The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

October 17, 2016

Dealing With a Manipulative Boss, Etc.

Why does management cling to ineffective policies? What are the top 3 signs it’s time to find another job? How do you deal with a manipulative boss — or just any poor leader? The Business Guy and The Psychology Guy answer questions from listeners at their recent The Boss Show Live! event in Seattle.

View Transcript

Voiceover: It’s a Northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. Now, a show for anyone who is or has a boss, this is The Boss Show with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko


Steve Motenko: Hi there, welcome to the show.  I’m Steve Motenko, I’m The Psychology Guy. I am a Harvard-educated leadership coach in the Seattle area, and a co-author with my friend across the table, of a book called Land on Your Feet Not on Your Face.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, I’m The Business Guy. I graduated from Forwood Elementary School in Wilmington, Delaware, and I’m the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development, and the co-author of Land on Your Feet not on Your Face.


Steve Motenko: I thought there was nothing left I didn’t know about you. Forwood.


Jim Hessler: Forwood, yeah right.


Steve Motenko: You could spell it, but since you only got through elementary school you don’t quite know how. Today on The Boss Show, thanks for being with us. We got a little wrench thrown into our works today, but as flexibility is the hallmark of a great leader we’re going to do what we can. We were going to have Jeff Haden who’s a mega-blogger for and Linkedin, and the ghostwriter of more than 50 non-fiction books. He’s been with us many times on The Boss Show. One of our favorite guests — and his flight got delayed.


Jim Hessler: Hurricane, probably the fall out of hurricane Mathew. He was trying to get out of Charlotte this morning and apparently the flights are still delayed out of that airport which serves Florida quite a bit.


Steve Motenko: We have [punt 00:01:28] and of course we will curse him under our breath. It’s all his fault.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, of course. I think you came up with a magnificent backup plan I just want to say.


Steve Motenko: Well, I think I just got lucky because last week as you probably remember, Jim, if your memory goes back a week, we did our first ever-


Jim Hessler: I remembered what elementary school I went to so it can’t be too bad.


Steve Motenko: That was like 90 years ago. We did our first ever Boss Show live event, so we got an audience in front of us, and I want to say a studio audience, it wasn’t exactly in the studio.


Jim Hessler: It was a very nice location called the Cloud Room which is one of these co-working spaces that you see so commonly now which I really recommend. If you’re a solo entrepreneur working for a small business, you might want to check out the cloud room in Seattle, or other co-working spaces. They’re nice and they’re gaining in popularity.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, we probably should do a show on them some day.


Jim Hessler: We did at one point a couple of years ago-


Steve Motenko: Oh, I guess it’s my memory-


Jim Hessler: It’s time to revisit, yeah.


Steve Motenko: We did this first-ever live Boss Show event and we did a combination of storytelling, which was a great idea. Not my idea, it was great idea to get people to come up and tell brief stories of workplace-


Jim Hessler: Whose idea was it?


Steve Motenko: Workplace drama and intrigue. I think it [Tina Nole 00:02:42]. I’m not giving you credit.


Jim Hessler: I don’t think so.


Steve Motenko: Okay, all right. Whatever. We interspersed the stories with … We asked people when they signed into the event to answer … to put a question in the hat. The question that we posed to prompt the questions that they put in the hat was, what is the single most baffling question that you struggle with in the workplace? or something like that. We got a number of really interesting questions and we answered a number of them and we got a lot of positive feedback about that part of the evening’s entertainment,  and there are a lot of questions that we didn’t get to. I just happened to throw those questions into my shirt pocket when I left home this morning not knowing that Jeff Haden wasn’t going to be with us, and so today let’s do it.


Jim Hessler: There’s this fedora sitting on the counter here in front of me at the KOMO studio, and I will reach in without looking and grab randomly the next question for The Boss Show guys. You’re ready Steve?


Steve Motenko: I am ready.


Jim Hessler: Wow. This might take all show. “Why do companies or management cling to ineffective practices or policies?” Wow, that’s deep.


Steve Motenko: It is. I wish we could go to break right now to think about it.


