Bad Boss Survival Guide for Introverts


Being an introvert isn’t easy all the time, considering the fact that people who don’t know them personally may consider them aloof, cold and disconnected. So imagine placing them in a bustling work environment with a terrible and aggressive boss. If this sounds like a recipe for disaster for all parties involved, it doesn’t have to be.


My Own Bad Boss Experience

Unfortunately, I witnessed this exact scenario in my previous foodservice job. Granted, a noisy line cook job may not have been the best job choice for this specific introvert (named “Steve” here), but couple that mistake with our easily angered boss (named “Jon” here) and all of a sudden, our workplace became a veritable powder keg.

If Steve felt that he had a firm grasp of the information being relayed by Jon, he would become eager to get to the task at hand and turn away. This would always result in Jon losing his temper and begin grilling my poor, introverted coworker, who would then uselessly try to adjust his behavior in an attempt to diffuse the situation.

This continued until one day, Jon had enough and actually put his hands on Steve after he made a third mistake in his food production. With Jon still yelling at him, Steve took off his hat and apron, placed them on the shelf, walked off of the line, and out the front door without a word. But, did Jon learn his lesson?


How It All Played Out

Unfortunately, he didn’t. After 4 months on the job, I finally quit too, unable to handle the constant verbal and physical barrages we all endured. Through word of mouth, I heard that Jon was summarily let go from his position after the store owner caught wind of his behavior. I haven’t seen him since, and for that, I’m grateful, but I always think of this and how Steve could have potentially found a way to survive Jon’s focused rage, towards him especially, during his time with us.

His reaction didn’t carry a final word, and there was no final straw followed by months of him and Jon “not talking to each other”, but it resonated with me how cruel Jon could be. Since both Steve and I were in subordinate positions (Jon liked to fire people), we couldn’t expect him to change his behavior, but Steve and I later found that we had the power to change ours, for sanity’s sake. Jon was simply an overall unhappy person ill-fitted for the position he held, and should have been let go long ago.

Considering Steve’s introverted personality, we found that his emotional intelligence wasn’t sufficient enough to see when Jon’s temper was about to explode. Had he been able to pick up on Jon’s highly volatile emotional cues, he would have been able to adjust his behavior more easily. In fact, a boost in emotional intelligence can do wonders for introverts by allowing them to:

  1. Remain calm under pressure,
  2. Resolve conflict effectively, and
  3. Be empathetic to their colleagues.

Even better, with a boost in emotional intelligence, Steve could adjust his nonverbal communication to appear (and perhaps feel) more open when others are speaking with him. His anxiousness to return to the task at hand may seem cold to some, and to volatile people like Jon, it was a blatant sign of “disrespect” that should be killed with fire.

I lost touch with Steve over time, but I made it my personal goal to help him try to make sense of the incredibly ridiculous situation we all endured. And as for myself, I’ve grown wiser, too. I may have taught Steve how to boost his emotional intelligence (something I’ve always excelled at), but he taught me how to take a stand when the circumstances call for it.

What’s the most uncomfortable work experience you’ve ever had? Share your experience in the comments!

Image: Flickr

Brought to you by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – dedicated to unleash your professional potential.

About Robert Conrad

Robert Conrad, ongoing student in the game of life, father, introvert sympathizer and gamer on days off. You can connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Ayatti all day

    I had a boss that constantly asked my why wasn’t i engaging with her. I was able to adjust to seem more engaged but that wasn’t me. She constantly chit chat and laughed with my coworkers, but i wasn’t that kind of person in the work place. I have witnessed the boss and worker friendships end in disaster because, when push comes to shove, everyone is going to cover there own butts first. The friendship will get sacrificed if it mean that a job was at stake.
    She resigned before i did, and asked me why we never connected like i did with my coworkers. I told her that as my direct supervisor, I didn’t feel like that was appropriate. I said that I was here to work and felt uncomfortable socializing in the work place. She said she buys that. I did the work i was told to do.
    She would often get on my case for assignments not being completed. This was because she allowed other employees to include me in their projects and thereby delaying mine. That let me know that i could not be friends with her, she seemed to try and find something to link to me as poor work performance. I really didn’t trust her and that make shaky ground for friendships.

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