“How to Work for an Idiot” is a Lifesaver

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With a new jobs report out, followed by a slew of articles that run the gauntlet of how job hunt in the "new economy" to the signs it's time to leave your job to why top talent leaves to how to retain top talent, people ask themselves: how do I get out?

Along similar lines, I keep hearing the same things I heard elsewhere. Except the refrain has changed from "I was having a bad day until I thought of you having to report to that guy, then my day got better" to "How did you survive working for that [insert expletive] and land somewhere better?!"

Read that again.

You'll notice there is no mention of the actual work. No mention of the actual job. It's "work for," not "do that." If you listen closely to others as they complain about work, you'll notice the same.

They are not complaining about the actual work.

They are complaining about their manager.

Listen to yourself, too. Good bet you're complaining more about your manager than your actual work.

Congratulations. You work for an I-Boss.

From the benefit of my experience, before you decide to quit, before you start sending out resumes, BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING, read How to Work for an Idiot. Not only will it make your current work life tolerable instead of shitty, it will make your next move better.

Why? Because the I-Boss doesn't know he's an idiot, but he isn't stupid. He placates. Then blames you and accuses of you of inane crap that causes those sympathetic pats on the back.

In that kind of environment, it is easy to sink into that dark place of hatred, bemoan your state in life, feel utterly defeated because there is nothing to be done and life is meaningless, useless and pointless. It becomes an accepted fact that the idiot is your boss, you must answer to the I-Boss and, in the process, take the crap he shovels at you. Being the good worker you are, you suck it up, anticipate what he's going to do and do it. You start to think he'll see the light. He doesn't. There is no "thank you" but "you're always two steps ahead of me." That makes you stop and fume: always two steps ahead yet I report to an idiot.

A cycle of doubt ensues, and you start to think there is something wrong with you because, clearly, you are better at his job than he is yet he is in charge.

Where did I go wrong?

I looked for an answer, and after attempts to address issues failed, I realized the problem wasn't me.

The problem was that I had an I-Boss.

That presented a question I had to answer, and you will also have to answer: What do I do?

The immediate response: Quit.

You will want to, especially if the situation perpetually gets worse. Quitting gives you a mental boost. You get out, onto something better, salvaging what is left of your sanity.

If you read How to Work for an Idiot, however, you learn the I-Boss is everywhere. When you quit without first learning to deal with an I-Boss, you think you've escaped and then poof! You find yourself in the same predicament, working for another I-Boss and repeating the same cycle from which you thought you had broken free. You bemoan your job, state in life, etc.

The question returns: What do I do?

The answer: Understand the I-Boss, understand yourself and your reactions to the activities of your I-Boss. Make adjustments, bide your time and then make your move.

For me, that meant two things:

  1. Engaging myself in a number of non-work activities in order to associate with non-work people so there wasn't that constant tug to talk about my I-Boss. As I've written before, associating with non-work people is important.
  2. Reading. I read a lot on psychology and mindfulness. Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth and his explanation of the Pain Body was especially helpful.

I also practiced what I refer to as my "Monet Distance," that point where a Monet painting is just absolutely beautiful. Coupled with How to Work for an Idiot, I became aware of how to work around, and deal with, the I-Boss.

Being at the office went from drudgery to tolerable.

One of Hoover's points is to diminish the "power of the boss's cluelessness to harm you," which runs counter to the gut instinct of wanting to constantly make the I-Boss look bad. Shit rolls down hill, as they say, so by making the I-Boss continually look bad, you also make yourself continually look bad. That feeds that dark place of hatred which also colors everything outside of work. It was helpful that I had cultivated friendships outside of work, had excellent roommates, and some smart coworkers who understood the value I provided. I was determined not to let the I-Boss ruin my reputation, and ruin the life outside of work I was enjoying.

I still seethed with rage, though, especially when work I had done was ripped off and passed off as his own.

You will, too. It's part of the nature of working for an I-Boss.

When you seethe with rage, remember two things:

  1. If the I-Boss passes off your work as his own, congratulations. You have cleared the first hurdle to success. Why? You help hide his idiocy, so he wants you around. You become a "team player" in the eyes of your I-Boss, and by extension the company. In the process, you also demonstrate that you understand all work produced by employees reflects on the company, and you want the work produced to reflect well on the company. What the I-Boss does without your input and assistance is not your problem. The distinction becomes painfully clear to all but the I-Boss, and that works in your favor. The people who reach out are the people who get it. You want to gravitate to those people and cultivate those relationships.
  2. That seething rage is the Pain Body wanting to be fed. Find other ways to keep it in check. Tolle describes it as a ‘psychic parasite’ that possesses you and causes you suffering. We are all infected in some fashion. When you have an I-Boss, though, it is a particularly vile parasite. It feeds off self destructive behaviors, the catalyst to make the I-Boss look bad, expose him for the idiot he is. He is an I-Boss because he does not get it, so doing anything to get him to "see the light" is wasted energy. With some trial and error, I learned movement and distance from the I-Boss were key to keeping my Pain Body in check. I'd work in the kitchen, go for a walk around the office or walk around outside.

Find out what keeps your Pain Body in check and keep at it. At the very least, it will make your work life tolerable. With a tolerable work life, you'll find you have more energy because you've stopped trying to change the I-Boss. You start to leave work at the office because you realize it is just a job. The I-Boss will keep you employed, but will not let you advance for fear his stupidity will be exposed. So channel that leftover energy into something else, whether it be a hobby, sports, travel or whatever. Even looking for new opportunities.

Yes. New opportunities.

Once you understand the I-Boss, and that they are everywhere, it is easier to look for new opportunities. You have a better sense of what you want in a boss, what you want from a career, and thus change your approach to looking. It becomes less about "getting out" and more about finding the opportunity that moves you in the direction you want.

If you work for a large company, you'll probably be able to find a new position in house, and show up armed with the proper intelligence to deal with the I-Boss in that department. If you work for a smaller company, that may not be an option so you'll have to look elsewhere.

Be thorough in your research. Armed with intelligence on the I-Boss, and the experience of having worked for one, you can ask intelligent questions during the interview process, get a very good sense of what the environment is like, and if that is the kind of environment you want.

Don't be surprised, either, if it turns out your current I-Boss is better than a new one.

Don't despair! Be patient. Remain mindful. Keep at it. Keep your Pain Body in check, keep reaching out to those who get it. They know others and can expand your relationship circle.

Be patient.

Now, take a deep breath, go for a walk and then go buy and read, or download and read, How to Work for an Idiot.

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