Manager's aggressive tone in the meetings impacting mental health

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Anonymous User at Taro Community18 days ago

Especially towards me. I don't observe the same when he is talking to others.

Should I bring the topic again with him in 1:1. He switches to complete politeness in 1:1s for any concerns I bring up. This is making me confused.

But it is hurting me. What does community recommend? What are examples of using assertive language that one can use in order to ensure no one goes crosses the line like manager is doing off late. I have tried skipping few meetings but he follows and asks for reasons for missing the meetings.

Going to skip is not an option as he will side with mgr 100%.

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Discussion

(2 comments)
  • Jordan Cutler
    Senior Software Engineer and Career Coach
    18 days ago

    I'm sorry this is happening and these situations suck.

    I want to give advice but I'm also curious what you have tried so far. It seems you have brought this up in 1-1 with him, but he's still continued? I'm curious how you approached giving the feedback before and what his response was.

    If you did give it already, then I think it could be worth bringing it up again. The main thing with being "assertive" or "direct" is to show it through your actions, a tiny bit of tone but not too much, and using silence to your advantage.

    For example:

    You: "Hey manager, I wanted to bring up a concern that's been giving me trouble (can replace this with exactly what you are experiencing, like lack of focus or something) during my day-to-day."

    now wait

    Manager: "Okay, what's up?"

    You: "A few 1-1's ago I mentioned that I felt like I was experiencing an aggressive tone during meetings, and while I noticed some improvement, I still feel like its happening a lot."

    again, now wait

    Manager: "Oh, wow I actually didn't even realize I was doing that. Can you tell me some examples?"

    You: ... some examples

    Now that he sees from those examples he hopefully understands better and can learn from it in the future.

    ///////////////////////

    Alternatively, you can start your 1-1 like: "I just wanted to check myself, are you frustrated with me?" (after "hey, how you doing?")

    This question plays on a few psychological / negotiation strategies:

    • People feel more comfortable saying "no" than "yes." So its very easy for him to say, "No, I'm not frustrated with you" and be on your side right away
    • It puts an implicit blame on me, so that the manager feels safe and likely asking himself, "What did I do to make { your name } feel like I'm frustrated with him?"

    If he has been noticing something, he can immediately jump into what is actually going on.

    If he hasn't been noticing anything, then he is inclined to ask for more details about why you feeling what you're feeling, in a way that doesn't make you the pushy one.

    I can't go into a lot of detail about my experience on this for privacy but I can say that this has worked for me in the past really well.

    I hope either of these 2 approaches work out for you!

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  • Casey Dai
    Principal Director at Capgemini
    18 days ago

    There are most likely some deep seated issues going on underneath here, which I can offer some suggestions on how to identify it and avenues you can go a bit deeper. Finding the underlying root cause(s) is going to make the resolution much more straightforward here.

    Before going into that though, I want to level set by saying that it's not unusual for people to have a different demeanor and posture in various ways in group settings (especially when there are key stakeholders such as clients or his skip level present) vs. a private 1-1 setting. Doesn't make it ok by any means if it's impacting you negatively, but just something to account for in your expectations going in.

    To preface, take my suggestions with a grain of salt since I don't know all the dynamics of your specific situation. A couple scenarios that is worth probing further based on my personal experience.

    1. This occur most often when the manager is having trouble demonstrating a level of authority/influence/seniority he wants to convey other stakeholders. Doing this is a form of posturing to compensate for that and unfortunately, taking it out on a direct report is usually how the scenario plays out (it actually gives off a negative signal to others of authority, but that's another topic altogether). Steps you can take to address this can be:
      • Pre-meeting: before going into a high stakes scenario, discuss the game plan and desired outcomes with your manager first
      • Offer suggestions on how you can work together to help move the agenda along and use 'facilitation language' such as 'manager X had a great idea here to...' or some language to thank him publicly for being a good supporter / advocate to moving forward on X
    2. Getting caught off guard with surprises: specifically, if he perceives that it is your responsibility to help prevent these surprises from happening. If this is the issue, I'd first think about preventative measures you can take prior to the meeting (similar to some of the suggestions in #1). Giving timely updates on progress/challenges is a good hygiene factor to have regardless of if this is happening, but becomes even more important if this turns out to be the underlying reason.
    3. Overwork / Stress: if you notice that your manager is constantly overwhelmed with too much scope and/or limited resources to deliver, brainstorm how you can help with that in your next 1-1. Unless you notice something systemically wrong with the workload, this scenario is less likely if he is consistently aggressive towards you in meetings.

    In terms of how to bring this up during a 1-1 after you've done some investigating into what could be the underlying cause(s), keep it simple and constructive. Something along the lines of "I noticed that things could have gone a bit smoother during the meeting on X date, I'd like to get your advice on what we can do to better prepare before going into something similar next time". If they brush it off as "nothing", gently bring up a few things you felt like could have gone better using a framework such as "instead of X, I think perhaps doing it like Y could have led to a better outcome".

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