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(Rant) I don’t like my boss...

This is a common rant across workplaces.

When we hear what is left unsaid - the story appears as if whoever is the boss is an alien who has landed on earth to imprison earthlings and hence the job of the earthlings is to send the alien on a MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission).

As hilarious and out stretched as it may sound, most of us have heard this rant.

When we look deeply into it, we see foot marks of conflict with differing intensities here.

The conflict could be with your boss today, with your peers tomorrow, with your team the day after and the list goes on.

Managing up (boss), Managing laterally (peers), Managing down (team) are critical leadership competencies for career growth. So how does one do it with elan?

The ‘Drama triangle’ was conceived by Dr.Stephen Karpman as a social model that helps us understand the dysfunctional roles played by people in conflict.

There are 3 roles that people play very similar to a movie storyline - Persecutor, Victim and Rescuer.

Victim role is played by the one needing help. Victims believe that they are truly helpless and a knight in silver armour has to rescue them out of drudgery. They do not take responsibility of getting themselves out of the situation.

Rescuer role is played by the one who gives help. Rescuers believe that their goal in life is to help others. While this may look positive, they create a co-dependency with victims in the sense, they need victims to thrive. They like to martyr, not taking care of their own needs.

Persecutor role is played by the one criticises others. Persecutors believe that by blaming and shaming people, they will have high ground. Their insecurity translates into a rude way of achieving control. They may sometimes act like a bully.

When we see these roles, all three roles are dysfunctional. Each role has an inherent need because of which they behave a certain way. In reality, the person playing the role, may not be a real victim or a dictator. It's like playing a character in movies. An actor plays the role and once his part is over, gets to be himself/herself.

More interestingly, we can also observe that the same person can switch roles with different people.

How does one handle workplace conflicts?

Reality check:

Many times we live in our heads and 'what we think is happening' is not really 'what is happening'. One of the methods I use with my clients while coaching is ‘The Work’ by Byron Katie.

It basically consists of 4 questions that assesses the veracity of the problem.

  1. Is it true?

  2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?

  3. How do you react when you believe that thought?

  4. Who would you be without that thought?

Answer to Question 4 will highlight reality of your situation without the story.

If you find that your story may not be completely true, approach the conflict with an open mind next time with feet on the ground.


Once the veracity of the problem is ascertained and we also know the story - we will know the role we are playing in the story. When you are in conflict situation for an extended period of time, just ask yourself this question - are you playing any of the above roles?


When you catch yourself playing any of these roles in the drama triangle, you will definitely want to get out of it. So how do you get out of the drama triangle?

TED - The Empowerment Dynamic, authored by David Emerald Womeldorff is a framework to help us to move out of the drama triangle.

Victim becomes the creator

When we believe we have the power to change things positively for ourselves, we become empowered and that’s the magic portion for getting out of victim mindset. Having an intent, focussing on a desired outcome and taking actions towards it help get the escape velocity to flee the drama triangle.

The main role in the drama triangle is that of the victim. Once the victim takes control of the situation, the other two roles are forced to alter themselves. Starting your day with positivity and moving around with positive people can help get out of the victim role.

Also, working with a coach can help you uncover options towards taking accountability. To counter conflict, we all have multiple solutions - to accept or tolerate it, to discuss with the other, to challenge the other or to walk out of the situation. Each can be weighed for its merit and consequences.

Persecutor becomes the challenger

The intent of the persecutor is to build more accountabiity. The way he/she knows to do it, is by hurting others. With feedback, and blind spot analysis, the persecutor becomes aware of his/her method. He or she has the option to change the expression while still meeting the intent. Most of the 360 assessments brings to highlight this blind spot. Working with a coach on your 360, helps you become aware of your blindspot and helps you fine tune the rough edges.

Rescuer becomes the coach

The intent of the rescuer is good - which is to help others. The execution of it can be improved by playing the role of a coach. Rescuers value people. A little feedback can make a huge turnaround for rescuers.

So, instead of offering short term advice and bandaid to the victim, the rescuers can help the victim find his/her own solution. They also offer encouragement and support. Through this process, co-dependency is reduced and still the need of helping others is satisfied. 'Modelling'/ Shadowing a coach is a great way to learn how to teach someone to fish rather than give them a fish.

Fundamentally, awareness, change in mindset and accountability are the three critical elements that bring you out of a conflict situation. What a coach offers you in its essence is all about these three aspects.

Next time you are in conflict, ask yourself

  • Whats your story?

  • Is it true?

  • What's your role?

  • Can you tweak the role to be empowering for yourself and other?

Will you magically start liking your boss if you do this? No. But you don’t have to hate them either :-)

#leadership #coaching #conflictmanagement

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