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Monica Wofford, CSP, is a professional speaker and CEO of Contagious Companies, a training and consulting firm that develops better leaders and trains managers how to become better leaders.

What do you do when your boss talks down to you?

If your leader has resorted to brow beating or talks to you like you’re five, is it really you…or them, that doesn’t have a clue? In this Monday Moment we’ll look at the symptoms, what to do when anyone talks down to you and what makes these people seem difficult, besides the obvious. You ready to tackle this issue once and for all?

What are the Symptoms

The most obvious symptom that your boss is talking down to you, is feeling offended, but in honor of February and the upcoming Valentine’s day holiday, let’s show them some love in these difficult times and expand the bandwidth of symptoms to include:

  • You notice they were promoted beyond their skill capacity
  • You suspect they’re fearful you might find out
  • They are a driven person with a history of being condescending when stressed
  • They repeatedly cut you off
  • They don’t seem interested in your input

What Do You Do?

This isn’t one of those times when you get to take someone out back in order to make the difficult person disappear. And while I wrote the book by that title and have actually included a training video from the book for you to help with this issue, this is a difficult behavior and not often an easy one to manage. First and foremost, don’t take this behavior personally. It’s been said that the person who appears the most condescending is the very one who is the most insecure. Consider that for a moment. Then, consider being assertive. Ask if they meant to sound like your opinion doesn’t matter. Ask if there is something bothering them other than this issue? Ask if you have done something wrong, provided you don’t ask this question every five minutes. And if those questions don’t help them realize their “talking down to you tone”, seek outside input as to whether this is their common pattern of behavior or a situation unique to you. The key is to avoid getting wrapped up in the frustration you feel or beat yourself up about what they’ve said or how and to remember that frankly, what others think of you is none of your business. Even if it’s your boss’s’, boss’s, boss.

What Causes the Behavior?

I am often asked what makes people difficult and whether or not you really can make the difficult people disappear. Yes, you can. It often happens in a different way than you might imagine and the first step is to realize that everyone is different, but secretly harbors a desire that you act just like them. Some bosses in positions of power, without a great deal of emotional intelligence or understanding of people, can quickly become frustrated when others don’t move as fast, finish as many things, or show as much initiative as what got them to that powerful position in the first place. A boss talking down to you may be based on nothing more than their own frustration or guilt in knowing that they need to delegate, but really wish they could just do it themselves, but can’t find the time, which creates more guilt over time management. Or they might be afraid you won’t do it well enough to make them look good. Or they might be just stressed and pressured and have no clue how they sound.

In any case, YOU want to have a clue and a bit of that emotional intelligence that makes you better at reading people and their behaviors. Watch the video I’ve shared in this post and look for the clues that tell you who they are and quickly give you the insight you need to avoid taking their behavior personally. This doesn’t excuse their behavior; it equips you with the skills to get around their behavior without feeling the impact. Changing others is not the goal, becoming a better leader is your focus and this video and these steps will help.

The Monday Moments are all about helping you become a better leader and this one is no exception. I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!


Monica Wofford, CSP, is a professional speaker and CEO of Contagious Companies, a training and consulting firm that develops better leaders and trains managers how to become better leaders.

In this video, Monica shares that what you do is all about you, even when your boss chooses to talk down to you.

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