8 Wise Tips for Dealing With a Moody Boss

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Do you have a moody boss who is nice and charming one day, and throws a fit the next day? A moody boss is tough to work with, and every work day is like tiptoeing on broken glass. If you do have a temperamental boss, I hope these tips would prove helpful:

1. Try to understand what’s really going on

There could be a host of reasons why your boss is moody, like 1) personal issues bearing down on his performance at work; 2) intense pressure from his own bosses to meet targets (with hardly any budget!); 3) a dwindling sense of self-confidence in his own performance or leadership.

2. Discover the triggers and patterns

Learn to spot the storm when it is still far away. Observe his mood patterns. Some detective work is in order here. What tensions trigger his outbursts? Where do these come from? Is it before or after meetings, deadlines for financial returns, or before an audit? Once you establish this, you would have a mood meter radar, and would know when to be around him and when to stay out of his way!

If you’re having difficulty determining your boss’ moodiness patterns and triggers, open a line of communication between yourself and your boss’s administrative assistant (if they have one). Being close to your boss, he/she will have the best reading of the current temperature—and the long-term forecast. Offer to help out your boss’s assistant whenever you can, to show sincere gratitude for the tip-offs you get.

3. See if you are the cause of his frustrations

Be honest: Could you possibly be the cause of your boss’ moodiness? (Just serving you some tough love here.) Could he/she be irritated by your poor performance, due to your consistent tardiness, your more-frequent-than-usual requests for leaves, time off, or special arrangements, failure to meet deadlines, not meeting your objectives? If any of these apply to you, then you know who needs to change.

Clue: it’s not your boss.

4. Get and give feedback

This is one reason to be thankful for performance assessment sessions. When your boss asks, “Are there any issues troubling you?”, you could politely point out how his disagreeable or distressing behavior – yelling at people, constantly being on edge, having a bad temper or even fits of rage – affects the work atmosphere and your own performance at work. This conversation is a two-way street, so your boss may point out some defects in your own working methods and this can be really useful to help you improve.

5. Be a good listener

When you do get a chance to talk with your boss about this issue, listen well. Try to look into his or her valid points. Step into your boss’ shoes, and like I mentioned, try to understand the sources of his frustration.

Another area where you could put your excellent listening skills to use is when your boss is upset. Unfortunately, when your boss is in the middle of an outburst, he or she is usually trying to make a point or get things done. Though he may unfortunately be critical of your work, your boss might actually have a point he wants you to act upon.

6. Limit your interactions and pick meeting times carefully

Many factors associated with moodiness are out of your control and it is very difficult to avoid emotional contagion, So if you can, temporarily limit your exposure to their mood swings in hopes that this is just a short term issue.

Once you have figured out the patterns and triggers for your boss moodiness, figure out the best time to chat or check in with him/her. Approaching your boss at those moments you know he/she is stressed may not be very wise after all.

7. Don’t confront the boss during a mood swing

Dare not pick a street fight with your boss when he/she is moody. Don’t go on the offense with “Why are you suddenly so angry?” If you have a good relationship with your boss, and all hell seems to have broken loose, you can certainly inquire about what’s wrong. But if it’s the all too common subtle mood swings, getting in the boss’s face is likely ill-fated. Better to stay out of the way until the clouds blow over, so you’re not a target.

8. Try to record everything when things get serious

If your boss’ behavior turns from simple moodiness to actual harassment, then you have to record everything that’s happening. Documentation is important because your boss can simply deny everything or feign forgetfulness or claim a lack of awareness.

There is a fine line between abusive behavior and having a bad day. Seek help from HR so they can actually get to talk to your boss about the issue. You have legal rights and there should be procedures in place to deal with bullying.

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