Tangling with Tyrants

Managing the Balance of Power at Work

Non-Fiction - Relationships
132 Pages
Reviewed on 06/28/2009
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Tony Deblauwe is the founder of consulting firm HR4Change (www.hr4change.com) and has an extensive background working with individuals and corporations in the areas of organizational design, human resources management, leadership, and development.

A certified coach, he received his Master’s degree in Organizational Development and Human Resources from the University of San Francisco, and he has written articles for several trade publications including the Northern California Human Resources Association, Career Directors, and CareerSource magazine. He is frequently quoted in career sources such as TheLadders and CareerBuilder.

Tony lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite

Almost everyone can relate to the tyrant boss. My husband had a supervisor that screamed and yelled obscenities at the people under him. Eventually, the corporation realized why people refused to take the positions directly under him. He was forced into a new position where he no longer supervised anyone. I left a job I loved because I could no longer stand to work with a tyrant. A bad boss can make a pleasant job unbearable. I wish I had read this book a few years ago I would probably have stayed with my last job.

Your relationship with your boss should “energize and heighten” your job performance. A boss should be offering “praise and recognition.” The examples throughout Tangling with Tyrants: Managing the Balance of Power at Work make this book a success. The examples help the reader to relate to the situations discussed. At the end of each chapter is an exercise to assist the reader. This book like most self-help books is based on a positive attitude. Tony Deblauwe includes a “Do I Work For A Tyrant?” test in the introduction. Throughout Tangling with Tyrants: Managing the Balance of Power at Work the reader will find tools for taking “control and turning the relationship with your boss around.” Deblauwe explains why and how our emotions are linked to our job.

A Tyrant Boss brings out great emotion. When a boss berates you, it is natural to get angry, sad, and depressed. We also must remember that the boss has emotions. Unfortunately, he/she may have brought them into the relationship with you. There is even a chapter on facial expressions.

Tony Deblauwe’s Tangling with Tyrants: Managing the Balance of Power at Work is written in an easy to read and understand manner. The information shared within the pages can be an invaluable tool. I strongly recommend this book for all HR departments, employees, and bosses. Perhaps the boss will recognize his/her own traits. Perhaps the employee will learn to control the situation. Overall, this is an excellent read and a great tool.

Edith Wharton

I felt Tony Deblauwe did an excellent job of portraying the difficult situations that people sometimes face in the workplace, often undetected. It's commonly not the work that is tough, but the human dynamics that we don't see that need navigating. Insight into human behavior is tremendously valuable.

Pierre Khawand

What I find fascinating about the framework that Tony provided is that it is practical and applicable to some of the most pressing issues in the workplace. While everyone is busy with management and leadership issues, Tony's bottom-up approach sheds a whole new light about the challenges that the workforce can face when having to deal with incompetent and unaware bosses. Most importantly Tony succeeded in packaging a solid set of principles and implementation details to show employees how they can step back, strategize, and turn things around. But this is not only for employees, I believe it is just as useful for the HR professionals who have to coach employees and resolve issues relating to "tyrant" bosses, and it is a great resource for managers who want to be more aware and not somehow unknowingly fall into the "tyrant" category. Highly recommended!

F. G. Stapleton

In a market saturated with business management books, few stand out as necessary or crucial. While the subject of the "bully boss" is overlooked in much of today's management-style canon, Tony Deblauwe offers a complimentary addendum to the recognition of employer-related stress.

In his book Tangling with Tyrants, Deblauwe focuses on the importance of feeling satisfied at work, and the need for a positive relationship with one's supervisor. The main issues to address when recognizing whether one works for a tyrant can be broken down to the bare principles of emotion, power and communication. Deblauwe contends that emotion usually affects the manner in which one handles their tyrannical boss. How one feels about work and their boss can disrupt day-to-day function in the workplace. Regarding power, many supervisors become tyrannical for a variety of reasons. Whether their supervisor is domineering or they have learned their behavior from another job, the abuse of power in a supervisor's role can be counterproductive and inefficient.

Communication appears to be the most essential component of effectively confronting a domineering boss, as the subject emerges repeatedly within the book. According to Deblauwe, the two components of effective communication are recognizing personal traits and how to develop effective conversation with your boss. This chapter, although short, clearly analyzes the personal techniques necessary to talk to your boss without creating conflict.

