Last year I connected with workplace expert Lynn Taylor over our shared passion for respectful workplaces. Taylor is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant™ – TOT: How to Manage Childish Behavior and Thrive in Your Job (John Wiley & Sons), which I recently had the opportunity to read.
Based on extensive interviews and research, Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant™ is not your typical boring business book. Instead, it is extremely engaging and relatable for anyone who has ever had a job – likely most of us! Lynn provides a light-hearted approach to a very serious topic by not only identifying the negative traits of TOT bosses that can sabotage your career, but also offers helpful suggestions and tips to help you achieve career success.
In the first part of my interview with her, Lynn shares with us how she came up with the idea for her book, how to identify bad boss behavior and what the organizational benefits are for taming TOTs.
RW: First of all, great title! How did you come up with this idea of managing up using the TOT acronym and aligning it with childish toddler behavior?
LT: After working in corporate America for 20 years, and more than half of them with companies that help people find meaningful jobs, I decided to step out to find my own passion in a way that would be personally fulfilling. I had often joked that some bosses were just like little kids, but it soon occurred to me that it wasn’t just an off-handed quip . . . it was true! I had discovered my passion: helping workers better understand their managers by seeing the “hidden child” behind the often- frustrating behaviors of their supervisors. I saw striking parallels between troublesome bosses and toddlers—and not surprisingly, the solutions were frequently very similar as well. At that point, the Terrible Office Tyrant (TOT) was born.
In terms of the acronym itself, I wanted to emphasize that we are all children inside, and I felt that “TOT” would counter the word “Terrible,” ala tykes in their terrible twos. The word “office” needed to be in there, and “little tyrants” is sometimes an unfortunate outgrowth of human beings who cannot modulate their power when operating under stress, fear or ego-based emotion.
Nevertheless, I do believe “the child within” should stay there when it comes to the office!
RW: Could you describe what “managing up” is and how it applies to today’s workforce?
LT: By seeing the childlike motives behind a boss’s (or co-worker’s) actions, you can better manage even the most difficult situations. Managing up means going above and beyond the assigned tasks so you can support your manager and let yourself shine by being a proactive problem-solver and collaborator.
You can be a beacon of positive energy for your boss, co-workers and team. Part of managing up also means setting limits to bad behavior. Oftentimes TOTs are unaware of the effect of their actions. You can influence these actions, and your skills will be transferable to any job.
RW: What are some of the behaviors that are identified with TOTs and what are some suggestions for overcoming them in the workplace?
LT: When anyone slips into any of the classic TOT behaviors (I list 20 in my book), including the “bratty” type (overly demanding, stubborn, self-centered or tantrum-throwing) or the “little lost lamb” variety (fickle or overly fearful), one can use proven parental techniques (without patronizing) and thrive in your job, no matter your level in the company.
By seeing the childlike motives behind the actions of a boss, co-worker or subordinate’s actions, you can better manage even the most difficult situations. The top four tips for keeping your office from being a corporate playpen are best described by the acronym C.A.L.M.: Communicate frequently and openly, Anticipate problems with solutions, Laugh to break the tension and Manage up.
RW: How is your book beneficial to bosses who want to TOT-proof their company?
LT: TOT-proofing a business can be compared to childproofing a home. Childproofing a home makes it safe for your children to run about freely, explore and learn. TOT-proofing a company creates a corporate environment that is safe for success. It allows workers to be innovative and at their best, which leads to a better balance sheet. One study found that 90% of employees are more motivated when managers are willing to change course after receiving feedback. This prompts employees to feel that they can take risks and innovate.
The book is beneficial because it shows employees how to manage the relationship better (bosses often don’t have the time or necessarily want to spend the time to make it so.) This is a wide-open and empowering opportunity for the employee. The book also speaks directly to management about the role they can play to mitigate “TOT” behavior in their ranks.
RW: Is this book only for employees or could bosses also benefit from it, if so how?
LT: Bosses can also benefit by understanding the employees’ perspective and reacting appropriately. I include a special section that has advice for bosses where they can learn how to TOT-proof their companies. Bosses learn how to be better role models and humanize their workplace – making it safe for success. The big payoff is that a TOT-free company is a profitable company.
RW: In the second part of our interview, Lynn will discuss what a “humanized workplace” is, the most detrimental boss behavior and a successful managing up story.
I do notice this phenomenon in people (including myself sometimes) – reversing to childlike behavior, whether reacting to something outside, or triggered by something inside. In any case, it obviously has no place in the office, since it can be quite disruptive. I think we have a true TOT if this kind of behavior becomes a habit, a tendency. Employees need to be well-equipped to deal with “TOTs”. I especially like the idea of making bosses understand the employee’s perspective better. Effort should be made from both sides, then we’ll have a truly respectful workplace. Looking forward to Part 2.
I can fully relate to this article. Like Lynn Taylor, I’m a mother, and have a lot of corporate experience. I’ve seen my share of office tyrants. Bad bosses do often act like children, and calm “parenting” can be very helpful. I’m glad to see someone take on this important problem and offer solutions.