Dear Dr. Sylvia,
I am a newly named director in a major tech company. We have been around for many years and have so many systems in place. However, what cannot be programmed (wish it could be!) are the human beings who surround me.
Here is my dilemma: my boss is a mixture of a micro-manager and a hands off do-it-yourself type. The combination is crazy making. She is, in your pattern terms, a persecutor always looking over my shoulder to see what is not being done right, and an avoider who hates conflict.
Now I have studied your patterns and I am a bona-fide avoider, especially of speaking up to power. And my boss is very powerful. They even say she could be the next CEO. I am working at transforming my avoider pattern and becoming an initiator and it works with many. However, with her I tread lightly.
Example: If I ask her for help when I have been at a meeting and I need to report back and I am not sure what to do she always says “I was not there so I can’t help you.” And with that she waves her hand and dismisses me. I do not think she has my back and I am fuming inside.
It makes me nervous to say something to her and I feel all my upset at her and at myself, backing up inside. Suggestions?
Need to flow freely
The combination of looking over your shoulder and ignoring your needs can be crazy making. I certainly understand. However, the ball is in your court or you could really let the stress back you up to some unpleasant ailments.
First, take some quiet time and begin to explore where the fear of talking to power began. Usually there is someone (a parent, older sibling, or caretaker) who shushed you when you were very little and the safety of speaking out went into dry dock.
Next, practice by yourself or even better, with a friend to say out loud what you wish you could say to this executive if it was safe enough to tell the truth.
Now, I am going to give you a free pass for the next time you talk with her and she says “I wasn’t there and I cannot help you.”
Take a breath and simply say, with strong intention if you can “I think it would be helpful to get your point of view even if you were not in the room with me.”
And then sit quietly and expect a great response. It will come, I promise you, so long as you don’t sit with your head down being ready to be disappointed. Body language is as telling as your voice when you are asking for something new. Courage and intention will make all the difference.