Despite earning employee of the month, or some other fictitious honor your company bestows on cogs in the corporate wheel to boost morale, we all have days where we fly “below expectations.” Coupled with happy hour-ing until 2 AM the night before, these days lead to dropping balls or leaving something on the back burner for far too long. Unfortunately for you, shit flows down the corporate ladder and you sit directly in the cross hairs of those who created this toxic cesspool.
Whether your typically reserved boss forgot to take his bi-polar meds, or you’re working for Kevin Spacey’s character from Horrible Bosses, we’ve all had a boss skip passive aggressive and go straight to beast mode on your sorry ass. You might not be able to prevent the verbal equivalent of a gang initiation, but you can make a feeble attempt to break your fall:
A good tongue lashing is not unlike shower-room prison sex. It’s unwanted and there’s not a drop of spit used to make the experience more enjoyable. So go in armed with a 2 gallon bucket of lube in the form of distractions, disguised as backup data. Charts, large lists of numbers and complicated contracts/policies are all integral parts of the smoke screen facade you can try to create to reduce the friction.
When all else fails, use your backup chute: “we aren’t saving lives here.” (Note: this will not go over so well if you work at a hospital) Only break this glass in case of emergency. This cushion might lessen the blow of your 10 story fall from grace, but you’re still going to be messed up good.
Kill them with kindness.
Short of getting up and wrapping the VP of Sales in a bear hug, use your inside voice to quell the verbal berating. Yelling back will only add fuel to the fire that has been set at the base of the post you’ve been tied to.
Never tell HR.
If you’ve ever seen a mob or gangster movie, you know the old adage “snitches get stitches.” But instead of stitches you get 4 years of bad reviews and projects not fit for the interns. No matter how close this confrontation comes to physical blows, do what all men do, bury it inside. When HR asks why you’re acting so distant and walking funny, just tell them you fell down the stairs. No matter how long you sit curled up in a cold shower weeping to yourself about how it “wasn’t your fault”, always plead the 5th.
Excuses are for your girlfriend and landlord. Tuck your tail between your legs and take it like a man. Like a great General, sign the surrender papers and lay down your sword like a gentleman. And don’t forget to pull the preemptive Danny Tanner on them and offer up the lesson you learned before your sitcom dad of a boss can get to the “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed” part.
Fall on the sword/take one for the team.
Call it what you want, but there’s something to be said for martyrdom. Being the sacrificial lamb or at least being the first to slaughter is a chivalrous act that will be revered by your coworkers. Like the “walking the mile” scene from Green Mile, all of your cube mates will peer from their open-air offices to see the dead man walking and offer silent prayers for your soul. Your sacrifice will become stuff of legend, discussed at holiday parties and happy hours for years to come.
Middle management and above can sense fear like a bloodhound. Like a shark they hone in on any trace of blood and leave nothing but carnage in their path. But with the right amount of ice water in your veins and balls in your freshly pressed Dockers you can take it on the chin and be a better man for it. A subliminal amount of respect will resonate with your manager if you don’t break stride and remain calm, cool and collected amid a shit storm of anger and threats of termination.
And remember after your soul is crushed and your dreams defeated, stand up and puff that chest with a “thank you sir, may I have another” attitude. Nothing screams power move more than raising a hand to thank the man who just belittled you more than Donald Trump does his Mexican landscapers.