Today’s open office environments are bad news for empaths and HSPs, and having a Type-A boss is like a double-whammy, a one-two punch, or whatever you prefer to call it.
Working for a Type-A boss can be like working for a meth addict
If you’ve ever crossed paths with a meth user in full-on tweaker mode, then you may have seen some similarities with your Type-A boss. Both are driven toward a goal like a locomotive charging off a cliff.
Like a tweaker in search of his next score, your Type-A boss can exhibit some strange behavior when she’s in hot pursuit of new goal or outcome. So much so, it can seem like you’re the one who’s not focused or on board with her latest agenda.
3 reasons why working for a Type-A boss feels like you’re losing you’re mind
1. Your boss is wired for outcomes, not satisfaction
Type A’s differ from you and me in that when they realize an outcome or achieve a goal, there is little satisfaction. There is no pause for a brief celebration with the support staff. Instead, there’s only a momentary pause before issuing assignments for the next phase of activity.
Unlike you, your Type-A boss experiences little satisfaction in achieving a goal; for him, it’s nothing more than placing a check mark in a box and most likely even less in terms of meaning. They view goals accomplished not as peaks along the path to their personal Everest, but just one in an endless series of mountains to be conquered.
I wrote an ebook for Project Executives within the heavy civil construction industry a few years back. In it I argued for holding a celebratory lunch when the team won a new project. I argued that it was good for all to pause, soak up the moment, and then move on as a team. The feedback I received from Project Executives and Project Managers was somewhat negative; they viewed such an activity as a waste of valuable time.
This isn’t surprising given most were Type-A’s who viewed the suggestion as an activity that got in the way of them proceeding on to the next phase of the project. Because they’re Type-A personalities, they weren’t wired to understand the motivation and gratitude that a celebratory lunch would impart to their support staff. After an explanation, they understood.
This example underscores how Type-A individuals view human connection.
2. He appears offensive because he lacks appreciation for the finer points of human connection
To be fair, not all Types-A’s are heartless individuals hell-bent on moving forward at all costs. There is certainly a spectrum of Type-A personalities. Where your individual boss falls on the spectrum is highly individual and only you can evaluate it.
But most Type-A’s are less tuned-in to their Type-M counterparts’ need to for human connection. I don’t mean a physical connection, but a nexus with the human side of the business.
In your Type-M view, businesses exist to meet human needs. In the Type-A’s view, they exist to achieve a goal such as profitability or meeting an objective.
The differences are vast and this often creates a chasm of understanding between the two personality types leaving you to feel like you’re out of sync when you’re not.
3. Your boss has no idea why you crave a work-life balance
This is mainly because he doesn’t have one and it isn’t an issue for him. Pure Type-A’s live to work and work to live. If there is downtime, it’s spent the only way they know how to enjoy themselves…on work-related issues.
I’ve told the story elsewhere of a guy I worked for a number of years ago. His abhorrent behavior was overlooked and tolerated because his own boss was a pure Type-A who didn’t want to be bothered with the human issues of the business.
As long as results were good, he didn’t care who was offended in the process. He was the kind of guy to send you email at 11:30p and then ping you for a response after 15 minutes.
Type-B’s like you and me not only crave a balance in the work-life experience, we can’t function without it. Your Type-A boss doesn’t get that. Instead, he sees it as a weakness. He might even bring it up in a performance review. Because he doesn’t understand it, he might perceive it as an area you might need to work on in the future.
(If that happens, educate him by referring them to this article!)
Is it any wonder you feel like your insane?
Working for a Type-A boss can and will make you feel like you’re losing your mind at times. But the reality is you aren’t; The Type-A’s of the world are wired so differently from you that your sensitive nature assumes you’re to blame.
But you aren’t to blame. You’re a more sensitive individual who is paired -like it or not- with a boss thas interprets the world, the work, mutual goals, and the means to achieve them in a completely different way. Because you’re wired the way you are, you’re more likely to assume responsibility for the difference.
Instead, just view the differences as differences. Don’t read into them. They are what they are.
What can you do to survive your Type-A boss?
This is a multi-layered topic that deserves more than what I can provide here in this one post, but here’s what I’ve learned and put in practice.
1- Understand they they’re wired for their behavior, too
Just as your empathic and HSP wiring sets you up for hyper-sensitivity, their neuronal wiring sets them up to be driven, unconcerned with the softer skills like encouragement and empathy, and hyper-focussed on detail and process.
They have no concept around the idea of work-balance because they only see their time away from work as time away from what they’d rather be doing.
2. Understand that they’re not going to change
Just as you can’t toughen up or be less sensitive, they can’t be any other way. We’d like to think if we just got their attention about what an a-hole they are out of the time, they’d change. But alas, that too is a pipe dream, grasshopper.
They can only function the way their brain wires them to. Therefore, in order for us to not strangle them, we need to find a way for them to have them not annoy us so much.
3. Don’t take anything personally
This is the second agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic work , The Four Agreements - A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. Granted, this is difficult to accomplish without some practice, and the onus is on us to do the work because our Type-A boss won’t.
In my case, my boss (who is about 20 years younger than I am) comes into my office I anticipate the worst. That’s my first mistake. According to Ruiz, I feel that way because I’m taking personally what he says to me. It’s like I have an open wound and I agree to let him pour his vitriol directly into it. However, if I don’t allow this to happen I won’t internalize caustic comments.
4. Identify what triggers you
For about two years, I suffered after each encounter with my boss. I didn’t know why I felt so worthless after these visits. But after some investigation via my menpathic mindfulness practice I discovered that was the way he opened the conversations.
Here’s an example:
He generally would come into my office and begin his comments with this opening: “You said that you were going to……” or “I thought we agreed that…..” or some other variation of this.
Notice that each of these openings sets me up to defend either what I previously said or what we apparently agreed to. That he chooses this type of opening to our interaction, to me says that he’s choosing to put me on the defensive.
In the past, I’ve fallen victim to this entrapment. Now I respond with something like this:
Him: “You said that you were going to……” Me: “Yeah, probably..but I say a lot of things.”
Him: “I thought we agreed that…..” Me: “We might have, but I don’t always control what happens.”
My responses aren’t confrontational so as to keep my energy at a good vibe and not return his shot-over-the-bow with a volley of my own which leads me to my final point.
5. Don’t respond when you’re feeling strong emotions
Most Type-A bosses don’t get emotion at all (kind of makes you wonder about their home life, right?) and will equate an impassioned response from you as a sign of weakness. They will lose respect for you and they might even hold it against you in terms of preventing you from advancing. I’ve seen it happen.
Instead, tell them that although you want to respond to their concern, it will need to wait until you can fully process what they’re asking, wanting, etc. That will give you time to process and formulate a response that’s reasoned and non-emotional.
This shouldn’t be seen as surrender, but as a strategy to remain more controlled