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Volume 2, Issue 44

Survive a Nitpicking Boss

Employees and managers don't have to let hypercritical supervisors make their work life miserable, says a professional counselor.

"People with a personality type we call 'controlling perfectionist' are impossible to please, so don't be fooled into thinking that, if you just try hard enough, you'll win [their] approval," says Alan Cavaiola, professor of counseling psychology at Monmouth University, in a recent interview with Fortune.

Cavaiola offers several strategies for coping with these individuals in the workplace, including:

  • Never respond to rants in kind. "Stay cool, calm and collected," he says. "Some controlling perfectionists take pleasure in getting other people riled up, so lashing out or being defensive just makes them worse."
  • Get positive feedback from other sources. "No matter how many hoops you jump through, it will never be enough for this person," Cavaiola says. "Trying to deal with this in isolation will eventually destroy your self-confidence. You ... need someone you can vent with as a sounding board and a reality check."
  • Don't suffer in silence. "Let someone else in the organization know that you're unhappy with how you're being treated," he says. "Ask that the information be kept confidential, and don't expect any action in the short term. But chances are good that you're not the only one having problems with this person. If enough people complain, decision-makers may take notice."

This article is from the May 13, 2013 issue.

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