If you are reading this with the hope that you can get your boss to change, you can stop reading right now. The likelihood that your boss is going to change behavior that has become entrenched over the last 30 years is indeed remote. Any tricks we can offer you are in the category of boss management, not boss modification.
Another factor to take into account is how much you care about the job or the boss. There is no point engaging in an elaborate strategy to foil your boss when you could just as easily find a better job with a more agreeable boss. Put simply, is the personal price that you will inevitably pay worth the somewhat modest gains that you might achieve?
It is helpful to realize that none of the boss’s behavior is personal. Crazy bosses tend to abuse whoever is in their line of fire. Similarly, when you manage your boss, it isn’t personal. It’s just a survival strategy to prevent you from going the same way as your boss.
Here are some strategies to deal with a boss who seems to be on your case:
- CC other people on emails you send to your boss, and provide a plausible reason why the other person should also receive the email. This ensures that other people can vouch for you if your boss later accuses you of being out of line.
- Ask your boss to make decisions in group settings because it is less likely she will reverse decisions stated publicly. it also ensures that other people can confirm that the decision was actually made.
- Ask your boss for instructions in writing, and if she won’t give it to you take copious notes, and email it to her under the guise of checking that you have correctly understood the instructions.
- Make sure that you sometimes mention to a supervisor or another boss a "specific situation that occurred with my boss last week." A related strategy is to seek advice from a supervisor about a problem you are having with your boss. These strategies enable others to be aware of what is going on even if they are not willing to take action.
- Try to build in buffers between you and your boss. These are people that you report to instead of your boss so that they can take the heat when it is too hot to bear alone.
In short, the more protections you have against the craziness, the less likely you are to get hurt. It’s like boiling water. If you wouldn’t carry boiling water in your hands, and would prefer instead to keep it in a solid watertight container, the same principle applies to a boil-over boss.