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I work for a small agency where I report directly to the founder. I strongly suspect he has ADHD and anger issues. Today he had a temper tantrum with a support rep for one of our vendors. They immediately terminated our hosting account because my boss was being verbally abusive. Thanks to my boss's temper tantrum, I had to handle support calls from upset clients whose sites were down thanks to my boss's "maturity fail".

What's the best way to handle this situation in terms of "managing up" to my boss. If he reported to me I would have given him a written warning and sent him home for a few days of unpaid leave.

The power dynamic between us is weird. He should be giving me direction and setting the example for me to follow. How can I encourage my boss to handle things in a constructive way?

closed as off-topic by IDrinkandIKnowThings, mcknz, gnat, JB King, Lilienthal Nov 13 '15 at 11:39

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    Run. Seriously, run. Any company with a founder that verbally abuses his client base won't be a company for much longer. – Lilienthal Nov 6 '15 at 10:57
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    @Lilienthal: the boss was not abusive with a client, but with a vendor. (Which doesn't invalidate your point.) – Stephan Kolassa Nov 6 '15 at 12:31
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    I'll probably be in the minority here, but I'm guessing he knows how to handle his business. Especially if he's been doing it for years. – Dan Nov 6 '15 at 14:11
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    I would presume he knows that blowing up cost him that vendor. It's up to him or anyone above him to decide whether that's a good outcome and if not what can be done to prevent a repetition. You can't chsnge an sdult; all you can do is support them if they want to change. – keshlam Nov 6 '15 at 15:50
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    If he reported to me I would of given him a written warning and sent him home for a few days of unpaid leave .. but i think you're assuming you know the full monty here. Truth is, you don't know the full picture – Adel Nov 6 '15 at 18:47
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It's not your responsibility to handle your boss, it's his business at stake here. What you should do is chat to him directly about your concerns. Tell him how this played out on your side, don't exaggerate, be objective and honest. Give him a chance to make it right - he may just be missing the perspective of it all or you may not be seeing the full picture.

Alternatively if you're uncomfortable with this approach if there is somebody else in your company with some seniority that you both have a good rapport with it may be worth mentioning this incident to him and your concerns about it.

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A person should manage his/her reports and no one else. Anyone managing upwards or horizontally is doing it wrong. Project reports are an exception.

Your purpose in your job and indeed in any job is to solve problems for your manager. While I sympathise with your concerns, his behaviour/performance is not your responsibility.

Having said that, you can certainly help him to work better. This is clearly in both your economic interests.

However, I'd keep it objective and report on the customer downtime problems for example. You could also offer to handle the interaction with the (new) hosting company. He may have lost his temper with that vendor rep because as founder he has a thousand and one things to do and it was simply the straw that broke the camel's back. He may appreciate you freeing his hands. Of course, if he declines your suggestion that's his business. Literally.

Remember: You are paid to solve problems for him, not to manage or to judge him.

  • "A person should manage his/her reports and no one else" In an ideal world yes but managing up is a thing and can be useful, if only to try and protect your own professional reputation. Because your first two paragraphs are so black-and-white they seem to contradict your third. – Lilienthal Nov 6 '15 at 11:03
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    It depends how you define manage. If you take it to mean a synonym of handle or deal with then yes, we all manage all kinds of people in all directions. However, manage in a work context implies specific responsibilities etc. that don't apply to a subordinate. – Simon Hoare Nov 6 '15 at 11:07
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The power dynamic between you is indeed weird. You think that you can and should manage and fix him. This is almost certainly wrong. Assuming this founder is the one who interviewed you, decided to hire you, and (literally or metaphorically) signs your paycheques, your role is to take the direction you are given and do your job. If it turns out that the job involves too many things you don't like (such as dealing with clients who are upset as a result of something the founder did) it's highly appropriate to ask to have the amount of that work reduced. It's not appropriate for you to diagnose (literally, you have provided a medical diagnosis) or cure what you think is wrong.

The vendor sounds terrible by the way. What kind of support rep leads a grown adult into a temper tantrum? I have snapped at a few in my time, especially the Bell Canada people, but I am having trouble imagining a conversation so bad that the hosting company just shuts off all your live web sites. At least some of that has to be on the hosting company. Yet you can't see that and think your boss is immature. I wonder what other situations contain information you don't have access to that would explain what you're seeing.

You don't have to like and admire your boss, but if you don't you are unlikely to do well at your job. If this job contains too much listening-to-bad-temper and too much cleaning-up-after-anger, then by all means start looking for a new one. But I'll warn you now, if you think you can "manage up" and fix this person, you'll be looking for a new one on his schedule, not yours.

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    "What kind of support rep leads a grown adult into a temper tantrum?" What makes you think any such thing happened? I have dealt with a few people who are abusive to vendors for little or no good reason other than they think they are not worthy of respect. – Laconic Droid Nov 6 '15 at 14:33
  • it takes two to escalate. A good rep keeps you calm even though you start the call upset. A bad one makes things worse. I've dealt with both. I have had to tell a rep to stop yelling at me. People don't call their vendors for idle chitchat - presumably the call started because somebody did something wrong. How that gets reacted to matters. Even if the boss was 100% wrong start to finish, a good rep would not have let things get as far as they did. – Kate Gregory Nov 6 '15 at 14:37
  • The situation escalated because our hosting account was suspended due to several sites repeatedly infested with malware. Founder/boss was verbally abusive in his replies to the support tech. Which constituted a TOS violation on behalf of the vendor. – dperry1973 Nov 6 '15 at 23:31

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