My manager is totally losing it. He used to be calm, cool, and collected. Now he’s turned into a crazy person. He’s short-tempered, impatient, and unapproachable. I’m having a hard time getting my job done because I need his input on my work. What can I do? S.D., New York, NY
If there’s been an extreme behavior change, think about the cause. Does he have new management? Is your department not doing well? Is it review/bonus time? Maybe he didn’t receive what he was expecting. You want to understand so you can figure out the best approach.
Look for a time when he’s relatively calm. Empathize with him: “I can only imagine the pressure you’re under.” Explain your intent: “I don’t want to create work for you. I do need your input, though.” Give him control: “What is the best way for me to get your 2 cents given how much you have going on?” Then make an offer: “What else can I do to help?”
If he bites your head off when you’re following his direction, calmly say, “Bob, you know I don’t want to make work for you. This is the way you told me to get your input. Is there a different way for me to go about it in the future?”
Emotional contagion is a very real condition. Make sure his stress doesn’t become yours. Stay calm and focused on problem-solving. And don’t discuss his behavior with others. You’ll get a better outcome with a lot less effort.