Deblauwe's insightful anecdotes set up meaningful interaction between the reader and book, and develop a commonality between anyone struggling with a tyrant at work. Various exercises and checklists throughout the book afford readers the opportunity to self-analyze their work environments and create goals for approaching their situations. Of note is a series of case studies at the end of the book that allow the readers to put what they've learned into practice by analyzing very real work situations.

Deblauwe's advice is distributed tactfully throughout his book, allowing readers to recognize the possibility of having a tyrant in their own workplace without leading them toward that conclusion. Following the structure of many management books, he organizes chapters into digestible snippets that read quickly and make sense. While the title of the book suggests dealing with tyrants, readers may find that the book is more a guide for appropriate workplace behavior. Either way, Deblauwe's lessons are articulate and beneficiary to anyone currently or prospectively in the workplace and dealing with stressful situations.

David G. Mehr

This pair of books (reader and workbook), which should be used together, address the all too common issues arising from a stressful and unproductive relationship with your boss. The author provides ways to prod your thinking about the issues related to the relationship and its impact that contribute to personal insight and practical ways to move forward. In addition, I like the multi-step process that spans from assessment through long-term intervention.

Debra Carpenter

Everyone meets up with tyrants in the workplace -- bosses, difficult clients or those demanding peers. The usual responses -- yelling at the dog or white-knuckling the commute -- just don't make a difference. Complaining to others, likewise. Tony's Tangling with Tyrants shows us how to keep our dignity and our power even in the face of the fussiest Princess with the smallest Pea. Practical advice and better yet, a truly understanding tone make it possible to change our behavior with astonishing results. I serve as an executive coach to many people who work with or for tyrants -- this book will be on their must-read list!

T. Abel

In the world of work relationships, you are bound to come across people you have problems dealing with. This is especially true if it's your boss who is the one creating issues that get in the way or your job. Tangling with Tyrants offers many good insights and techniques that actually work with bad bosses. This book really got it in terms of how to take the frustration out of figuring out what to do with different boss behaviors without labeling each one. So often at least in the boss books I read, they go through too much detail in the range of styles of management and Tangling with Tyrants focuses on one profile (the Tyrant) and the dimensions of that profile. This includes the bully but also the Michael "The Office" type. This approach makes it easier to figure out what to change in terms of what bothers you the most. Bottom line, I think the material is well thought out and can be a great guide to anyone with boss issues.

Joyce Reitman

I found "Tangling with Tyrants" an extremely useful book, explaining a complex problem in easy to understand terms. Whether you are an employer or employee there are several take-aways that will help you in lowering your frustrations in the workplace. Anyone who works in a company will find specific ideas to implement in this book to make their lives easier and more productive at work. Great read and worth the price.

Steve S

Tony offers a very concise and well thought out set of frameworks and recommendations to deal with a difficult boss. Having had four in my career this is a definite must have for anyone working for a boss. Most of all you realize you're not alone, it's not necessarily you, and there are ways to cope.

K. Gamow

This book offers step-by-step help in making the best of a difficult boss, without giving any of your personal power away in the process. A bad boss is the #1 reason people leave their jobs. And if they stay, it can be one of the most significant stressors in their professional lives, affecting their personal lives as well. This is a book that I hope young managers will see early in their careers. One of Tony's suggestions is brilliant: treating a communication with a difficult boss as a customer service person is trained to do in the face of a torrent of customer abuse. Staying focused on the subject, and not getting derailed by personal and emotional reactions is the key, not only to success in working with Tyrant bosses, but in every aspect of life.

John R. Anderson

"Tyrants" should be required reading for everyone in business. Throughout our careers we have faced and will likely face again managers with less than sterling skills. "Tyrants" focuses on how you handle tyrant managers and your particular situation rather than blaming the other person.

The exercises and tips throughout the book provide the reader with a roadmap of how to navigate these difficult situations. In my experience, so many people fall into the "victim" mode and lose their control over the situation. This book helps individuals regain control over their work lives and offers more than hope -- it offers a way to cope, a way to manage, and a way out.