Reyer: Don't let your manager's moods ruin your workday

  • Article by: LIZ REYER
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • August 12, 2012 - 5:46 PM

QI have a new boss who is very moody. I never know if he's going to be friendly or completely remote, and his moods really shake up my day. I've tried talking to him about it, but it hasn't changed. What can I do?

A Perhaps your boss can't or won't change, but you have the ability to manage your own reaction.

The inner game

To set the stage for getting your reactions under control, start by taking some deep breaths and settling into a calm state of mind. Let go of anxiety and stress, and accept that you'll be able to come to terms with the situation you face.

Now, explore your responses to his moods. When he's friendly, what underlies your reaction? It's natural to like it when people are being pleasant, but look beyond that. You may be getting a sense of safety or security, or validation of your value to the team. It's fine to have these things reinforced by a supportive boss, but it's essential that you provide this sense of well-being from within.

Likewise, examine your reactions to his more challenging moods. Again, it's normal to dislike it when someone is behaving rudely; however, it appears to strike more deeply than that. What stories do you tell yourself about his remoteness -- do you take it personally or assume there is something else going on with him? Link it to past experiences that may help explain your reactions.

Think about how he would describe the situation. He may be uncertain about his management skills and feel as much anxiety as he is causing you. He may get focused when under stress, shutting out other team members. Or he may be playing some kind of emotional game; however, save this as an explanation of last resort if more benign explanations don't hold up.

The outer game

It's worth a try to have another conversation with him. Making the assumption that he doesn't know exactly what to do differently, try being a bit prescriptive.

For example, instead of, "I feel confused when you're friendly one day and remote the next," try, "I'd like it if you'd say good morning every day." If he's operating from a position of low emotional intelligence, this will give him some specific ways to be successful.

Spend most of your attention developing steps you can take to buffer yourself. Break any habit you have of second-guessing yourself. Assume that your behavior is not an issue unless you hear specifics to the contrary. Choose to remain in a good mood regardless of whatever mood he's in.

Become part of a network of colleagues who can provide mutual support. If others are seeing his deficits as an issue, it'll be easier to get support. You may also want to look upward in the organization for a mentor to help fill the gap.

Finally, consider your options. If you really can't live with him as your boss, try to identify other places in the organization that you'd fit. Or assess whether it's time to look for a role in a different company.

The last word

Develop inner resources to cope with an on-again, off-again boss.

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at

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