Ever wonder how to make someone feel like crap? Of course not. You’re not sadistic I hope!
But you have wondered why some people make you “feel like crap” — that is, feel stupid, devalued, unimportant and incapable. Surely, you’ve had a boss who made you feel like crap. But how did he or she do it? How did she or he make you feel so crappy?
Let me count the ways…
Here are 6 ways bosses make others feel like crap:
They tend to…
- Have a “pop quiz” style — They test people. They ask questions that make people uncomfortable. Whether they have good intentions for asking the questions or not, their questions convey a lack of trust. “What’s the delivery date for the project that Martin’s direct report is working on?” If you don’t know the answer, you will likely feel stupid for not knowing. And (or so you’ll think) if your boss is asking, it must be something you should know. So, you feel like crap because you have been made to feel stupid.
- Focus on what’s wrong — They start conversations about errors, miscalculations, problems, adjustments that need to be made, what’s broken, what needs fixing, the downside, the negatives… They don’t just “get in the weeds” and believe “the devil’s in the details.” They focus on what’s wrong with the weeds, and all the negative aspects of the current situation, and what risks there are in the future. You feel like crap because everything being talked about is about crap.
- Have a blaming tone — They blame people, overtly or covertly. They ask questions that convey blame, like “Why did you do it that way?” and “What made you think that was a good idea?” Essentially, they’re saying, “What they hell were you thinking…you idiot!” And when you explain your rationale, they’ll think you’re rationalizing. Your explanation won’t be received as an explanation; it will appear to them like an excuse. You will feel like crap, because you’re told you are crap and are to blame for all the crappiness around you.
- Be emotionally unpredictable — They have emotional ups and downs, like the rest of us, but they don’t manage their emotions…and may be clueless about how much their emotional life is impacting their business life. You’ll wonder if they are having a good day, or a bad day. If they’re having a crappy day, you won’t be able to ask for time off. You feel like crap, because life is unpredictable and non-nonsensical. You also feel like crap because your boss feels like crap…and emotions are contagious.
- Change the rules of the game — They keep changing what they want, when they want it, why they need it, who needs what, what it should look like, what it shouldn’t be like, etc., etc. They make people spin in circles. They might know what they want and be a bad communicator, or they might not even know what they want. But either way, you feel like crap because you can’t know what’s expected. All your hard work could be a big waste of your time and energy, which feels like crap.
- Be defensive about feedback — Most people are reluctant to get brutally honest feedback, but people who make you feel like crap often get super-defensive about feedback, so you just can’t give them any. (Although, if they have a HowMyDoin account, you can give them anonymous feedback!)
- I should have made this a top 10 list! I’m just skimming the surface! There are clearly more than 5 ways your boss makes you feel like crap, so please help me out.
Please comment, or email me five more ways your boss, or others in your organization or life, make people feel like crap. (firstname.lastname@example.org).