Communication Problems at Work:
How to Work for a Witch and Survive!

Yes, it is possible to work for a witch – without killing yourself or her. Here is some advice for anyone who happens to find themselves in a ball busting situation of working for a boss who seems to enjoy making you miserable. If you feel that your boss is a witch, you’re probably right. Now the question is, is there something you can do, assuming you are not in a position to walk away from this job?

The answer is yes. It starts with understanding what is going on inside her head. Communication problems at work can be handled once you understand a few simple facts.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of rotten bosses out there. It seems the more stress they can give you the better they actually feel. And of course, with their horrendous people skills, they often bring out the worst in you. In an ideal world there would be no bullies or petty tyrants who get away with ruining everyone else’s day. There would be no people who promise results, then don’t deliver. There would be no whiners whose constant complaining and maddening negativism drive you nuts. But, apparently, it isn’t a perfect world, so what’s a nice person like you supposed to do?

Get smart about dealing with people you can’t stand. You can learn to handle your boss, even if she is a raging witch. You may not be able to change her, or give her the “meanness lobotomy” she truly deserves, but you can learn to bring out the best even in bosses who thrive on behaving at their worst.

To improve communication problems at work, first we need to understand what makes a boss behave badly. Understanding may not erase the problem, but it will give you more emotional resources to withstand the day-to-day encounters. Dysfunctional systems, organizations or work environments often produce dysfunctional behavior. But even in the most unhealthy systems, certain people still make healthy, reasonable, compassionate choices, so there are some individual factors that are worth understanding.

If you work with or live with aggressive, insensitive, demeaning behaviors directed at you, there are some things to do to help yourself to survive if you feel you must remain in the situation.

Begin by understanding what is driving the difficult behavior. Let’s say you are dealing with a rotten boss, although these principles could apply to co-workers, spouses or to anyone. If the Boss is misbehaving, chances are she wants something that she isn’t getting. Or she is getting something that she doesn’t want. She is probably someone with massive communication problems, so you are going to have to use your best skills to survive.

For example, it would be so much simpler if when The Boss wanted oranges, she could ask for oranges. Unfortunately, what often happens is that The Boss doesn’t realize she has been saying (maybe even screaming), “Where are those darn apples I asked for!” when what she really wanted all along was oranges and didn’t know it. No one around The Boss is going to have a fighting chance pleasing her when they bring her even the world’s greatest apples.

Here are some tips for decoding irrational, offensive, or negative behavior and a variety of communication problems at work:

Ask yourself: “Does The Boss need something she is not getting? Or is she getting something that she doesn’t want?” These are some of the underlying issues behind the common communication problems that erupt at a moments notice. Does one of the following categories of questions best apply to your situation?

1) Fear Based Behavior 
Is The Boss afraid that the job/task will not get done? Or afraid her needs will not be met? If so, she will resort to controlling behaviors, attempting to control everyone around her because she doesn’t trust that the “job” will get done without her applying emotional or mental force.

2) Perfectionism: 
Is The Boss afraid that the job/task will not get done right? If so, she will become increasingly demanding, perfectionist, unsatisfied, unpleasable, and very pessimistic about anything getting better. Everyone around her will become her target practice. She may even present obstacles to those who are trying to do something about the situation she is so upset about.

3.) Need for Approval 
Is The Boss so worried about what others will think or how she will be perceived that she may do nothing rather than take a stand? Is she so afraid of conflict that she is locked in her tower while everyone else is left to fight the battles? Or is she so busy trying to please everyone that she says “yes” and promises the world to everyone – then is unable to deliver? Does she avoid making decisions until the decisions are made for her? If so, she won’t respond to your requests for action unless she can be reassured she will not fail or lose face.

4) Belittling Others: 
Is The Boss feeling that she isn’t truly appreciated or getting the respect she believes she deserves? This will cause her to take it out on others, to make anyone else look bad. She will take shots at others and put them down in an attempt to bolster her own needs for the kind of attention she craves. To deal with this type, take extra efforts to show how much you respect and appreciate her, to diffuse her constant need for acknowledgment.

So, how does understanding these behaviors and communication problems at work help you? For one thing, you can stop taking them personally. They’re not about you and what you’re doing, or not doing. They are about misbehaving people, bosses who don’t know how to take responsibility for their own fears. They are about people who can’t handle frustration, and instead want to externalize or make you the cause of their problems. Don’t buy into their misbehavior.

Recognize the underlying needs your boss has that underlie her communication problems at work, and ask yourself: “What (underlying, often unspoken need) is driving her bizarre behavior?” Even if The Boss is unaware of what bee has flown into her bonnet, try to understand her underlying need that is causing the misbehavior.

And if you really can’t stand working for this bitch, by all means, leave. Quit. Say “Sayonara Sweetheart!”

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