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Toxic Bosses: How to Live with the S.O.B.

About two years ago I landed my dream job as a territory manager for a midsize technology company. I knew the sister of my prospective boss; she had been a business partner of mine for a number of years. She is a very relaxed, hardworking salesperson, and is well-known in the industry for being professional and effective. Unfortunately, the calm, effective, professional gene seemed to have skipped my friend's sibling. I took the job, and in a short period of time, I found that I was working for the classic toxic boss.

The guy has temper tantrums, screams, uses obscenities to me on the phone, plays my colleagues off against each other, and goes into long, nonproductive tirades about customers, the industry, and members of his staff. I really love this job, except for my manager. And I'm good at it. So I didn't quit. Instead I developed a formula for dealing with him.


No—it's not fighting him. I box out a portion of the day to deal with my boss. I set aside 8:30-10:00 a.m. every day to cater to his needs.


I send quick e-mails throughout the day, especially during the boxing period. He feels no need to call me if he gets a barrage of status reports.


My boss likes orders to get processed immediately. So I try to process an order as soon as it arrives. If I can't get to it right away, I send him an e-mail saying that I'm wrapped up on another project. Eight out of 10 times, he does the order processing for me.


My boss obsesses on pricing exercises. We used to sit on the phone for hours, in what is largely a subjective process, acting like we were finding the magic price. It killed my productivity. Now, I say to my boss: "I'm busy on Y. Would you mind working on the pricing proposal for me for Client X? You're much better than I am on this kind of stuff." Then he's occupied for a day or so, doing what he likes to do, and he's not slowing me down.


My phone has a problem. When people have a temper tantrum, it loses its connection. Usually my boss calls back a few minutes later. If I decide to pick up, he says "I guess we got cut off" and proceeds, usually in a better tone. I decide when I'll take his calls. Sometimes I don't answer his calls for a couple of hours because I don't want to.


My boss usually has a temper tantrum on the Monday two weeks before the end of a quarter. He invariably tells me that I'm not running my territory correctly (which used to set me off). I now schedule time in my calendar to prep for this. I even tell him that he will have this tantrum before he does, and sometimes I tell him that I agree with him. It knocks him off balance.

I'm not going to say it's a perfect system, but we have a détente.

P.S. My boss is on vacation this week, and I am three times more productive.

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