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Question
Posted by: Angela | 2004/02/27

Difficult person

I would appreciate a few tips on how to effectively deal with an extremely difficult person I work with. She is a type of boss in that I have to help her out with her work although I don't report directly to her - I have another boss who I report to. But she uses this as a type of "power thing" with me. If I make the slightest mistake she will show me up and gets great pleasure in doing that. She suffers from mood-swings and is never consistent with her dealings with me. I have examined my own behaviour towards her and am always friendly, pleasant and helpful. Whenever I get on well with my boss (who she also reports to) or other people in the office she makes sarcastic comments and tries to put me down. I find it stresses me out terribly, I often get a stiff neck and find it difficult being myself as it suppresses my personality and makes me nervous. Help!!

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Our expert says:
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Dear Angela,
Maybe most readers have already left for the weekend --- but surely they'll have something to say here, as such bosses are hardly rare ! I'm puzzled that the "boss you report to" doesn't mind someone else bossing you around and expcting you to do her work. Can't you discuss this peaceably with the "boss you both report to "?
It sounds like she's the sort of pathetically insecure person, who can only manage to make herself feel partly competent, by putting other people down.
She's probably risen in the organization by accident, and has now reached her Level of Incompetence, and may be stuck there. ( My old pal Prof Parkinson called this Parkinson's law --- that everyone who is capable of their job gets promoted, until they get to a job they can't do, and then they stick there, too incompetent for promotion, and most organizations don't like to move them down a step. They often partly recognize this, and feel dreadfully threatened by anyone younger and more competent than them, and will try to make that person unsettled and insecure, fearing that this younger person will before long get promoted over them --- as indeed can happen.

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