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by Alice Alessandri and Alberto Aleo

There is no doubt that working can be tiring, especially when our direct superior, the boss, has a bit of a temper. At times, those who have managerial responsibilities can inadvertently behave aggressively, confusing the role of a leader with the role of a commander leading an army. They might feel entitled to shout orders right, left and centre with very little regard of relationship aspects. Management styles have been inspired by the metaphor, or even the model, of military organization for a long time, so having a “mean boss” isn’t as rare as one would think. If you are the “victims” of such a leader, read this post to find useful tips and tricks to manage your relationship with your boss.

From behaviours to motivations

We humans engage in certain behaviours to achieve goals that we might not be fully aware of, so if your boss is yelling at you, they are trying to get something out of you or the team you are part of. A good starting point to learn how to cope with or even to curb this aggression is to understand what the objective, or even better, the underlying reason for this behaviour really is. It’s not always possible to ask a direct question, and it might even defy the purpose as you are unlikely to get an honest answer. Therefore, you have to turn into a detective!

Try to determine “what” triggers the outburst, “when” the situation starts to turn sour, and if it’s a repetitive occurrence. Once the data is collected, you can start dwelling on the “whys”. We can help by providing you with a guide based on personality analysis by Enneagram researchers, a topic we mentioned in a post a few months ago.

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Enneagram: the motivations behind behaviours

As the expert Luca Giorgetti reminds us, there are 9 core personalities that are linked to 9 main motivations which influence our actions. They are the foundations of each behaviour and, consequently, of each fit of rage. Let’s have a look at each personality type and let’s try to determine if your boss falls into one of these categories.

  1. The organizers – They are ones who have set their own rules and procedures aimed at getting the best out of themselves and others. Therefore, they think there is only one correct way of doing things: their own. They lose their temper when facing lax behaviour or any kind of rule breaking.
  2. The selfless – They get angry when they sense lack of gratitude from others, when they feel useless or when they have to take a back seat, that is, when their role as a helper isn’t acknowledged.
  3. The winners – They do not accept defeat. At the cost of changing reality itself, they always want to land on their feet. They lose it when someone forces them to admit they made a mistake and might get jealous of more competent team members.
  4. The creative – They are often frustrated, isolated, or misunderstood. They get annoyed when forced to do something they don’t like, when their problems are belittled, or when their creativity is questioned.
  5. The solitary – They don’t like human relations. They get annoyed when forced to interact, especially if they aren’t very knowledgeable about or interested in the topic, when they have to share spaces, or when they have to speak in public or show empathy.
  6. The anxious – They panic every time there is a change of plan. They hate surprises and have huge difficulties in trusting and delegating. They argue when they feel betrayed or abandoned.
  7. The surfers – They go from one project to the other and have difficulties in focusing. They don’t like pessimists and people who get them down with details and bureaucracy.
  8. The boxers – They repeatedly argue with everyone to test others’ strength and character. They don’t have it in for anyone in particular, but they don’t want their exemplary “alpha” role to be questioned. 
  9. The peaceful – They usually never shout, but when they lose it, they are the most incensed. These fits of rage occur when they feel exploited due to their “good” nature, or when they have to pick a side or make a decision.

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…before the stones cry out.

Focusing on ourselves: what can I do to avoid conflict?

Let’s not forget that we cannot change our boss’s character, but rather, once we have understood more about their personality, we can act responsibly and adapt our own behaviour.

How? By meeting the needs that stem from their motivations and by not reacting to their “meanness”.

For instance, if you are facing a ragingsceptic” (point 6 of the previous list), ask yourself what triggered their fears: did you make a last-minute change to the plan? Did you not keep your word? Did you abandon them in a time of need?

On the other hand, to cope with an angry “achiever” (point 3), you should instead try to understand whether you have forced them to accept defeat, if you have reminded them of a moment of weakness, or if your successes are overshadowing theirs. A “challenger” who is attacking you might want to test you or maybe remind you that they are the boss. Your actions and words should, therefore, react to what they are actually asking of you: reassurances from the first, more limelight for the second, and a manly confrontation or role acknowledgement from the third.

Communication theories tell us that when rage reaches its peak of expression, it should not be contained. Keeping calm while waiting for it to pass and maintaining eye contact without being defiant can help the emotional outburst ebb and flow. When you do decide to interact, do it with a tone that proves you have understood what was said, neither by shouting nor by being too passive.

If your boss crosses the line, just tell them how you feel. Something like “this behaviour is very hurtful” isn’t judgemental and raises awareness on the fact that, at the human level, words can hurt, and this might even cause your boss to empathise with you a little.

Leadership isn’t the sole responsibility of the ones with authority but is also functional to the team’s reactions.

Therefore, help your manager be a good leader. This will result in a more peaceful and cooperative business environment, which will definitely be to your advantage.

| partem claram semper aspice |

The photos used - where not owned by the editorial team or our guests - are purchased on Adobe Stock and IStockPhoto or downloaded from platforms such as UnSplash or Pexels.

Did you like this post and want to learn more about the topics?

Passodue research on issues related to salesmarketing, ethics and the centrality of human beings within the market logic, officially started in 2012. The results derived from our work are described in the publications and in the books you can find in this section.

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Passodue is a consulting and training firm founded in 2011 by Alice Alessandri and Alberto Aleo, who decided to combine their experience and make a change in their personal and professional lives. The aim of their project is to change the mindset of the market with regards to the concepts of “sale”, “marketing” and “leadership”, and to prove that doing business ethically is possible and totally effective.

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