Help! My Boss is an Insecure Jerk
If you haven’t worked for an insecure jerk, you will. Insecure jerks corrupt corporate culture and hamstring employees. They think first of personal agendas, divert focus, and instigate drama.
Don’t expect insecure jerks to change. Don’t attempt to change them. Accept and deal with them.
The worst thing you can do is threaten an insecure jerk; never do it. They’ll bite you like a caged animal. They are experts at backstabbing, undercutting, bullying, and belittling.
- Don’t get sucked into their fears.
- Focus on your work.
- Don’t publicly outperform them.
- Publicly and honestly honor their contributions.
- Understand and address their fears but don’t condescend.
- Be loyal to their position.
- Don’t go over their head unless ethical issues emerge.
- Find encouragement and support from people outside your organization. Keep this in strict confidence.
All bosses require information but insecure jerks need it. They need to know because fear and speculation dominates their mind.
- Clarify their information needs.
- Learn how to give them what they need. Do they prefer email, phone, or face to face?
- Define frequency of contact.
- Over communicate – a good practice in many situations.
If you outperform an insecure jerk they’ll make life harder for you. They’ll nitpick and pile on until frustration demoralizes you. The brighter you shine the darker they’ll make it. (Never threaten them)
Insecurities drive performance for some insecure bosses. They work hard to fill their insecurities. Tap into their need to deliver results while avoiding their fears.
Move up, move sideways, or move out but don’t plan on staying. Chances are you’ll stay too long. Contributors on my Facebook page consistently affirm this difficult point.
Everyone deals with insecurities. But, everyone doesn’t need to be a jerk.
What characteristics do insecure jerk-bosses display?
What suggestions can you offer people dealing with an insecure boss who is a jerk?
Related Post: “15 Tips for Overcoming Insecurity.” Number 14 = Give others what you wish they’d give you.
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Gosh, Dan, I saw that headline and thought, “wow, that’s true for me too!” Then I realized, wait, I am the boss.
I hope your injuries continue to heal as desired.
Your perspective kept bouncing around in my head. Many of my readers are bosses and have bosses…. I thought I’d toss it out anyway…
I am doing well. Hip therapy starts tomorrow. I’m putting 50 lbs of weight on my right leg now without any difficulty.
Thanks for dropping in. Have a great week.
That’s priceless. I was just about to write separate comment, until I read your’s and plotzed!
My experience has been that the “insecure jerk boss” is a far bigger problem in small businesses than people realize. In a small business, if the jerk is the business owner, there’s NO structure of accountability, and the jerk behavior is free to run rampant.
If there truly is a sound accountability structure, eventually, most jerks will become a liability, especially if they lose enough good results-producers out of their department.
In a small business, the endless revolving door does nothing to solve the problem. The jerk boss won’t evaluate his own behavior until after he’s run the business into the ground and taken the remaining, and boundary-challenged employees with him.
Are you in a large corporate setting or a small business? My guess is if you are aware enough to read Dan’s stuff, we can trust you are not “the jerk.”
Have you been reading my mind today, Dan? 🙂
Yes, the most important thing to do is never threaten. I am not sure that I can add much to your list, except that they will continually sabotage your efforts to make themselves look better.
And, yes, we stay too long because we think we can correct the situation or smooth things out or even help them. But ultimately, they must choose to change or sicerely ask for help.
If you are better at the job than they are, eventually you won’t be able to stay.
You’ve hit on the most practical point I can offer…don’t stay too long. The desire to make things better is dangerous in this case.
You enrich the conversation, thank you .
Have a great week,
So right on! This has caused many sleepless nights. He does pile on if you out think him. Makes me sick how he destroys moral.
hey Matt, Sounds like you’ve been bit. I know you are moving forward… best wishes. Dan
Great post! Wish I had read an article like this a few years ago…
Me too. 🙂
Warning Will Robinson, Danger, Danger !
More often than not “insecure jerks” are not just a pain to deal with they are in fact “BULLY’S” ! and “Workplace Bullying” is not to be tolerated ! See http://www.workplacebullying.org for ideas on how to handle yourself.
What you need to know about this sort of behavior is “never backdown from a BULLY” if you do the behavior will continue or get worse. document, document, document every encounter (meetings, phone calls, etc.) any encounter where you felt their behavior was unacceptable.
This is a huge issue in today’s workplace and state after state are making “Workplace Bullying” illegal.
