativeness. There
was also a higher incidence of narcissism: grandiosity,
self-focused lack of empathy for others, exploitativeness and
independence. Finally, there was more compulsive PD in the
managers, including perfectionism, excessive devotion to work,
rigidity, stubbornness and dictatorial tendencies.
The Guardian: Is your boss a psychopath?
Beyond the specific problem of the boss, it seems you are dealing
with the more general anxiety caused by the prospect of corporate
restructuring. This is a common cause of workplace stress.
Dr. Mort Orman: 18 Ways To Survive Your Company's Reorganization,
Takeover, Downsizing, or Other Major Change
Scott Berkun: How to survive a bad manager
About: Small Business: Make Stress Work For You
USA Today: Get a grip on job stress
I have found it an interesting challenge to answer this question, and
I wish you all the best with your job. If you have any concerns about
the completeness or accuracy of my research, please advise me through
a Clarification Request and give me a chance to fully meet your needs
before you rate this answer.
survive workplace change
Clarification of Answer by
11 Apr 2006 14:06 PDT
I went to the largest bookstore in town to look for the books I
listed above, and I'm afraid I found none of them on the shelves. I
therefore have no more information about them than one can find on
the Amazon pages. However, my perusal of the management section turned
up some attractive volumes that I think you will find helpful in your
situation. Each of these books is a fairly quick read, so I was able to
cover a significant portion of them at the store. None of them should
take you longer than a weekend to read in its entirety.
First, I was very much impressed by Glenn Shepard's "How to Be the
Employee Your Company Can't Live Without". Instead of writing in the
breathless hype-speak or abstract mumbo-jumbo that characterizes most
popular management manuals, Shepard uses a very plain, direct style
to impart some hard truths about turning oneself into a valuable and
valued employee who can survive turbulent times in the workplace. He
even gives a brief historical overview of corporate employment patterns
to explain how employee traits such as reliability and loyalty have
become more important today, contrary to popular perception, in an age
when transition and restructuring have become routine. There is a whole
chapter about finding out what your boss wants from you, which I think
you will find especially interesting.
Anazon: How to Be the Employee Your Company Can't Live Without
Among the books devoted entirely to dealing with difficult bosses, I
thought the most useful was "Winning with the Boss from Hell" by Shaun
Belding. As Belding explains in an opening chapter, a "boss from hell"
is not necessarily a raving maniac. He classifies hellish bosses into
Passive, Agressive, and Manipulative types. I think the last type fits
your description best. Belding writes:
The manipulative boss is the classic wolf in sheep's clothing --
an aggressive personality shrouded in a passive shell. He is
nonconfrontational but tremendously controlling. He rarely takes
actions that are not calculated and self-serving. [...]
* You are often unsure what their real agenda is
* They often go behind your back
* They are overly suspicious
Amazon: Winning with the Boss from Hell
Belding goes on to detail, in a very plainspoken manner, his strategy
for surviving and thriving under a difficult boss. I thought there was
a great deal of practical advice and very little nonsense in this book.
Finally, if you are interested in a more philosophical treatment of
the boss problem, you might want to consider Stanley Bing's "Throwing
the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up". There is less pragmatic
advice and more humor in this work than in the two other books I have
mentioned. Bing explains in a somewhat poetic and roundabout manner why
your boss is like an elephant and how you can avoid getting crushed by
his great mass. The most important thing about your work is the work
itself, he insists, and not the politics surrounding the work. You may
or may not take comfort in these teachings.
Amazon: Throwing the Elephant