Jim Hessler: You don’t have a clue how to answer that. Well, I can get us started.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, get us started.


Jim Hessler: I fell actually pretty strongly about this. First of all let’s just start from the assumption that change is hard, so that is number one. I believe that what happens in a lot of organizations is the ineffective practices and policies may have actually worked well at some point. They worked well during a time during a time of different technology, different market conditions, Etc., and because they worked when they worked you just keep pedaling the same bicycle in the same direction.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, this is something we talk a lot about in our leadership workshops and something definitely worth expanding on when we come back from the break. Why do organizations cling to ineffective policies? More on that when we come back, you are listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: It’s a Northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. The Boss show continues.


Jim Hessler: Hello, I’m Jim Hessler, I’m The Business Guy and this is the show for anyone who is or has a boss.


Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko, I’m The Psychology Guy sitting across the table from that guy Jim Hessler and we’re answering listener questions today. Not listener questions that were posed to us online as usual, but ones that were given to us in person in last week’s The Boss Show Live event. Which we’ll do more of by the way, if you’re in the Seattle area stay tuned. Jim read the question again.


Jim Hessler: Why do companies or managers cling to ineffective practices or policies?


Steve Motenko: You started your answer before the break by saying change is hard, and this is something that I think you make a really good case of in the book, the book that we co-wrote but basically was your book and I did a lot of editing on it. People are threatened by change. In a way change is the natural order of the Universe, and everything in it, and all living things of course.


Jim Hessler: Yet it terrifies us.


Steve Motenko: Yet it terrifies us because we’re programmed to kind of … to find homeostasis. To find that set point where everything is okay, we’re all looking for that subconsciously whether we know it or not. In the workplace what happens is that we get into a routine, we finally solve the problems we need to solve, and we create conditions in which we’re comfortable doing the work that we’re doing. We feel like we’re doing it effectively and then change comes around and we want to deny it because we’re beings that seek comfort.


Jim Hessler: Agreed with all of that. Let’s go down … Let me try to kind of mentally construct a check list here of all the reasons why managers or companies might cling to ineffective practices or policies. Well, the first thing that comes to mind is they may just not have a vision for anything it’s better. They may have a policy or a practice in place and they just don’t have anything that they can see that would be demonstrably better than that. Even though it’s ineffective there’s no reasonable alternative.


Steve Motenko: When you say “the first thing that comes to mind” there’s like a preceding thing that came to my mind and that is they might not know the practice or policy is ineffective.


Jim Hessler: Bingo, that was going to be number 2 on my list.


Steve Motenko: Because they’re not getting the information from the customers or from the employees who are actually doing the work, because they’re not asking for it.


Jim Hessler: Exactly and they’re not having to deal with the problems that are created by the ineffective practice. They rise above that and they don’t have to deal with it on an everyday basis like their employees. One of our new clients that we just started working with here in the area is a tier 1 Aerospace supplier to Boeing. They’ve had me reading a lot about the Toyota way. Toyota preaches a lot of observation, a lot of time spent in actual direct observation of what’s going on in companies, and often managers just think everything’s fine. Our things are working well enough until they actually stick their nose in it and really observe it on a very mindful way. Yeah, you’re right, they may just not understand that it’s a problem.


Steve Motenko: There’s also a really crucial leadership philosophy issue here. If we default our top-down leadership hierarchies where the people at the top are setting strategy, and the people at the bottom are doing the work. And the communication only goes downward not upward, then they’re not observing what’s going on … I mean there’s something behind their lack of observation and that is their lack of understanding that if communication isn’t flowing consistently both ways up and down at the corporate ladder, then you’re not going to get the information you need to get to make sure that things are working well.


Jim Hessler: Very true. This could just simply be myopia, not seeing things that they can’t see. The other thing that comes to mind is sometimes the change at a management level results in a loss of stature or status, or responsibility. Sometimes companies change practices or policies and a manager loses employees, or has a smaller department, or they have to delegate things to other people. Sometimes the change represents a very personal risk or loss of status to the managers and leaders in the company.


Steve Motenko: Right.


Jim Hessler: Even if it’s good for the company.