Do go to http://www.workplacebullying.org for much more information.
You have hit the nail on the head, Larry. Bullies are “insecure jerks” and should not be tolerated. The other thing to realize is that if you are the target of a bully, your future is in all probability going to be worse regardless of whether you stand up to them or not. Therefore, you have nothing to lose. Document everything and make a financial case for why the bully should be terminated. Take it to the boss’s boss’s boss. The Workplace Bullying web site is very helpful!
A really very good post about insecure jerk and backstabbers. I was not aware about how to deal with insecure boss. It is an eye opener for me. I had different perception. I agree with you that over communicate could be better way to deal with them. The reason is simple, insecure boss needs more information. I absolutely agree that when they feel threatened, they will make all possible effort to discourage, frustrate the achievers. They believe in making their position secure by hook or by crook. They consistently and continuously seek news so that they can make rumors and spiced news. The characteristics I have observed with jerk bosses are that they are fearful. They are unreliable. They break, distort and block information. They take out information from others and pass it to superiors in different form. I think, you need to realize them that you are not threat to them. If they feel so, you do not have any danger. But when they feel so, they will start creating problem for you. Also you need to help them to overcome their deficiencies. I am currently helping one boss to fulfill his requirement where he is incapable of.
Is a small business owner (car dealer) I agree with most of what you said. I am in a family business with an aggressive personality. Another approach that I use is to try to face the bully head on with a tone neutral conversation. It is fair to tell someone that while you don’t mind discussing anything to improve the business and you are open to any and all ideas, you will not be disrespected or personally assaulted. What are your thoughts?
Good solid well directed stuff (as usual, thks) to keep us focused on what’s in front of us to advance our agendas and out of the dramas that swirl around us.
Will add this to the discussion, the better we understand how we behave and how we are perceived by others the better equipped we’ll all be to understand others and adapt to their behavior and language when needed and appropriate.
There are a number of good assessment tools out their that can provide that critical understanding especial in situations as Athena describes above (small and private businesses).
Last week I was being an insecure boss because I feel I’m lagging behind some of my direct reports on a new computer system we’re installing. And then I pulled a quote from a previous leadership blog and scratched it across the top of my notes and underlined it three times. “The team with the best players wins.” It set my perspective back to where it needed to be.
You’re right, Dan. Bosses inevitably feel insecure at times, but we don’t have to be jerks.
We are all challenged by insecurities. Dealing with the insecure jerk depends entirely on how we deal with our own insecurities. Can we be brave when the energy around us is full of hear? Can we stay focused on our own production and work when there are attempts at drama? Can we encourage genuinely and find the positives for someone who really needs to hear it? There comes a point when that energy will not be enoug…and that is the point when the move is the best and necessary option. Thanks for the food for thought. MMF
Having encountered the insecure boss/bullying syndrome in a small company, I learnt (too late) that if noticed in the beginning, it’s a good sign to leave sooner rather than later.
If in such a situation, a big challenge is that in a small company there is noone else that this can be brought up with and from a point of integrity and professionalism, one can’t e.g. bring it up in external circles as that would reflect badly on the company even when the bad boss finds every opportunity to spread misinformation.
Your post has valuable teaching in it. And as per Ajay’s post, that’s exactly what I experienced on resigning, but the most challenging part since, is that when the distorted information and drama the boss created and spread, travels across networks of power – it’s challenging when looking for a new job. One can find oneself “pre-judged” in that indirectly some hiring managers I’ve met have alluded to having prior information, which puts the candidate in the difficult situation since it’s a no-no to talk badly about a previous workplace irrespectively of how bad things were and at the same time one is not given the opportunity to put things straight.
Would you have any advice to offer in regards to the post-insecure-boss, life and dealing with the challenge of being pre-judged based on the sabotage of an ex-boss? Any examples of someone this has happened to and what they did to get their career back on track?
Hi, The insecure jerk boss you describe sounds like he has a lot of the traits of a passive aggressive man.
May I ask what is an insecure jerk? I am not really clear on the concept. Could you tell more about the psychological profile and attitude?
