Do Some Bosses Pit Employees Against Each Other?

You can get along with bosses who thrive on competition among their employees.
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You hope you get an accurate feel for the workplace culture you're joining before you accept a new job. The ugly truth: That's not always the case. You could be happy in your job for a while when things suddenly change because there's a new boss to deal with. Some managers do pit employees against each other because they think competition will bring out the best attributes in the people they want to perform better. The question is how to deal with bosses like this, especially if this management style makes you cringe.

Considering Your Boss

    You have to peg your boss's management style. Some bosses set up competitions, and it feels like some employees always win and everyone else loses. Others will encourage employees to be competitive with their co-workers, but encourage both praise and criticism so employees don't feel personally attacked by their peers. Finally, there are bosses who like to see employees squirm; they'll get their favorite employees to do their bidding. In this last kind of workplace, people might feel like victims of bullying. The culprits are their co-workers who are trying to please the boss, but everyone in the office knows the boss is to blame and no one is safe from bullying.

Adapting Your Communication

    Some bosses are insecure, and they feel threatened by strong employees. They are more likely to pit you against another employee or group of employees if they think you are a know-it-all or, even worse, not a team player. You can solve this problem by adapting how you interact so as not to undermine your boss's authority. This includes not saying bad things about the boss, even when you think you're confiding in a trustworthy colleague. It also means not going over your boss's head to get help with workplace issues. Your boss should always be your point of contact and be treated with respect, even if his or her management style is not to your liking.

Providing Information

    Your boss will need to rely less on competition among employees if you are doing your best to keep the boss updated on your assignments. Provide regular progress reports in the boss's preferred mode of communication. You might type up a report and leave it on your boss's desk or email it weekly. Or you might set up a meeting for 30 minutes every two weeks. If your boss knows how you're doing because you're being honest in reporting your progress, there might be less pressure to find out what you're doing, especially by having other employees check up on you.

Working With Alpha Dogs

    In almost every group, there are people who will naturally show themselves as an alpha male or alpha female. These people seem to have a need to prove that they are stronger and better than everyone, and all that matters is keeping their power. Whether you work with a man or a woman in alpha dog clothing, you could feel threatened. You might be offended when co-workers do the boss's bidding, or if you are issued too much repetitive work or get turned down for choice assignments. Be confident in yourself. Support your boss and ignore alpha dog behavior. It doesn't change who you are or what contribution you can make.

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