When your micromanaging boss drives you paranoid.
Are you constantly absorbing your manager's stress?
She's an anxious perfectionist who worries heavily about things not getting done the right way. And any interaction you have with her ruins your whole day.
She's constantly questioning you... Constantly making decisions that undermines your value.
So, you have to be at your best at all times. You have to pretend and hold yourself together even when you’re feeling sad and exhausted. Because if you don't you know your tiredness will be used against you.
But this pretence is killing all the joy in your life. it is draining you and turning you into a shell of yourself.
So, all you want is to stop spinning out in anxiety spirals because of this manager
You want to feel capable of coping with your responsibilities at work without constantly ruminating.
And you want to stop all the self-judgement... the shame... the anger... the stress and depression you feel when you are around her.
That's why in today's article, I'll reveal the 3 biggest mindset traps people fall for when working with a perfectionistic micromanaging boss. These 3 mindsets lock you in a paranoid hell that drains you of the energy to perform effectively at work.
Then I will reveal 3 little-known practical steps to avoid these traps so that you can feel calmer and over analyse less. This way, you are less likely to spiral down into a helpless, hopeless pit. And instead actually start looking forward to going to work and living your life.
Ready, let's go...
Do you feel the constant need to prepare for something bad happening to you at work?
This was exactly how Leon (A former client of mine) felt.
He believed something was bound to disgrace him. And felt he had to protect himself by catching any possible problems his manager could capitalize on to make his life hell.
But as he did this, Leon found himself spending every waking moment worrying about how to manoeuvre around this manager. It occupied his mind when trying to sleep. It stopped him from enjoying meal times. It even stopped him enjoying TV shows he loved.
His brain felt worn out.
If you can relate, you'll know first-hand how keeping yourself prepared for threats that may never come can beat your mind into a comatose pulp.
You'll simply have no brain power to do anything much less cope with work. And this will keep you under the iron rule of your toxic manager.
What's my point?
You need your brain to be on your side and in top form when dealing with problem managers. But to achieve this, you need to be able to engage with your manager whilst at the same time helping your brain gain distance from the situation.
Why is this necessary?
Ever noticed how you can mentally detach yourself from a friend’s problem even when you can't detach yourself from your own problems. That's because your friend’s problems are further away from you.
A problem that feels far away feels less imminent and less threatening. A problem that feels immediate and on top of you drives up your stress hormones and magnifies the threat in a way that can choke your ability to cope successfully.
But how can you gain mental distance from a situation that literally threatens your livelihood like this.
Firstly, you give your worry a scheduled appointment time.
Secondly, you treat this scheduled appointment time as important as you would treat an important doctor's appointment.
And thirdly, you train yourself to postpone all your worrying to this scheduled time.
The result is that when you come to deal with them during your scheduled time your anxious thoughts will feel much less intense. This makes them easier to work on helping you face up to the issues created by your manager without cracking. And also releasing you from the constant pressure of carrying your worries around with you everywhere like a bad body odour.
When you feel paranoid about making mistakes at work.
Are you forever turning your worry on yourself?
Trying to ‘fix’ yourself...
Worrying about how you can work harder... dress better, react differently so more people will like you.
If yes, then it's highly likely that having a perfectionist boss, will trigger you all the time even if she does not intend to do so.
And this is exactly what happened to May (another client of mine). She couldn't bear the thought of anyone finding flaws in her work. So, she developed a system which worked for her for years.
The only problem?
May did not realize that this system was destroying her self-worth and at the same time killing her enthusiasm for a job she initially loved.
What was May's system?
May focused all her attention on all the negative feedback she received and worked hard to ensure that she improved on the points raised. This way she could limit negative criticisms from others.
But by focusing purely on the negative feedback, May gradually began to dislike herself. She constantly felt like she was not good enough and this led to massive self-criticism.
Through therapy, May realized that she'd been ignoring all the positive feedback about herself.
Her manager had even mentioned that she was extremely impressed with May's responsible and effective qualities. And that she felt very confident in May’s ability to do the correct things in complex situations.
But these positive complements fell on deaf ears as they felt more like sneaky attempts to get her to relax and get caught out again.
Now, how does this relate to you?
You see, if like May, you focus purely on the negative feedback in an attempt to avoid mistakes...
You’ll train your brain to be blind to all the positive feedback you are getting from the world around you. Sadly, this would make you see yourself as someone who always disappoints others. As someone who can never be good enough.
Because your brain has no evidence to help you believe you an okay person. Now add a toxic micromanaging boss to this mix and your self-value will drop right through the floor.
So how do you stop this destructive cycle of self-invalidation?
Spend a lot of time writing down any positive feedback you receive. Making sure to include all the positive compliments you regard as small in unimportant.
Then on a daily basis, read through all the positive feedback you've received. Consider writing them down on flash cards or in a small booklet which you can pull out whenever you begin to sink into a self-depreciating hole.