Thanks a lot for your answer,
Sahar, I’m taking the liberty to reply here. As we all know, maximum attrition is thanks to bad bosses. I think Dan has nicely portraid a bad boss as an insecure jerk. An insecure jerk simply put is a person who stifles his subordinates growth for fear of losing his/her own possition of authority. Normally people who are less self aware and lack competence fall into the category of ‘insecure jerks’. Dan, pls correct me if I’m wrong here 🙂
oops ‘portrayed’ not portraid 🙂
Dan, I think you’ve struck a chord with many people here with this post 🙂 I think in your next post you should speak about how bosses grow by letting others grow. Though easier said than done, I know I have seen immense success as a business owner by teaching my managers to groom their subordinates for self-inflicted redundancy. It’s magical that such bosses make their lives easier and also never become redundant, as they move up to higher positions of authority!
I laughed so hard when I read this. Very true and very helpful – I failed in this – “Find encouragement and support from people outside your organization. Keep this in strict confidence.”
Very helpful advice … Thank you for an excellent post.
I was victimized by an insecure boss. Yes, absolutely, he was a bully. But two years of documentation means nothing when someone lies about you and twists the past to make you look bad. Never mind if the quality of your work is good or great. My suggestion is to do what you have to — till you get out. Don’t sell your soul.
My first supervisor out of college told me that I asked too many questions. It wasn’t until years later that I realized this person was very insecure and was threatened by someone who was asking questions.
I definitely believe over communication is a very good idea. Just don’t expect that communication will go both ways.
Boy, are you dead-on. No matter what you do, you can’t seem to win with these types. And focusing on doing great work is absolutely not the answer, as you point out. Thankfully, the new demands on work in the new digital world is making it harder and harder for these types of jerks. Check out my post on “The inevitable extinction of the a-hole”. http://stratecutionstories.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/the-inevitable-extinction-of-the-a-hole/
WOW! Good and very accurate post, in my opinion! Some of thie issues I’ve had is that I deal in-directly with an insecure boss. I interact with another area’s personnel quite frequently and their boss fits your description to the T! It has been difficult for me to ‘help’ them and appropriately talk with them. This gives me some additional information and perspective. Thanks, Dan!!
Sound advice on moving, Dan! I’ve spent most of my career working for large corporations and have found the most dangerous people to be the insecure ones who are clinging to their jobs at all costs.
Given today’s job market, there are many who have worked their way up the ladder of a particular corporation but lack the skills and/or education to secure a similar title and pay elsewhere. In my experience, those managers had the highest subordinate turnover rates – whether through outright firing or internal transfers. As long as politics trumps abilities, that’s going to be a fact of life at many organizations.
No matter how hard you try, there are some relationships you just can’t make work, no matter how talented or determined you are. Life’s too short to make yourself lesser to accommodate an insecure boss – there are plenty of intelligent & confident bosses with real-world experience and empathy out there!
Yep – I agee totally. Especially with your end comment “don’t plan on staying” in these type of situations, as this has dire consequences for you as the employee, across several fronts.
It’s worst outcome in the workplace, is that you – as the employee – get your confidence eroded away to such a point that you too begin to ‘under-perform’ and take on many of those same insecurities your boss displays.
Worse still (as touched on above by many) it seriously impacts on your private life outside your workplace. It’s actually quite insidious and can be extremely damaging for your own personal relationships – as we’re all guilty of bringing a little (or a lot 😉 ) of our work home with us – in one way or another. When this type of issue becomes your worst nightmare at work – you can’t help but live it outside your workplace as well.
For the sake of all – you and those around you – find your way out of this type of situation as soon as you can. It’s my (personal) belief that you can only manage it internally – for a set amount of time. It takes an extraordinary person who can manage an insecure boss in any really useful manner and it becomes an extra duty that can take over your own duties and responsibilities at work.
I find your blog very insightful Dan – thanks very much and I wish you a ‘speedy’ recovery!
Yes, and the worst thing is that their insecurity extends to not supporting employees for advancement for fear of being wrong (i.e. what if I back this person for promotion and they don’t work out, it will reflect on me.) So they also perpetuate mediocrity.
Thank you for putting together this forum. It has been so very helpful. I have been facing this situation for the last year. It took me a while to fully comprehend the scope of manipulations. Its very frustrating and hard.
I was browsing my favorites folder and saw this post and read it again and I realized it has been my template ever since I read it when you first posted it! And as it always is when reading your posts, I find something new to realign me. This time it’s the part where you said “Move up, move sideways, or move out but don’t plan on staying. Chances are you’ll stay too long”.
Thank you, thank you and thank you again for the truths in your post which have kept me and are still keeping me sane!
I trust your injuries are completely healed now. I just got to know about it from an earlier comment on thgis post!