Books by Anne Hart
© 1995 by Anne Hart, M.A.
Some people may work for demanding employers and co-workers who put the squeeze on you, asking you to deliver more in less time, the leaders who put unrealistic deadlines on your work or time, hoping you catch the "hurry sickness." Perfectionist and bully bosses don't encourage you to do your best. Instead, they make you feel as though you can't do anything right and will never live up to their demands. If you think re-entering the workplace after 40 or 60 means getting away from such personalities, think again. The high-tech industry, the arts, and the business or professional world, even volunteerism at your local museums could be loaded with bosses, directors of volunteers, or co-workers who are perfectionists or bullies.
Give them what they lack, and don't criticize
Career advisors say the best way to handle ornery personalities is to give each what they're lacking. Bullies are in need of boundaries and ultimatums and perfectionsts have the need to be thorough and efficient.
Be careful not to attack or criticize the boss. You'll get the same attitude right back. Instead, let the boss know his or her reputation is dependent on making some changes.
"Bullies in the workplace are team ringleaders. They need followers, and nobody's going to follow them if they lose their reputation as a top dog.
Women over age 40 in a re-entry job may refrain from independently asking a contrary boss to make a host of behavioral changes. A newcomer would do better to gather a group of other people to sign a petition asking for changes. Employees acting together have the power to affect the boss's public reputation. Inform the person that if he or she makes the right changes, then his or her reputation will be positively affected.
If a confrontation with a bully or perfectionist boss would do you more harm than good, consultants say daily interaction with the person should also be focused on meeting the person's needs, thereby giving yourself and your boss some degree of consistency and control. Perfectionists and even bullies are the kind of people who are interested in concrete results, not abstract ideas. With that in mind, Don't ask what you need to start next. Ask what you need to finish next. Even something as simple as showing up on time every day will do much to defiise a difficult boss and turn the impatient leader to your side.
Do your best to act with efficiency and to cooperate with others in your office in ways that any productive employee would adopt anyway. When problems arise, explain them in black and white terms. Draw on the talents of others on your team. Avoid excessive complaining, and be sure to give your boss the respect that individual's position deserves.
In some ways, intense rivalry among computer science and engineering companies breeds these personalities. Managers who feel overwhelmed by stress are likely to transfer their anguish to the people they supervise. The managers most susceptible to this kind of distress include two distinct personality types: perfectionists and bullies.
Dealing with Perfectionists
Perfectionist bosses worry so much about their own performance that, to make themselves look good, they expect their employees to produce more than is humanly possible in the time available. They reduce deadline time while condemning workers for not accomplishing enough. The truth is, however, they don't feel they are getting enough done themselves. Similarly, bullies are overly concerned with their public reputations. They need followers who look up to them, and they tend to perceive everything as black or white, right or wrong, with little tolerance for ambiguity.
Sometimes perfectionist bosses also have minimum respect for others' personal space. One thing that bully and perfectionist bosses have in common is that they take away your control over your job. Whereas they possess the capabilities for success, both bullies and perfectionists lack self esteem. Does your boss fear his or her inability to compete in the workplace? Perfectionism can make the perfectionist sick in some cases. In other cases, perfectionism in an employer can make the employee sick. It depends upon the individual's physical, metabolic, chemical, and genetic (inherited predisposed) reaction to perfectionism or the fear of inadequacy in the face of competition for scarcity of employment or scarcity of customers and an abundance of employers with more capital and more and superior product access.
Because perfectionist bosses are so consumed with self-doubt, perfectionists' actions and comments infect those they supervise -- including re-entry women of middle age or retirees returning to the workplace as well as first-time employees graduating into the workforce. Perfectionists and bullies alike search for any new employee or client to show the first signs of feelings of inadequacy.
Then they cut loose by projecting their own feelings of not measuring up by ordering you to produce more than is humanely possible in less time. They hope to make themselves look good by showing higher numbers in their own job evaluation file by forcing you to do the work that they fear they can't do themselves.
Don't lose your confidence if you have a perfectionist or bully supervisor. Not all perfectionists are bullies, and not all bullies are perfectionists. Some people may work for perfectionist bosses who also become bullies if the employer senses a worker with little experience, an overqualified worker, someone who is afraid of age discrimination at work, or a person who lacks experience and is working for the perfectionist boss to gain experience.
Companies in the computer industry and other high-tech workplaces rely on fast-paced production. Almost every newspaper advertisement from clerk to content writer emphasizes you'll have to work under pressure and prioritize multi-tasks. Does this mean you'll also have to confront the difficult supervisor?
As the intensity of demands grows, so too will a difficult boss's need for control. Perhaps the boss feels so out of control inside that the individual also must control your actions. Experts say the best way to deal with a bully or perfectionist boss is to avoid falling under the influence of one in the first place. You can walk out or confront your boss with witnesses or video tape. How many will really do that?
Digging up the info
Your best bet is to keep a diary of events and record it in your permanent file each time an act of perfectionism occurs that can't be explained away as a drive to efficiency. You are not supposed to lose your autonomy and opportunity to learn more when your boss asks you to be more efficient.
When making the decision to take a new job or a promotion, first research the manager to whom you'll be reporting. What do others think of that person? You can find that out from networking at professional and business associations or other gatherings of people in your line of work who work or have worked for that firm. If the manager allows and encourages your autonomy and teamwork, that's autonomy and not merely teamwork--that's positive. A boss who doesn't encourage autonomy is not obsessing about control disguised under the banner of teamwork.
