My Self-Centered Manager Is Hard To Work With!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about self-centered manager:

I work in a large retail store where customer service is vital; enjoying all the aspects of the job while having fun is a large factor. Our female department manager is always talking about herself and her family with every detail. She speaks loudly at times. She acts as if the world revolves around her. The worst part of this is she never inquires about the four employees who staff her department. Whenever one of us has anything to say, she is rude. She completely ignores the one who is speaking and behaves as though nothing else is important and only she matters.

Signed, Working For Number One

Dear Working For Number One:

Apparently your department manager is self-centered. She matters to herself and the rest of you are not in her circle of concern. Can you change that? Long established habits of any sort resist change. So don’t expect drastic change in her behavior. Yet there is hope in changing ego to WEGO.

How? By focusing on an objective bigger than her obsession with her little circle and that of your own and your co-workers’ personal concerns. What might that be? You have answered that in your first sentence–customer service. Now before you slough that off, take time to consider if customer service might become vital to all of you within your store. To make it more than words and more than a sales job, what might you and your co-workers do to make your workplace exciting–something that will make your manager and all of you look good to the executives of your firm, something that will give you pride in sales, something that will generate satisfaction? Answering these big questions is not a solo activity.

Rather it begins with informal conversations and progresses to more formal sessions centered on the whats, whens, wheres, whos, and hows. For example, what if you start informally talking about what you would do if you owned your store? Then urge your manager to schedule a series of meetings to brainstorm and put in writing those ideas that most excite all of you who work in your store. Such ideas as. . . clarification of who does what, what needs approval, what does not, what might make each others’ jobs easier and/or more gratifying. giving customers the royal treatment–taking their pictures with their children, significant other, or pets. scouting other workplaces to learn best practices. special promotions for products and charting their success. finding ways to make your store to appeal to several of the senses; to the ear, more colorful to the eye–or at least different, more pleasant to the taste and smell. weekly staff skull sessions to applaud what has gone well and what might make the next week better. career path planning for each employee–this can include every one of you. These generic ideas are not so workplace specific as those your gang can generate. In the course of all this, you can see how the focus becomes larger than anyone of you and your manager. Yet at the same time, the ego of each is enlarged and caught up in what we call WEGO.

Will you let us know what works and what does not? Might this indirect approach be more effective than the four of you employees surrounding your manager and forcing her to listen to a tape recording of what she says about herself and how rude she is to you? One more thought–you are not your job. You and each of you who work together have lives outside of your jobs. So don’t become obsessed with the smallness of others’ self interest.

Dan West