Recognise and Evade the Traps of a Bad Boss

In the professional jungle, survival hinges on recognizing the traps set by a cunning boss. Fred Stawitz, in his insightful book “Don’t Run Naked Through the Office,” equips you with the knowledge to identify and sidestep these snares. Here’s how to stay vigilant:

  • Beware of Too-Good-To-Be-True Offers: If an opportunity seems too perfect, it might be a trap.
  • Question Delay Tactics: Be sceptical of actions that postpone necessary outcomes.
  • Align with Organizational Interests: Ensure actions serve the company, not just personal agendas.
  • Avoid Unwarranted Blame: Stay clear of situations that unfairly shift blame onto you.
  • Resist Fact Distortion: Don’t be swayed by confusion or altered truths.

Your best defence

Your best defence is to learn to recognize the traps and how they can be used to set you up for failure, so when you encounter any of them in the workplace you will be less apt to become a victim. Be aware that new techniques are being developed every day while old ones are often dusted off and revised. Sadly pessimistic? Yes. Realistic? Absolutely!

The guiding principle to remember regarding traps and manipulation techniques is that the less supportive the environment, the more cautious and prepared I need to be to deal with a full range of traps and manipulation techniques.

1. Deliver a Gift Before Dropping the Bomb

Watch out for a boss who will soften up his prey with a nice gesture, comment or gift before letting loose with a bomb.

2. Unmasking the Illusion of Ignorance

Many people mistakenly believe that bosses in hostile work environments are oblivious to the chaos they create. This is often not the case. They may not only be fully aware but also take pride in the contentious atmosphere they’ve fostered.

3. The Unpredictable Boss: A Case Study

Consider a boss I know well, who thrives on unpredictability to maintain control. When he detects his team’s morale is low, he’ll unexpectedly perform acts of kindness. However, these acts are usually precursors to another destabilizing action, designed to throw the team off balance once more.

To counteract this, always approach seemingly kind gestures with caution, especially in an unsupportive environment. Such offerings often come with hidden strings attached. Be prepared and keep your guard up.

4. Divide and Conquer: A Classic Strategy

Bosses who feel threatened by your competence may attempt to isolate you from your colleagues. They might:

    • Embarrass you by suggesting you’ve been dishonest with your peers.
    • Provoke you into making comments that seem patronizing to your colleagues.
    • Withhold information by giving you the silent treatment, hindering your performance.

Their goal is to create divisions within the team.

Resist this tactic by maintaining strong connections with your coworkers. These relationships not only provide emotional support but also offer valuable feedback that can bolster your confidence against any undermining attempts by your boss.

5. The Perils of Internal Competition

Internal competition, akin to the divide and conquer strategy, aims to set employees against each other. The film “Glengarry Glen Ross” starkly portrays this with a sales contest where only the top performers are rewarded, and the rest face termination.

This approach, known as “Rank and Yank,” was once popular in corporate performance reviews. It initially helps remove underperformers but eventually breeds a toxic environment devoid of teamwork, where undermining colleagues becomes a survival tactic.

If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s crucial to maintain your integrity and focus on your performance, rather than participating in the destructive politics of the workplace.

6. Fake Urgency

It is two o’clock in the afternoon and the boss rushes into your office. She slaps a folder down on your desk.

“Drop what you’re doing. This report has to be done by C.O.B., today!” she exclaims.

So, you drop what you are doing and spend the rest of the day working on the report knowing you will have to spend several extra hours of your time finishing up your regular work. On your way out, you drop by the boss’s office to deliver the report only to find that she has already gone for the day. So, you leave it with her secretary.

“Here’s the urgent report the boss wanted done today.”

The secretary responds with a puzzled look. “Oh, you didn’t need to rush. This report isn’t due till next month.”

You suddenly realize that your boss fabricated an arbitrary sense of urgency to get you to interrupt your regular work.

Once you become familiar with how these traps and manipulation techniques are generally used to snare you, you will, in all likelihood, learn to spot the trap a mile away.

Seven Strategies for Workplace Survival

1. Cultivate a Support Network

Build relationships with trustworthy colleagues. A strong support system can provide a reality check against a boss’s manipulative tactics.

2. Document Everything

Keep records of your interactions and tasks. Documentation can be your best defence in a dispute.

3. Stay Proactive

Don’t wait for a crisis. Anticipate potential issues and address them early with your boss or HR.

4. Set Boundaries

Know your limits and communicate them. Boundaries prevent exploitation and preserve your well-being.

5. Enhance Your Skills

Invest in your professional development. Being indispensable can protect you from being a target.

6. Understand the Business

Deepen your knowledge of the company’s goals and challenges. This insight can shield you from being misled.

7. Plan an Exit Strategy

If the environment is toxic, prepare an exit strategy. Sometimes, the best move is to find a healthier workplace.

Real-Life Wisdom: Quotes to Guide You

“Always deliver more than expected.” — Larry Page, Co-founder of Google. This mindset can help you stand out as a reliable and proactive employee, less susceptible to manipulation.

“Trust, but verify.” — A Russian proverb made famous by Ronald Reagan. Apply this in the workplace to avoid falling into traps.

“Change is the result of all true learning.” — Leo Buscaglia. Embrace learning from every situation, even the challenging ones, to grow stronger in your career.

Master the Art of Workplace Navigation

Fred Stawitz’s “Don’t Run Naked Through the Office” is more than a book; it’s a survival guide for the corporate world. By applying these strategies, you can navigate through the most treacherous office environments with confidence and emerge unscathed. Remember, knowledge is power—arm yourself with it and you’ll never be caught off guard.

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Helping businesses create effective solutions by shaping a culture that engages employees in safe, productive, and sustainably profitable operations. Created and managed technical training programs for US Space Shuttle Program, Shell/Bechtel energy venture, and large pipeline operations that maximize safety and productivity while ensuring regulatory compliance. International speaker on human factors in the workplace and disruptive, emergent digital technologies. Featured on CNN Headline News, a PBS special, and quoted in a Special Congressional Quarterly Report. Recipient of several prestigious awards including the Leadership 500 LEAD Award. Author of several highly praised and award-winning books. Successful publisher guiding writers through the process of creating marketable books with global distribution.