A reader writes:
I have a very aggressive boss who is confrontational. He works for the short-term.
I am “relationship oriented” and work for the short-term AND the long-term. Up until now, it’s been okay (15 years).
However, he is stressed out by the current financial crisis and is pushing me to call clients 2-3 times a day until I get outcomes. He says, “if you can’t get outcomes, I’ll need to hire someone else” (another bully tactic).
I refuse to bully my clients and potential clients. Is there a business protocol written somewhere which indicates a general rule about how often to call a client or potential client?
I don't know if there's a written protocol out there explaining that it's rude to call people several times a day, although you might find one with an Internet search or on sites about your field.
But even if you don't find something, you need to sit down with your boss and talk about this. I've noticed that when people disagree with their boss about projects or tactics, they often don't just address it forthrightly and instead simply resist -- through their actions -- what the boss is asking them to do.
It's fine to resist what your boss is asking you to do (up to a point, which I'll get to in a minute), but that resistance must be in the form of an explicit conversation. It can't be in the form of just not doing what he asks and not talking about it. (And I'm not saying you sound like someone who would do that; you don't. I'm hijacking your letter to go on a tangent about a point I've wanted to make for a while.)
When you feel strongly that you don't want to do what your boss is asking, you should sit down with him and openly discuss your differing opinions. You want to do this in a polite and collaborative manner, of course; I'm not advising being a jerk about it. Ultimately, though, your boss makes the call. If his final decision is one you still disagree with, you can say things like, "I really feel strongly about this. Would you be willing to allow me to try it my way and we can see how it goes?" But if he refuses, you can't just ignore that and do it your way. This is the nature of having a boss. (You also can't keep the debate going forever; more than two separate conversations is usually overkill, depending on the specifics.)
Of course, if you disagree with his call strongly enough, you can always exercise your independence by leaving -- but just ignoring him isn't an appropriate option.
The whole point is to be open and candid. Figure out your differences, see if they can be resolved, and if they can't, decide if you can live with that.
Now, in your specific case, what your boss is asking you to do is ridiculous. So I think your instinct to find expert materials that back you up is a good one, and you can use them as part of your conversation. The fact that you've worked together reasonably harmoniously for 15 years also bodes well. However, his threats about replacing you aren't a sustainable way of interacting, so the two of you are going to need to reach some sort of understanding -- no matter what it is -- soon. If he holds firm in the face of you explaining that what he's requesting is counterproductive and that you don't want to harm your employer, relationships, and reputation, then you're back to the formula above: figure out if you're willing to live with it or not. Ultimately that's a lot more satisfying than a constant struggle.