Steve Motenko: In a culture where many of our leaders are expecting humongous rates of pay, and that is an indication of their power and their status-


Jim Hessler: Why would they change?


Steve Motenko: Exactly, so there’s a lot that needs to change. It’s not just about reviewing policies it’s about reviewing leadership philosophy and culture in order to make a difference. More questions from our listeners when we come back. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko, this is The Boss Show on KOMO News.


Jim Hessler: Hell, I’m Jim Hessler, I’m The Business Guy.


Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko, I’m The Psychology Guy, thank for coming back with is. This is show for anyone who is or has a boss, and if you’ve got an idea for a workplace topic, something that’s baffling you we’d love to hear from you. Talk to us is our email address. Talk to us @, we also have a listener comment line. That number, get your pencil ready 206-973-7377. By the way, I’ve mentioned this a couple of times we’re be doing a show soon on “personality style assessments” and how they apply or don’t apply in the workplace, and if you’ve got some experience, or a strong opinion about that please let us know. Again, talk to us


Jim Hessler: We have questions from the hat here because we literally do have a hat with questions in it which are left over from our Boss Show live taping that we did here in Seattle last week. I want to thank everybody who came to that, it was a really fun event.


Steve Motenko: If you didn’t come you really should be ashamed of yourselves.


Jim Hessler: Next time, next time, we’ll let you know. Here’s the next question, and this is turfy. What are the top 3 signs, and they’re asking for a list here, that it’s time to find a new job? What are the top 3 signs that it’s time to find a new job? Boy, this is a tough one. This came up a lot last week at The Boss Show live.


Steve Motenko: The first thing that comes to mind is you wake up in the morning and you don’t want to go to work, not just once, or not even just once a week, but more often than not. That’s a really bad sign.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, and my reaction to that is yes and, as you like to remind me, always do yes and, how much of that is a result of that you’ve been in a wrong job, versus you having a not particularly good approach to the job that you have?


Steve Motenko: Yeah, if every time you’ve ever … I mean, yeah, if you are very kind of ubiquitously negative person then the fact that you wake up in the morning not wanting to go to work is not necessarily an indication of anything but your negativity. If by and large you’re not a person who’s always sour on all of life, or who’s always a victim, which is another thing to self-check on. You’ve been in a job that you’ve been doing okay in, or you’ve been relatively satisfied or fulfilled in, and you realize in recent weeks or recent months more often than not you’re thinking, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” That’s a pretty good sign.


Jim Hessler: Our first answer to this question is really listen to your body, listen to your energy. If your energy is really, really low and you have to drag carcass into the office every day, that’s bad. Number 2 for me would be if people at work have stopped talking to you. Especially your boss. I mean it really if there’s not … As long as there’s a good conversation going on there’s hope. That’s the way I look at it, as long as and working on things. If the organization for whatever reason has stalled become stuggy, and stuck, and conversations have just been delayed or kick down the road, then I think that’s probably time to leave.


Steve Motenko: You say organization but it could also just be the relationship with you and your boss right?


Jim Hessler: It could be, yeah. Yeah, it could be, and then third, if you’re out there looking and you see something a lot better. I mean if you’re in a position you’re not entirely happy with you should be looking and you should be able to tell if you do your due diligence whether that something else out there this is a better place for you. You can’t compare your current to nothing, you have to compare it to something else.


Steve Motenko: Although you can’t ever be sure what the grass is going to be like. You can only see it from the other side, once you get in there it might be very different. I’ve got one more thought on this question about when you know it’s time to look for another job when we come back. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: KOMO News, The Boss Show is back on NorthWest lifestyle weekend. Here’s Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Jim Hessler: Hello, I am that Jim Hessler and I’m widely known as The Business Guy.


Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko, I’m lesser known as The Psychology Guy. Thanks for coming back with us. We’re fielding questions today and the question that we started in on before the break was … What was it Jim?


Jim Hessler: It was what are the top 3 signs that it’s time to find a new job?


