When Mr. Negative is your boss

Dear Bob ...I am in a situation here at work. I am extremely unhappy with my boss.Don’t get me wrong. We get along OK personally but he is like the kid in Peanuts with the dust cloud around him. I have been cleaning up after him for four years and it is getting old.Also he is very intensely negative. I call him "Grey Cloud" from a novel I read. Every new project we get is another huge issue that gives him a â€

Dear Bob ...

I am in a situation here at work. I am extremely unhappy with my boss.

Don’t get me wrong. We get along OK personally but he is like the kid in Peanuts with the dust cloud around him. I have been cleaning up after him for four years and it is getting old.

Also he is very intensely negative. I call him "Grey Cloud" from a novel I read. Every new project we get is another huge issue that gives him a “migraine.� I am usually very positive, upbeat and motivated to do new work, but his constant anger about everything is killing my spirit.

My job performance is being affected dramatically. This is something that I have always taken deep pride in, my abilities, professionalism and efficiency. I have always been upwardly mobile but now I am in a rut. My boss isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and I have no other routes to go around him without proposing a whole new position, which they will not do because our amount of constant work. I would love to stick it out, which against most people’s advice I have, but I am running on fumes. My skill set is pretty thin outside of the type of IT I am doing at this time so leaving is a scary idea. What advice can you give a guy with diminished spirit and high hopes?

- Down In the Dumps

Dear Downer ...

I can think of a few possible causes for this, but I don't know that having a better understanding will help you at all. It might be that your boss:

* Has a self-image of "hard-boiled manager." Maybe he saw The Front Page too many times in his formative years or something; anyway, his self-image is bound up in never cracking a smile and spreading the negative energy around.

* Suffers from mild depression. Managers are in no way immune from this malady.

* Was long-ago promoted to his level of incompetence and spends every day knowing, deep down, that he's in over his head and faking it.

The only one of these you can do anything at all about is the possibility of mild depression, and even here you'd have to stick your neck out. If you think this might really be the issue, you could discuss the situation, discreetly, with someone you trust in Human Resources. In the more enlightened companies, this might lead to some exploratory work that leads to your manager getting the help he needs.

You'll have to judge your company and it's HR department. Overall, I'd say the odds aren't very good.

In the end, to me, this looks like one of those times where you can't fix the situation, but you can fix your circumstances. You're overdue to start looking for a better boss.

Oh, about that "thin skillset" - don't worry about it. But do re-think your skills. If you've been succeeding at what you've been doing, you have skills lots of employers will want. You might not be a perfect fit with your next employer's technical environment, but stop thinking in such self-defeating terms. They're just a symptom of what you've been living with. Get past that, and start envisioning yourself in the business environment you want to find instead.

- Bob

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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