This is not suggesting that you ignore the negatives totally. But because you currently become a master at pinpointing your negatives, this part of your character does not need the attention. You will still do it naturally.
Imagine it's time to have a one-to one meeting with your micromanaging boss. She has to review your work or you need her feedback and approval for projects you are currently working on.
But then when time comes to schedule your one to one, you fall into one of two camps...
You can't sleep because you keep thinking...
You need to plan out what to say so you don't get lost for words.
"What if you don’t know the answers to her questions?".
"What if you totally choke again and look like an idiot?".
Then that familiar scary, insecure and Inferior feeling overwhelms you. So, you become evasive. You avoid your manager. You do other things putting the meeting off.
All the while feeling frustrated and disappointed in yourself for being a coward.
And then when you finally get to talk to your manager, you're so anxious that you blush and you rush through what you had to say. Then you come away frustrated because you've sold yourself short, and made yourself look incompetent.
You imagine the discussion with your manager exploding into a bad confrontation.
So, when your manager starts going through you work, thoughts begin to pop into your head…
She’s going to take responsibility away from you, diminish your role just to make you less important and easily replaceable.
Or, she’s going to demand that you do something impossible, like doing more in a tight time frame, and this just sets you up to fail.
So, in a knee jerk reaction, you become defensive. You argue back, trying desperately to explain why you’re doing things the way you do and why doing it her way won’t work.
But this just ends up in a heated debate that leaves you feeling cross, tense and anxious all day.
Because you start thinking...
Did you just risk losing your job or bomb your chances of a promotion? The guilt and shame start crushing you.
And then you make a common mistake that causes you to lose even more respect for yourself
You try to squash these feelings.
Because you believe it is stupid to be this scared as an adult. Your manager is only human just like you. No-one else in your team is afraid of her like you.
Or because you believe that as a responsible adult you shouldn’t be getting angry. Instead you should try to understand people and work with them no matter how difficult they are. Being angry isn’t a helpful response
But whilst you're desperately attempting to rationalize your feelings away, here’s a question you might not have considered.
Has rubbishing your feelings like this ever really helped?
Your emotional mind would disagree entirely with you.
Your emotional mind sees this experience with your manager like it’s seen a lion. Meeting with your manager is a real terrifying event which you need to mindfully protect yourself from.
And the more you keep undermining your emotional mind by putting yourself down for getting emotional, the more you’ll create a conflict inside your mind.
It becomes a situation where the mind is unable to compute a safe way out other than to fight, freeze or run away. And these are three self-damming reactions which aren’t really appropriate in a workplace.
So instead of doing all that, what if you can train your emotional brain to feel safe in these meetings with your manager? Wouldn't that be nice?
So, here’s how to…
The first step would be to stop invalidating yourself by being harsh on yourself for feeling this way. Especially whenever the feeling of anxiety or frustration comes as you are about to commence the meeting.
Just tell yourself I am frightened of this at this moment, but I’m learning to overcome it. Acknowledge that this is just your emotions trying to keep you safe.
Then the next step would be to practice using imagery before the event. You imagine the whole meeting in detail.
Imagine yourself being asked a question that trips you up. (practicing this part is crucial because it is difficult to visualize and plan for a question that you don't see coming)
So instead of descending into panic in your imagination, imagine yourself devising a response to this question. Then imagine yourself feeling contented with your response even if it is not perfect.
How will these steps help?
From a neuroscientific perspective, doing this imagination as described above exercises the brain muscles you need for manoeuvring around the real interactions with your boss.
You literally practice the brain neurons you need for dealing with the meeting in reality. This encourages you to feel hopeful that everything will work out fine.
But sadly, if you only do the opposite of imagining just the worst-case scenario in this meeting, you actually practice using your brain's "doomsday scenario muscles" in a way that raises an emotional alarm.
This is why you can’t be your calm wise self when meeting with your manager.
So, here’s how to…
As you read through this article, did you notice the pattern?
Your natural reaction to things is always the opposite of what might actually help you in those situation
This is because there is a principle at play which people don't often see.
In most cases, doing what seems right or positive should be helpful. However, in all cases doing what seems right or positive all the time can actually work against you,
Initially your reactions to your managers poison seemed positive. It was a knee-jerk reaction to protect yourself.
But the truth is that...
You start-up doing something that seems correct or helpful and do this so much that it becomes habitual. But then in certain situations when those actions are unhelpful you still default to them. And this locks the problems in your life in.
But the good news is that today…
I have given you the keys to unlock the pain in your life.
You now have the tools to deal with your toxic micromanaging boss.
Practicing the three strategies in this article will help you develop the much-needed resilience so you can stop worrying nonstop about work. This gives you the ability to feel free to live your life in joy and happiness.
Exactly how your life was meant to be.
Twice a month I hop on a conference call to teach, answer questions, and give feedback to members of the Take Back Control Program.
If you'd like to succeed at learning how to cope emotionally without wasting years making mistakes because of trial and error, then come join us.
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