3 ways to stop panicking when you have a high-stress boss

We’ve all been there: your manager walks by and you panic. Your manager intimidates your while giving feedback…and you want to sink into the floor. You hope you don’t have to make small talk with them in an elevator on your way out.

We’ve all been there: your manager walks by and you panic. Your manager intimidates your while giving feedback…and you want to sink into the floor. You hope you don’t have to make small talk with them in an elevator on your way out.

Here’s how to build up your armor so you can avoid emotionally crumbling around your intimidating, and/or high-maintenance boss.

Show that you can do great work

This can go a long way.

Ashley Stahl, a career coach and former national security professional, writes about overcoming your fear of your boss in The Muse. One of her tips is to “be irreplaceable.”

“Great employees pay attention to their boss’ priorities and pain points, and they constantly offer to take on side projects—projects that the boss may not have initially thought about—to improve a process or ease the workload,” she writes. “How? In order to come up with projects that truly make his or her heart sing, you must anticipate circumstances or projects that may present challenges in the near future. What are your boss’ goals, priorities, and—most importantly—problems? Your ability to identify mitigate issues before they arise is key to becoming an irreplaceable employee.”

Use this method when your boss is selfish

Charles Purdy, currently a the Managing Editor of Adobe Create Magazine and former Monster Senior Editor, features advice from Lynn Taylor, author and CEO of Lynn Taylor Consulting, on Monster.com. Purdy writes about how to deal with different types of managers, based on pop culture— this one is “The Narcissistic Boss (e.g., Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada).”

“…Taylor recommends using what she calls the “CALM” method (Communicate, Anticipate, Laugh and Manage Up) with these bosses,” he writes. “‘Communicate frequently, honestly and regularly with aggressive bosses, so you understand what’s behind all the blustering,’ she says. ‘Anticipate problems before they occur or become more stressful [and don’t encourage a tantrum with bad timing, either]. Taylor also suggests laughter. ‘A little levity goes a long way when tensions are running high,'”she says. ‘Manage up by being a role model of good behavior, using positive and negative reinforcement as you would with a child.'”

Don’t forget to focus on self-care

Alan Henry, current editor of Smarter Living and former Editor-in-Chief of Lifehacker, writes on Lifehacker that you should “understand what stress does to you and how to fight it” as a way to work with a manager you don’t like.

“…If your boss stresses you out and makes you angry, you might benefit from simple office-friendly stress relief tricks like meditation, deep breathing for 10 seconds, or taking a walk to calm yourself before responding,” he writes. “If your boss is right in front of you and you’re getting angry, try to intercept your emotional response and let them know you’ll respond appropriately later. Whatever you do, separate the content of the message from its delivery. Focusing on the former is useful; focusing on the latter is a recipe for trouble.”

Jane Burnett|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.