A curious dynamic sometimes arises in the professional landscape where employees feel compelled to shield or protect their boss or bosses from criticism, challenges, or conflicts.

Some employees develop a strong sense of loyalty and responsibility towards their superiors, feeling an innate need to shield them from criticism, trouble, or harm.

While this protective instinct might stem from admirable intentions, its prolonged presence can potentially impact both the employee’s job performance and mental health.

In today’s article, I’m exploring the root causes behind this compulsion to protect your boss and provide strategies to manage this behaviour when it begins to affect your professional and personal well-being.

To watch the extended version, click here.

Understanding the Instinctual Drive

The urge to protect a boss is a complex interplay of various factors:

1. Loyalty and Gratitude:

You may feel indebted or grateful to your boss for opportunities, guidance, or support provided in the past. This sense of indebtedness fuels a protective instinct, leading employees to shield their boss from criticism or trouble.

2. Fear of Consequences:

You might fear repercussions or negative outcomes for the team or yourself if your boss faces criticism or fails. This fear can compel you to step in and mitigate potential harm, even if it means going beyond your job responsibilities.

3. Personal Identity and Validation:

Some individuals derive a significant part of their self-worth or identity from their professional roles. Protecting the boss can be a means of seeking validation or reinforcing their self-image as a loyal and reliable employee.

Recognising The Impact

While the impulse to safeguard a superior might originate from positive intentions, its persistence can have adverse effects:

1. Professional Boundaries:

Constantly shielding the boss can blur professional boundaries, hindering your ability to voice concerns or provide constructive feedback. This can impede your personal and professional growth.

2. Job Performance:

Investing excessive time and energy in protecting the boss may divert focus from your own tasks and responsibilities, leading to a decline in job performance and productivity.

3. Mental Health Strain:

The emotional burden of constantly defending the boss, especially in challenging situations, can result in increased stress, anxiety, and burnout, impacting mental health.

Coping Strategies for A Healthy Balance

1. Reflect on Motivations:

Evaluate the reasons behind your protective instinct. Recognise your personal motivations, fears, or insecurities that drive this behaviour. Understanding these triggers is the first step towards managing them.

2. Establish Boundaries:

Set clear boundaries between personal loyalty and professional obligations. Understand that while support is essential, it shouldn’t compromise your job responsibilities or personal well-being.

3. Open Communication:

Create an environment of open communication with your boss. Express concerns or perspectives honestly and respectfully. Constructive feedback can contribute positively to the overall work dynamic.

4. Prioritise Self-Care:

Invest in self-care practices to mitigate the stress associated with the urge to protect your boss. Engage in activities that promote relaxation, such as exercise, meditation, hobbies, or seeking support from friends and family.

I highly recommend watching my video 041 – 5 Simple, easy-to-use, science-backed tools to build your MENTAL TOUGHNESS and manage STRESS. There are many excellent, simple tools to help you build your resilience.

5. Seek Support and Guidance:

Consult with a coach, mentor, HR professional, or a trusted colleague to gain perspective and advice on handling things. They likely offer valuable insights or strategies to navigate this situation effectively.

Avoid gossiping with your teammates. This rarely pays dividends!

Taking Steps Towards Change

When the compulsion to protect your boss begins to impact your job and mental health, it’s crucial to take proactive steps:

1. Assess the Situation:

Evaluate the extent to which your actions are affecting your performance, well-being, and relationships at work. Acknowledging the problem is the first step towards finding a solution.

2. Identify Triggers and Patterns:

Identify specific situations or triggers that exacerbate the urge to protect your boss excessively. Recognising these patterns can help you devise targeted strategies to manage them.

3. Initiate Conversations:

Consider initiating a candid conversation with your boss to discuss the impact of this dynamic on your work and well-being. Approach this conversation professionally and respectfully.

4. Implement Change Gradually:

Introduce small changes in your behaviour gradually. Start by setting clearer boundaries or delegating responsibilities to reduce the burden of protecting your boss.

If you find setting boundaries challenging, I have a video which explains the types of boundaries and how to set them. You can watch it here.

5. Seek Professional Help If Needed:

If the emotional toll becomes overwhelming or persists despite your efforts, consider seeking support from a counsellor, therapist or coach. Professional guidance can offer valuable coping mechanisms.

The Wrap-Up

The impulse to protect your boss often arises from noble intentions but can evolve into a detrimental pattern affecting both professional performance and mental health.

Recognising this behaviour, understanding its origins, and implementing strategies to manage it are essential for fostering a healthier work dynamic.

By establishing boundaries, prioritising self-care, and initiating open communication, you can strike a balance between loyalty and personal well-being, contributing to a more constructive and fulfilling work environment for yourself and your boss.

What Next

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Finally, as always, thank you for your continued support.

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