Strategies for dealing with an irrational boss

Some product managers face an impossible task of trying to do the right thing in a dysfunctional organization. Despite understanding the role of product management and having tools to do the work, sometimes a manager or co-worker creates an impossible situation. How do you deal with it? Some of the concepts in Pragmatic Institute’s classes work in ‘good’ situations; others are designed specifically for broken organizations.

Working in a dysfunctional organization is always difficult, and sometimes impossible. When in conflict, remember to divorce yourself from emotion and communicate the facts of the situation. Remember that it’s a job; not your life. Remember to go home at a reasonable time. And always remember that, even in difficult job markets, that you have other choices– although maybe not your first choice.

The Puget Sound Product Marketing Forum ( has these suggestions:

  • Document all that is logical to document and print it. Save it in a logbook.
  • Create a share folder or intranet page with your documents so that people could see what you are doing. Continuously communicate its existence.
  • Always send your boss emails with CC:’s to other managers or executives. Keep an email archive.
  • Initiate a sign-off on all appropriate tasks, projects, and major changes. Propagate the result whether a sign-off was achieved or not.
  • Don’t expect your boss to clarify his expectations or give you directions, since that is the source of his power. You must write your own quarterly work plan. Regard him as an interruption to your workflow.
  • Learn to expect and accept the boss’s behavior. He won’t change but your attitude towards him must change.
  • Your confidence and superiority will come from ALWAYS having a course of action laid out, regardless of conflicting instructions. Be ready to handle any possible change because it will happen.
  • Always protect yourself with an ongoing damage-control plan.
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