Steve Motenko: I’m going to take this in a little bit different direction. I quite often find with coaching clients of mine, whether they’re life coaching clients who are working or whether they’re executive coaching clients, that they want to know …. They’re confused or they’re ambivalent about whether [crosstalk 00:15:19] to say in their job.


Jim Hessler: I was thinking about that you run into a lot of this in coaching, I’m sure.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, and the kind of 30,000 foot view that I always take is until it becomes clear you have a mission, and your mission is to make your job as good as it can get. In other words … I didn’t say that as well I’d like to say. Your mission is to resolve the issues that you see in your position whether it’s your energy, the content of your job, the quality of your relationship with your boss, whatever issues you see in your job that you can identify as being in the way of you feeling fulfilled and satisfied. Your job is to do everything you can to resolve those issues, or to marshal the resources that you need to help you resolve those issues. So that once you make a decision, “I’m leaving here,” that decision is grounded and you feel like you’ve  everything you can. When you’ve done everything you can to make your situation better then you go to … if you make that decision to leave, you go to the next situation with this new set of skills for having resolved at least hopefully some of the problems that you encountered in the old position.


Jim Hessler: Well said. I mean it’s hard sometimes when you’re in a bad situation to imagine that that situation is there for you to learn something from, and I think that that can be a pretty positive way to look at a bad situation. Even to just imagine, to daydream almost what you would do differently if you were in charge. I mean even that has value in terms of you creating a vision for your next role.


Steve Motenko: Then hopefully acting to the extent that you can on that vision. This notion of learning the most you can from adversity is at the core of human development. When I was-


Jim Hessler: It should be but for many people it’s not.


Steve Motenko: Exactly, yeah. When I was doing my coach training, I don’t know if I’ve ever said this to you Jim, there was a practice, a coaching practice called the bodhisattva for practice. The bodhisattva in Tibet and Buddhist philosophy is this [crosstalk 00:17:23]-


Jim Hessler: An enlightened being who stays on and doesn’t go to [on a run 00:17:25] and stays to help the rest of [crosstalk 00:17:27].


Steve Motenko: Right exactly. This being mission is totally to bring enlightenment to the rest of us. Now, if you imagine … Here’s the coaching practice, to imagine that your worst nemesis is your bodhisattva, so instead of being a victim asking yourself the question … imagine that this person is in your life to bring you enlightenment or to put it less highfalutinly, is that word?


Jim Hessler: Highfalutinly.


Steve Motenko: To bring you some learning. What is the learning that you’re here to get from this adverse situation? It’s a great inquiry to engage in.


Jim Hessler: I think the highfalutinly sounds like a carnival ride. “Come ride the highfalutinly.”


Steve Motenko: I used to work as a cardie on a highfalutinly.


Jim Hessler: All right, so we need to [tie 00:18:13] up the next question real quickly, and you can think about it over the break Steve. How do you deal with a manipulative boss who uses guilt as a management tool? This is right up the The Psychology Guy’s alley here.


Steve Motenko: Oh men, yeah I’m going to need the break to think about this, but the first thing … First of all I see all these movies, workplace movies going by in my mind like the office TV shows, that sort of thing. Also brings to mind what we said in a very recent show Jim about how we do what we do because leadership is a sacred responsibility, that too many leaders are not paying attention to. They’re not taking seriously, they’re creating conditions that other people have to live under at least until they change jobs, that are that are horrible. That makes their jobs, their lives miserable. It’s a great question and when we come back from the break, and we absolutely want to address it. Meanwhile-


Jim Hessler: Courage Boss Show listeners, courage.


Steve Motenko: Meanwhile connect with us on Facebook, on Twitter, or on our website, we would love to hear from you. Back with more listener questions when we come back, it’s The Boss Show.


Voiceover: It’s a Northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Show continues.


Steve Motenko: Welcome back to The Boss Show, I’m Steve Motenko, I’m The Psychology Guy.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler I’m The Business Guy. Today on The Boss Show we’re literally answering questions from the hat, and I can vouch that the hat is right in front of me. These are questions we collected during our Boss Show live event.


Steve Motenko: That’s my hat Jim.


Jim Hessler: It is, it’s a nice hat.


Steve Motenko: Thank you.


