When Your Boss Attacks Your Self-Esteem
by Rick Brenner
Your boss's comments about your work can make your day — or break it. When you experience a comment as negative or hurtful, you might become angry, defensive, withdrawn, or even shut down. When that happens, you're not at your best. What can you do if your boss seems intent on making every day a misery?
Rachel finally gave up trying to work. She stood and looked outside at the snow. Deciding it wasn't too bad yet, she put on her coat and headed for the elevator and outside. Just to walk. A little early for lunch, but nobody seemed to notice. She needed some alone time.
Out beyond the parking lot was part of an old canal, and the geese wintered there. "Maybe they'll be there," she thought. "I need to calm down."
Eric hired Rachel two years ago. In the past year, she's noticed that he "constantly belittles everything I do." She becomes emotional and tries to defend herself, but often overreacts. This time, she's done something different, something much more effective. She's seeking a place and a space where she can calm herself.
When we're calm, we can use other tools to help recover our self-esteem. Here are a few suggestions.
- No one can actually belittle your work
- The result of your work stands — it is what it is. People can say things about your work, but they can't change your work. They can't belittle your work with words.
- Only you can belittle you
- People can say things about you, but you remain who you are. People can't belittle you with words.
- When you feel belittled, take responsibility
- People can say things
about your work,
but they can't
change your work
- The feeling of belittlement is real, but what's being belittled is your own acceptance — your esteem — for your Self. Others do play a part — they supply the words you need to make yourself feel belittled. But you control your emotions, so you play a part, too. Your part is that you believe the words just enough to feel bad about yourself. That's good news, because if you control what you do, you can change it.
- Remember those who love you
- When the swirl of feeling bad begins, it's easy to fall into the pit. You can hold onto your self-esteem a little tighter if you remember the people — including yourself — who love you. Decide in advance to focus on some small object — a locket, or a ring, or your badge (if you wear a badge at work), or even your right pinky fingernail. Imagine that it carries all the love that the people in your life feel for you. When your boss gets going, connecting with that object can bring you back from the pit, and if you remember soon enough, it will keep you from falling in.
Whatever you hear from others, you remain the same wonderful, unique human being that you've always been. To the people who love you, you mean a lot — maybe everything — and they'll keep loving you, no matter what others say. You can do the same. Top Next Issue
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. Order Now!
Your comments are welcome
Would you like to see your comments posted here? Send me your comments by email
, or by Web form
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful,
and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend
Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive
of past issues. Subscribe for free.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout,
as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in,
anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness
- Figuring Out What to Do First
- Whether we belong to a small project team or to an executive team, we have limited resources and seemingly unlimited problems to deal with. How do we decide which problems are important? How do we decide where to focus our attention first?
- How we deal with adversity can make the difference between happiness and something else. And how we deal with adversity depends on how we see it.
- Our Last Meeting Together
- You can find lots of tips for making meetings more effective — many at my own Web site. Most are directed toward the chair, or the facilitator if you have one. Here are some suggestions for everybody.
- Four Popular Ways to Mismanage Layoffs: Part I
- When layoffs are necessary, the problems they are meant to address are sometimes exacerbated by mismanagement of the layoff itself. Here is Part I of a discussion of four common patterns of mismanagement, and some suggestions for those managers and other employees who recognize the patterns in their own companies.
- Pet Peeves About Work
- Everybody has pet peeves about work. Here's a collection drawn from my own life, the lives of others, and my vivid imagination.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.
Forthcoming Issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 4: Bottlenecks: Part I
- Some people take on so much work that they become "bottlenecks." The people around them repeatedly find themselves stuck, awaiting responses or decisions. Why does this happen and what are the costs? Available here and by RSS on February 4
- And on February 11: Bottlenecks: Part II
- When some people take on so much work that they become "bottlenecks," they expose the organization to risks. Managing those risks is a first step to ending the bottlenecking pattern. Available here and by RSS on February 11
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates.
Contact Rick for details at rbrenner@ChacoCanyon.com
or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout
are available in six ebooks:
Reprinting this article
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline?
Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- Human-Centered Risk Management
- Most of us can assess technological risks, but risks related to human behavior tend to resist our best efforts. This session provides a framework for evaluating risks related to the behavior of individuals, teams, organizations and people generally. Human-centered risk differs from technological or market risk, because objective evaluation requires acknowledging personal and organizational limitations and failures. Since some of those limitations and failures might apply to the people assessing the risks, or to their superiors, there's a tendency to deny them or to explain them away. Our approach examines capability, organization, context, risk mitigation, and workplace politics. It has tools for guiding the assessment and management of human-centered risk, and we show how to extend these tools to suit your situation. You'll learn how to identify sources of risk in human behavior; recognize systemic and individual barriers to acknowledging risk; assess the effects of organizational turbulence; determine the risk associated with inappropriate internal risk transfer; estimate the effects of team dysfunction, toxic conflict and turnover; and measure the impact of workplace politics. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:
- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Risk Management for Leaders
- On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in risk management and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at risk management from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program. Here are some upcoming dates for this program:
- The Politics of Meetings for People Who Hate Politics
- There's a lot more to running an effective meeting than having the right room, the right equipment, and the right people. With meetings, the whole really is more than the sum of its parts. How the parts interact with each other and with external elements is as important as the parts themselves. And those interactions are the essence of politics for meetings. This program explores techniques for leading meetings that are based on understanding political interactions, and using that knowledge effectively to meet organizational goals. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:
- Decision-Making for Team Leaders
- Effective group decision-making requires far more than knowing how to organize a discussion or take a vote. This program is designed for both new and experienced team leaders or team sponsors, managers, project managers, portfolio managers, program managers, and executives and general managers. It is especially valuable to people who work in organizations that confront fluid environments, in which decisions must be made in the context of uncertainty. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:
- Changing How We Change: The Essence of Agility
- Mastery of the ability to adapt to unpredictable and changing circumstances is one way of understanding the success of Agile methodologies for product development. Applying the principles of Change Mastery, we can provide the analogous benefits in a larger arena. By exploring strategies and tactics for enhancing both the resilience and adaptability of projects and portfolios, we show why agile methodologies are so powerful, and how to extend them beyond product development to efforts of all kinds. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:
- Cognitive Biases and Workplace Decision-Making
- For most of us, making decisions is a large part of what we do at work. And we tend to believe that we make our decisions rationally, except possibly when stressed or hurried. That is a mistaken belief — very few of our decisions are purely rational. In this eye-opening yet entertaining program, Rick Brenner guides you through the fascinating world of cognitive biases, and he'll give concrete tips to help you control the influence of cognitive biases. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program: