This is why Sean Spicer and other Trump aides support the president, even when he contradicts them.
If you think being President of the United States is the hardest job in the world, try working for him.
Donald J. Trump’s aides often find themselves saying one thing in press briefings and interviews, only to have the President contradict them afterward.
This week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly kept telling reporters that the executive order on immigration is not a “ban,” only for the Commander-in-Tweet to post, “People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!”
People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2017
Last month, the White House claimed a New York Times story declaring Trump had revealed highly classified information to Russian diplomats was false. Then the president went on Twitter and admitted he spoke with the diplomats, and said that he had an “absolute right” to share those details.
This kind of unpredictability can put a lot of stress on employees. A recent Michigan State University study found that workers were actually better off if their boss was always “a jerk” to them, rather than a “loose cannon” who was fair at some times, and unfair at other times. “Inconsistent treatment is much more stressful than being treated poorly all the time,” the study author wrote.
Unfortunately, career counselors have seen many situations where bosses undermine subordinates, suddenly change deadlines, or do a 180 on policy or plan of action that sets the employee up to fail. And a recent Monster.com poll found almost one-third (30%) of workers said lack of transparency and communication was what they hated most in a boss.
“You work hard, you’re diligent, you’re above the board … and your boss doesn’t have your back,” Vicki Salemi, Monster.com career expert, told Moneyish. “Unfortunately, this happens a lot.”
So what do you do?
If you know that your employer is open to feedback, then clear the air in a conversation in person. Bring documentation of the times your boss has thrown you under the bus – and bring a colleague along as a witness.
“Say something like, ‘I feel like we’re not on the same page, and I really wanted to talk to you about this, so it doesn’t appear like I’m going in one direction while you’re going in another,’” said job coach Cheryl Palmer, founder of Call To Career.
Keep your cool, even if your boss gets angry. Don’t speak in generalities. Make specific points to situations where this has happened, and point out the fact that these mixed messages don’t put either of you in the best light.
“Make them part of the solution,” said Salemi. If your manager’s accounting differs from yours, say, “I have the report with me, and I’m happy to go over the numbers with you, so you can see how I derived them.”
But if your supervisor’s temperament is not open to discussion, then you want to follow in Spicer’s footsteps by deferring to your boss. Like in the Tuesday White House press briefing, when reporters asked Spicer if President Trump still has confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “I have not had a discussion with him on that question,” Spicer deftly replied. “If I haven’t had a discussion with him on the subject, I tend not to speak about it.”
Palmer approves. “If someone tells you the boss was undermining you, or said something you know is wrong, just respond, ‘I haven’t talked to the boss about that, so let me get back to you,’” she said. “That is the best thing you can say to buy yourself some time to get to a better situation.”
Absolutely do not get into a public back-and-forth bickering with your boss. “You can only lose,” Palmer said. “You’re going to create a more negative relationship with your boss, and at the same time, you’re going to be airing your grievances in public, which makes you look bad as well as the boss.”
And resist the urge to vent to your colleagues just because you believe that you’re all in the same boat. “You don’t know whose loyalty you might be crossing. What if you say something, and then someone runs right back to tell the boss?” said Palmer. “Try not to say anything, or stay neutral if you do, so that it doesn’t create an even worse situation than what is already existing.”
If your toxic boss is consistently undermining you and making you look bad, however, it’s time to start looking for another gig. A 2015 Gallup poll found half of surveyed workers had left a job to get away from their manager to “improve their overall life.”
“You need to leave that toxic environment and get a new job,” said Salemi. “Think, ‘How am I ever going to get recognition, appreciation or a promotion in this job with this boss who is so fickle, flies off the handle and is unpredictable?’”
She suggests brushing up your resume, soliciting feedback from clients and getting testimonials from coworkers, which not only sets you up for job interviews, but also reminds you that you’re good at what you do – and it reminds your colleagues, too.
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