Erica asks: My department head is an extremely brilliant man and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him.  But lately, I’ve noticed a shift in his behavior that is beginning to strain our working relationship.   He has become very irrational, negative, and all over the map with requests and demands.  What can I do to keep our relationship in tact without stepping over any boundaries?

Eric Nitzberg, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

A lot depends on the level of trust an openness you have with him.  This is a delicate situation, so you’ll want to be thoughtful about any approach.  If you have a pretty open, high trust relationship you might broach the subject directly, “It seems like you have been a little on-edge lately.  I’ve noticed some changes in your leadership style.  Would you be open to talking?”   If you can’t address the issue directly, then I would consider which of the new behaviors are the biggest problem for you, and what you might do about them specifically.  If “requests all over the map” is the most frustrating issue, you might try having a neutral conversation with him about that issue, “I want to make sure I’m aligned with your priorities.  Can we talk about what’s most important among your requests?”