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Few Things are More Destructive Than an Insecure Boss

by Ramon Greenwood

Few things are more destructive to a career than a boss who is insecure. Unfortunately, it is a near certainty that most people will encounter one or more such persons along the way.

"The actions of an insecure boss will eventually create an insecure organization, riddled with anxiety and indecision," says Ramon Greenwood, senior career counselor at Common Sense At Work.com. "People will spend more time looking over their shoulders than looking ahead. Good defenses become more important than effective offenses."

Seven Traits Of An Insecure Boss
You will know your boss is suffering from an insecurity complex when he or she is engaging in behavior highlighted by these seven such traits:

1. The boss insists on absolute control over everything in the department. He rules with an iron hand, refusing to delegate any real authority. He doesn't trust anyone. He has few allies. Those allies he does enlist are formed into a tight little clique strongly obligated to his authority and dependent on it. They live an uncertain life on a short leash.

2. The boss constantly interferes in the work of his staff. Second guesses are the order of the day.

3. He constantly defends his position. Every question or hint of criticism is treated as a challenge to his worth and authority. He doubts he has the respect of his associates. Those who exhibit a mind of their own are under constant attack.

4. The insecure boss is most often an absolute perfectionist. He will climb the wall when you make a mistake. But look out. When he fouls up, he will blame it on someone else. He has to be right every time.

5. He will resist making decisions. This means endless studies and return trips to the drawing boards.

6. He will frequently remind you who is boss.

7. He finds it next to impossible to laugh at himself, but he is quick to laugh at others.

Seven Actions You Can Take
There are no certain quick fixes, but there are seven steps that will help mitigate the situation and advance your own interests. Actually, insecure bosses can offer opportunities.

1. Be certain you are not contributing to your superior's low self-esteem. Do everything you can to reassure him of your respect for his position and your commitment to helping him do his job.

2. Shore him up at every opportunity. Learn where he feels most insecure--where his hot buttons are--and make a special effort to be
helpful in these areas.

3. When you have to challenge him, and surely you will from time to time, be certain to do it in a positive way. Don't question his authority. Never challenge or criticize the boss in the presence of others.

4. Never go around your insecure boss to deal directly with his boss without explicit approval. Make sure he realizes that you clearly understand the hierarchical relationships. You don't want to become an endangered species because you are seen as questioning his judgement and appealing to higher authorities.

5. Always be sure he gets more than his fair share of credit for your good work. Stay one step behind him when the limelight shines.

6. Find some of his good points and acknowledge them, publicly as well as privately. Remember, your boss may be a pain in the neck to work with, but surely he must have some redeeming features worthy of compliments.

7. Think of your own insecurities and what helps you deal with them. Apply what you learn from this analysis to dealing with your insecure boss.


Ramon Greenwood is Senior Career Counselor for www.CommonSenseAtWork.com. He is a former Senior Vice President at American Express, a published author and syndicated columnist, a professional director and an entrepreneur.

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