How to Deal with an Irrational Boss

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

I work in a large organization that operates on mutual trust and respect. But we went through a couple of mergers that brought in new leaders. They pretend to be supportive, but it has turned into a back-stabbing environment. I am in investment sales and spend a great deal of my time traveling. We need our sales support staff, but I know two are actively looking for jobs and several more on the fence.

Is it possible to deal effectively with senior people who are irrational and don’t care about the truth? My colleagues want to address this somehow and I don’t know how to counsel them.


Dear S.F.,

This is unfortunately not an unusual situation in many organizations that I encounter. When the senior people are difficult or are perceived to be dysfunctional, it trickles down and affects people throughout the firm. No matter how you counsel those people, it’s not in their best interest to be combative or disrespectful as irritated.

I talk in terms of “impact” in situations like this. You first have to assess what the actual impact is of the senior leader’s communication and behavior. In some cases, they may just have a personality quirk and there’s no real harm being done within the organization – people just don’t like them. In other cases the leader is making decisions that make it difficult for people to do their jobs effectively. The impact here is, of course, more significant. Ask your team to consider if they have to deal with the situation proactively or if it would be more advantageous to try to work with the senior leaders and – as much as possible – ignore the behavior.