Boss Is Making You Afraid? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

My boss is really tough—I would say borderline
abusive. It isn’t just to me. He is awful to everyone. Because of this, I am in
a constant state of anxiety and my work has definitely suffered. I was very
good at my job but I know the quality has decreased because I have no
confidence and can’t seem to make a decision anymore.

I wait for the boss to tell me exactly how he
wants things for fear of doing it wrong. I know in my heart that I have a lot
to offer and that I could do this job very well with little or no input from

Some days I feel like I just want to do the job
the way I think it should be done—to hell with it—I’m going to get yelled at
either way. What do you think?

of Being Scared


Dear Sick of Being of Scared,

Well, at least it isn’t personal.

Okay, Sick, there is a continuum of options here.
At one far end you have cowering submission, and at the other you have open
conflict. No matter where you are on the continuum, you are going to be scared
and your poor exhausted nervous system is going to produce cortisol and
adrenaline. Eventually, something will give and you will get truly sick and
have to take a leave of absence.

If you choose confrontation, at least it would put
some control into your hands. The more control you can exert over your
circumstances and the more certainty you can create for yourself, the less you
will produce stress hormones and the better you will feel.

Are things too crazy for you to catch your mean boss
in a calm moment and create some agreements? Tell him you want only to do
excellent work and make him happy. Ask him to give you input at key junctures
of your work so you feel confident about being on the right track. Walk through
your ideas about how the work should be done and get input from him. Show that
you are receptive to his ideas and willing to compromise.

Essentially, I’m saying don’t let your fear keep
you from having discussions, especially since it sounds like he is going to
huff and puff and yell regardless of what you do. If you can just remember that
this is just the way he is, it doesn’t actually mean anything, and you aren’t
going to die, you can take a stand for yourself and your ideas.

I think you nailed it—if you are going to get
yelled at either way, to hell with it indeed; you might as well go for it.
Think of your boss like you do cold rainy weather: put on your metaphorical
raincoat, pop up your imaginary umbrella, and just let yourself be okay with
getting a little wet. Who knows—he may respect you all the more for it.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard Headshot 10-21-17

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!


Leave a Reply