My manager is erratic. Help!

My manager is erratic. Help!

My manager blows hot and cold. One moment he’s your best friend, the next he’s literally screaming at people. So far I’ve not been targeted but I’m new to the group and I’m sure he’ll turn on me soon. Any advice? J.D., New York, NY

Good for you that you’re proactively planning how you’ll respond. Before I address potential responses, take a look at the company as a whole.

Is his behavior the norm? If so, be aware that your ability to affect change will be limited. If it’s unusual, think about what type of value he’s providing to the company. Does he bring in a lot of revenue or handle the biggest clients? Is he best friends with his boss? Why do you think they are ignoring abusive behavior? If the company has allowed this behavior, at some level it is working for them.

Then identify what you want out of this assignment. Are you in his group because you want exposure to a certain assignment, to learn a new skill, or for higher visibility? You need to know because you’re going to have to figure out the cost/benefit to dealing with his behavior. How much are you willing to put up with?

Answering these questions will help you determine your long-term strategy. If you’ve gotten what you wanted from working with him, it’s time to move on. If not, as long as you believe the value outweighs the cost, try to minimize the impact of his behavior on you/your mindset.

In the short term, craft a response you can use when he “turns” on you. If he’s in the middle of a rant, don’t even attempt to reason with him. He’s in the grip of a chemical cocktail (adrenaline, etc.) that doesn’t allow him to access the thinking part of his brain. He’s reacting. You want to communicate that you hear him and you’ll take action, and then get out of his presence as soon as you can. It could sound something like this: “Joe, I understand you’re upset and I would never intentionally do anything to upset you. I’ll go look into it and get answers for you.” The more you do this, the less his emotional outbursts will rattle you.

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