Jim Hessler: We had more questions than we could answer at that event so we rolled some of them into the KOMO studio today. The question is, how do you deal with a manipulative boss who used guilt as a management tool? First of all, manipulative would indicate that this person is bending you to their own wants, needs, desires, calculations, politics, whatever. The first thing that comes to my mind is just a manipulative boss is someone you have to be really strong with. You have to stand up to, and it sounds so much easier when I say it than it is to actually do it, but you have to have courage with powerful people.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, and manipulative people are people who wield power but who have a very shaky foundation of psychological health underneath.


Jim Hessler: Or they may even have a positive vision for the company but this is just a negative way of going about and getting where they want to go.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, so the first thing to do, the very first thing to do is to look for other opportunities, and to have those in your-


Jim Hessler: Are you saying this is behavior that’s unlikely to change?


Steve Motenko: I am, yeah, because I think somebody who’s manipulative is in almost all cases unaware that they’re manipulative, and that lack of self-awareness is kind of the death knell for a relationship. The old aphorism that people leave bosses not companies it’s … I don’t want to say that people don’t change, of course I’m in the business of supporting and challenging people to change as are you Jim, but somebody who’s manipulative and uses guilt as a management tool, there’s not a whole lot of hope there. If there is hope though, what I would say is stay away from labels. Stay away from the word manipulative, it’s not going to help you. You’re just going to put the person on the defensive.


Jim Hessler: Then you’ll be looking for confirmation bias as well. I’m thinking of the movie “The Christmas Story” where this bully is just beating the heck out of the kids everyday, and then finally Ralphie stands up to him, and the bully just melts away. That can happen too, if somebody finally calls this person on their manipulative behavior sometimes they back right off.


Steve Motenko: That could be. In my experience it’s unlikely that that’ll happen, it’s possible. You know your boss and you know what is possible, and weather the manipulation, or manipulativeness is … whether it’s possible to address. Whether there’s a door to open there into the person’s self-awareness, and whether they’d be open for that. Short of that though-


Jim Hessler: I think the worst thing to do is to play their game, is to fight fire with fire which I think we often do with this sort of personality.


Steve Motenko: Right, exactly. You don’t want to stoop to their level, but short of that I’d started to say earlier, don’t label. It’s not going to be helpful, it’s going to create  defensiveness, instead stand your ground in some very specific concrete practical ways. Say “When you did this, here was my response.” Try to stay away from adjectives, to stay with facts, with direct observable behavior, and say, “This is what happened to,” for example, “my motivation,” or, “the quality of my work, when you get this,” or, “when you said this.” Or, “Here’s what happened to the relationships on the team.” That’s a start maybe. We’ll come back with maybe another question if we have time for it. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko, this is The Boss Show on KOMO News.


Steve Motenko: Welcome back to The Boss Show I’m Steve Motenko, I’m The Psychology Guy.


Jim Hessler: Jim Hessler here, The Business Guy. We have a quick question about a minute to answer this one. It’s a [wraper 00:24:02], what can or should I do when I’m working with a poor leader, or poor leaders?


Steve Motenko: Slap them.


Jim Hessler: My knee-jerk reaction is give us a call, and we have this thing called The Path forward leadership Workshop, an 18-month program that could really help.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, we work with leaders and we were one of the few programs out there that can really attest to changing leadership behavior, supporting leaders and changing their behavior sustainably over a period of time. is our website so you can check it out there.


Jim Hessler: The other thing is try to again remember there’s something to learn from every situation. Be kind to your leaders they need your help.


Steve Motenko: Have the courage to have the specific conversations you need to have to address poor leadership behavior.


Jim Hessler: The Boss Shows is produced by Boss Media Productions, and our sound engineer is Kevin Dodrill.


Steve Motenko: If you missed any of the show you can get in its entirety online at our website and that’s where you can go to subscribe to our podcast or contact us for any reason at all.


Jim Hessler: Thanks for listening.


Steve Motenko: And don’t forget rule number 6.


Jim Hessler: Rule number 6.



2 Responses to Dealing With a Manipulative Boss, Etc.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *