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YOUR OFFICE COACH: Try to understand CEO's priorities

Question: Our new CEO dictates orders without getting input from experienced staff and intimidates people by yelling at them in meetings. He was brought in because sales are dropping and the company is losing money.

Question: Our new CEO dictates orders without getting input from experienced staff and intimidates people by yelling at them in meetings. He was brought in because sales are dropping and the company is losing money.

When his ideas fail, the CEO blames the managers, claiming they don't know how to run their departments. But the real problem is that he is cleaning house through deep job cuts, so we don't have enough employees to meet his demands.

Most people are planning to leave as soon as the economy improves. In the meantime, can you help me figure out how to work with this guy?

A: As the appointed savior of a troubled business, your new CEO is undoubtedly under tremendous pressure to make quick changes and demonstrate success. Fear of failure may increase his impatience and fuel his temper. While that doesn't excuse abusive behavior, it may help you understand his state of mind.

In the CEO's eyes, anyone who defends past practices will seem oppositional and resistant to change. To avoid that label, try to understand his priorities and adopt them as your own. When he proposes a new approach, respond with interest and support. If you spot a potential problem, offer suggestions, not criticism.

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Unfortunately, your CEO may have a tough time turning this company around unless he adopts a more motivational leadership style. His aggressive, domineering behavior is typical of immature executives who have not learned to use power wisely.

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Q: Although "Bonnie" is supposed to be my trainer, she will not communicate with me. She works in another location, so I never see her. When I e-mail questions, Bonnie either ignores them or sends back one-word answers. I refuse to talk to her by phone because she is arrogant and rude. After four months in this job, I am not as far along as I should be, because I'm constantly struggling to figure things out on my own. What do you suggest?

A: If you aren't getting the expected training, then your boss needs to intervene. However, you should exhaust all reasonable alternatives before involving your manager, and so far you haven't done that.

Unless you develop telepathic abilities, your only options for communicating with Bonnie are e-mail and phone calls. Saying "I refuse to talk to her by phone" not only sounds childish, but also makes you part of the problem.

If phoning Bonnie will produce the necessary information, then you need to overlook her unpleasant personality and make those calls. But if that strategy fails, it's time to ask your manager for help.

For example: "Although Bonnie is supposed to be training me, I've had trouble getting information from her by phone or e-mail. I'm worried about falling behind. Do you have any ideas for improving communication with her? Or could you suggest another trainer?"

By helping your boss recognize Bonnie's coaching deficiencies, you may prevent future employees from having to endure such a long learning curve.

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This piece was written for Prairie Business, which covers business in the Dakotas and Minnesota. To receive a free digital edition each month, see the instructions at the bottom of this story.