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 him.

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?

Sick 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!

About the Author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a Master Certified Coach and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. She is coauthor of Blanchard’s Coaching Essentials training program, and several books including Leverage Your Best, Ditch the Rest, Coaching in Organizations, and Coaching for Leadership.

Follow on Twitter More Content by Madeleine Homan Blanchard
Previous Resource
So You Think You Want a Coaching Culture?
So You Think You Want a Coaching Culture?

If someone asks my opinion about their organization making a shift to a coaching culture, I won’t say “thin...

Next Resource
3 Ways to Help Managers and Direct Reports Collaborate to Achieve Goals
3 Ways to Help Managers and Direct Reports Collaborate to Achieve Goals

Want a more purposeful, aligned, and engaged organization? “Make sure managers and direct reports are takin...