Research from the Northwestern National Life Insurance Company (in 1998 called the Reliastar Life Insurance Co.) revealed there may be truth in this logic. Its1993 study found that an environment which lacks teamwork furnishes poor supervision, discourages employee input, and expects heavy employee output produces in time employees who have a problem finishing even the most simple tasks.
Experts encourage people to look for companies that emphasize balance. Move toward the companies that want you to take up after-work relaxation classes or programs. Join the company that provides social opportunities for you by offering health plans that cover stress management.
A perfectionist manager is a stressed-out or burned-out manager. You won't see a stressed-out supervisor when you go for your job interview. Interviews cover behavior. Chances are you'll deal with a difficult boss sometime in your career, whether you work inside the house or outside, and whether it's for pay or as a volunteer.
Career experts tell you to handle ornery personalities by giving the bully or perfectionist what the person is most lacking. Bullies need boundaries, and perfectionists have the need to be thorough and efficient.
Anne Hart is the author of 91+ paperback books, including Winning Resumes for Computer Personnel, Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 2nd edition, NY, 1998, 30+ Brain-Exercising Creativity Coach Businesses to Open, and Employment Personality Tests Decoded, and other nonfiction books and novels. See Anne Hart's Facebook Group Page at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/healthresearchnews/
If you're a teacher facing old age discrimination in hiring because you went back to college over the age of 40 or 50 or if you're some of those liberal arts college graduates who aren't finding teaching jobs at the high school, community college, or even elementary school levels who don't wish to work as substitutes or teacher's aides, you might go back to school for a short time to become a certified brain performance coach.
Also helpful is my paperback book, 30+ Brain-Exercising Creativity Coach Businesses to Open, if you're looking for more insight on what possible types of creativity enhancement coaching in different fields, or coaching for learning and job skill understanding you might want to explore, especially for those who enjoy writing or helping people learn more about creativity enhancement careers, expressive arts and therapies, creativity coaching, and various alternative fields to explore, including what type of training is required for them.
Alternative careers for those trained in liberal arts or education also may find entrepreneurial careers by becoming brain coaches. Brain coaching also can be taught as a community college class in personal development, if you approach community colleges with a course outline to teach this subject. You also might explore careers as a "brain-training coach." Alternative careers for teachers and counselors or those in behavioral sciences or in the arts, music, and writing fields could also explore what "brain-training coach" does on the job, such as writing, speaking, and consulting. There also are tutors, learning coaches, and business writing, including grant writing coaches working as consultants or in specific jobs.
You could also work with foreign students studying in a variety of cities. Global Mindset, according to the website, "Become a Brain-Training Coach," is the ability to influence and motivate individuals, groups and organizations that are different from your own native background.
How would you like to be the coach who motivates others from different cultures in order to function better in a global society and a global economy? Also see the site, Mental fitness - Workplace Coaching Kits and Master Coach Courses.
The career could also appeal to behavioral science, counseling, English, and life science majors who want to work for themselves as brain performance coaches to help students do better on final exams and similar tests such as aptitude tests, graduate school entrance tests, or employment tests. The reason why someone hires a brain coach is to amplify the brainpower of a student for finals at any grade level, usually though, at the college level.
The most frequent type of brain coach has a masters degree in some subject such as English or math or one of the life sciences or in professional writing and finds work by coaching students to perform better on tests. This coaching could be for elementary students through college students. It helps if you're a specialist in behavioral and neuroscience techniques for achieving brain performance on tests. It also helps if you learn how to design the tests.
You really don't need any special major, but if you're a generalist, here's one way to specialize in helping others achieve better test scores using the neuroscience-based techniques for brain performance. And you don't need to be exceptionally intelligent yourself.
What you do need to study or read up on are the techniques that neuroscientists use to help others achieve better brain performance on tests, including specific tests that students would pay for if they could improve their scores on tests such as the MCAT, the medical school aptitude exam or the LSAT, the exam given to get into law school. And there are a lot more entrance and aptitude tests for which students will pay to be tutored or to take a course in order to improve their chances of success. See, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, SAT, ACT, and More.
Another approach that brain coaches use is to help students reduce anxiety on tests. Sometimes a student will get a high score on the MCAT, the medical school aptitude test used for admission to medical school when sample tests are taken at home, but get so anxious that the score drops dramatically when the student takes the test in public. The brain coach trains the student to reduce test anxiety for such tests or for routine final exams for college courses.
You could also take an online course to become a certified brain coach, improve your own brain, or use brain performance enhancing software. See, Brain Aerobics (BrainAerobics) on Twitter. Before you sign up for any courses make sure that any certification you earn is accredited and recognized by some validated organization with the authority to recognize certified brain performance coaches. Check out the costs of training which can vary.
To enter the field, it's good to become a certified brain performance coach. You'd consult with students to see what approach would be best. What you'd help the student with is to 're-engineer' the student's approach to tests and school.
Maybe you'd help the student turn test-taking into fun or read with better understanding. Some students hyperventilate when taking an exam. You would be helping the student relax, breathe a little slower, and find ways to cut the anxiety of test taking. You'd be paid when and if the student notices a difference after one session.
One outcome would be to help the student feel more present in the moment instead of feeling stress about future performance on tests. How do you become a certified brain performance coach? Check out the website, "Become a Brain-Training Coach."