Surviving in the Office: How to Deal With a Wild Boss Encounter

August 26, 2015 - 9 minutes read

One of the best things about Karmory is the office vibe. We are a small group of people who genuinely enjoy each other’s company and work well as a team. Truthfully, when we aren’t working, we’re usually laughing, most often at my jokes (please note, I’m incredibly conceited) or at Ricky’s expense. We have mostly good days. However, every employee knows that although they are temporary, bad days are part of the work cycle. These things happen in EVERY office, no matter how well your work group gets along.

Now, I can usually tell when my boss is in ill humor. Mostly because of the wide-eyed, tight lipped warning glances I receive from my coworkers when I walk in. It is our unspoken signal that screams, “Batten down the damn hatches because we are in for it.” However, sometimes it can be a little trickier to know what sort of mood your superior is in.

When a wild boss is in his or her natural element, take note of the warning signs.

STAGE 1: Are your boss’s nostrils flared while he/she is working? This can be an initial red flag that the tide is about to shift against you.

STAGE 2: Do you hear loud, aggressive sighing noises? If those noises are paired with your boss raking his/her fingers through their hair, it spells trouble.

STAGE 3: When your boss is talking to you, does he/she stop and stare at you with a long, drawn out pause with their lips curled inward, forming their mouth into a straight line?

STAGE 4: Has he/she begun swearing yet? Swearing is a sign that they have thrown caution to the wind, shed their professional exteriors and are really f&*^%$# mad.

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When dealing with Stages 1-2, proceed with delicate caution. You are not in dire straits just yet so you will have opportunities to turn the day around. Be patient.

When dealing with Stages 3-4, pretend the floor is lava and strive to not recreate that scene from Volcano when Stan leaps from the subway car and into imminent death. (However, if you are feeling so bold, at least have better jumping capabilities). Keep your head down, work furiously and hope you don’t get the wrath sent your way.

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If all of the above fail, please refer to the following steps below for optimal survival chances.

1) Remain calm and still. Don’t run. This is a race you will not win. Do not turn your back.

It’s important to always face the problems head on. Own any mistakes and think on your feet to find a solution as quickly and effectively as possible. Being defensive is the fastest way to cause more problems within the team.

2) Hold out your hand, fingers closed, palm down, slowly toward the boss. Allow the boss to approach your hand and sniff it.

 Don’t demand things of your boss when he/she is frustrated. Be patient; if you need something, try to exhaust all other options or solutions before you turn to your him/her. If there is a problem that needs a solution, speed is important, but it doesn’t mean you should be irrational. Be efficient. You don’t want to throw ideas out wildly; instead take the time to thoughtfully consider relevant ideas. Just don’t take TOO much time.

3) Create eye contact. Remember, looking at an angry boss in the eyes shows you’re truly listening and registering his feedback.

When things are going wrong in the office, it’s important that you are as receptive and attentive to whatever your boss is saying or asking. Your boss needs you to be the superstar they hired so be sure to listen.

4) Use a soft, soothing tone of voice. Loud, angry-sounding words and screaming only spur on the boss. Do not smile at the boss, even to lighten the mood. He could mistake it for you not caring.

This one is fairly self-explanatory. Don’t sound bitchy, sarcastic or condescending. Even in a joking manner. THIS IS NOT THE TIME.

6) If he bites you, DO NOT PULL AWAY. This only spurs the boss on. Remain calm.

Your boss is going to get frustrated. He might not be too kind when he words things. He might sigh loudly or do that thing when he laughs at your current mistake but he’s actually shocked and livid you messed up. Do not – I repeat – DO NOT lose your confidence or take it personally. Business is business; your friendship is an entirely separate entity. 

7) Wait for the boss’s “OK.” If he wants your affection, he will lower his head, crack a smile or even come closer to you. If the boss growls, or cowers, don’t pet him!

Your boss could have a sudden mood shift. Pay close attention to this, make sure it’s not just frustrated sarcasm and never crack a joke too soon, it could mean absolute disaster.


8) If all else fails, if you are on the ground, curl into a fetal position, cover your head with your arms, and keep your fingers curled in a fist.

Also incredibly self-explanatory.

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I’ll be honest here, Eric is just one of those guys who are incredibly intimidating at all times, even if it’s unintentional. The good news is Eric is rarely frustrated without good reason. If he’s upset, it’s because we didn’t do our jobs correctly and something needs to be fixed immediately. IT HAPPENS AND IT’S TOTALLY NORMAL, WE ARE ALL HUMAN. The bad news is that when you work within a small team, it can sometimes be difficult to not take criticism as a personal attack. Maintaining positivity is a critical part of turning the day around. The most valuable suggestion I can make is to never lose your head or your confidence. You have to be unshakable because this business is going to test you. Trust in your boss and your team and remember that nothing is ever personal; it’s about problem solving to the absolute best of your ability and you will overcome, eventually. Sure, sometimes you’ll want to flip the desk and have a dramatic exit and maybe someday you will if you reach your limit (cue image of a small boss-like voodoo doll,) but when you’re at work, handle it. I suggest you simply wait to get home so you can moan to your friends or family about your tough workday like a normal person.

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