We have all been there before: Working under a leader who is constantly criticizing, a boss who is quick to accuse and blame, a manager who is constantly disparaging the staff.
It’s extremely hard to work with someone who’s always critical, finding fault and spooning out judgment. It creates a tense, untrusting environment and an adverse working culture.
The first impulse is to walk away and move on to better things. But quitting isn’t always the best option—or an option at all.
In those situations, there are still strategies you can employ to survive a critical leader.
1. Decide that you won’t allow anyone to treat you in a way you wouldn’t treat yourself, or others. You don’t have to endure being humiliated, belittled, or otherwise emotionally abused. Recognize such behavior for what it is and make a commitment to yourself that you will not allow it.
2. Draw a line. All healthy relationships have boundaries, but abusers are experts at crossing those lines. When you feel that someone has overstepped your boundaries, stand up for yourself boldly but respectfully. The moment you are uncomfortable is the moment to say something. It may be as simple as “I need to go now.” Don’t let things get out of hand, because that is how you set a precedent for acceptance and turn a one-time event into a chronic challenge.
3. Propose a better plan. Trying to make sense of crazy will drive you insane. Instead have a plan for action that changes the circumstances. Alone or with others, you can schedule a time to sit down and let your leader know that your team needs a better form of communication. Try to work with them to develop a plan that treats accountability and responsibility as a two-way street.
4. Remember that some people come into your life as blessings and others as lessons. Everything that happens to you, for good or for ill, carries a lesson. Even watching what others do wrong from a distance can teach you a lot. When you see and hear things you don’t like, look for the lessons you can learn from them.
5. Let the things that irritate you about others lead you to a better understanding of yourself. You can also learn about yourself by watching those around you. Sometimes it’s the things we ourselves are guilty of that annoy us the most in others. And if you are in a position to lead or manage, ask yourself if your own behavior reflects how you’d like to see your team act.
6. Be the change you want to see. You can’t control anyone else’s behavior, but you can always model what you’d like to see. Be mindful of how you react, respond, and reply, and make sure you don’t let yourself be influenced by the bad leadership you’re working under. Swim against the current with commitment and tenacity, and maybe your behavior will influence others.
7. Respect yourself enough to walk away. If you have seriously given a bad situation every chance to improve—if you have done everything in your power to make it work, if you have talked, made a plan, became the change you want to see—there is one last thing you must decide. You may be past the point of trying to be honest and respectful with an emotional manipulator when everything you try to do is turned against you. If you’re doing yourself more harm than good, it’s time to respect yourself and walk away. There’s one kind of strength in surviving an emotionally abusive person, and another kind that comes from removing yourself from a toxic environment. The answer varies depending on the situation and how long you’ve been trying. Sometimes you have to ask yourself what will you allow to continue and what will you not.
Lead from within: We must never make excuses for critical people, but we can learn to be better people in their presence.
N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.