Written by: Rick Conlow….
Horrible bosses aren’t just in the movies.
How many times have you heard someone
complain about a bad boss? Almost
everyone has worked with one at some time
in their careers. Type in “bad boss” on
Google and you get 356 million hits. It’s an
awful situation to be in, if you have one.
Not surprisingly, bad boss behavior is really
harmful. The National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health says 77% of
employees receive significant stress
symptoms from a bad boss. Research
published in the Journal of Business and
Psychology shows that negative leadership
behavior produces lower employee morale
and emotional distress.
How do you handle a bad boss? First,
consider that you can’t change the person.
For whatever reason, your boss is unable to
lead people well. Yet, the reality is that
many companies keep terrible bosses if they
achieve their numbers or have personal
relationships with key clients or executives.
Second, you can only control and change
how you respond. If you need or want to
keep the job, don’t allow yourself to be a
victim or whine about the situation. While it
isn’t necessarily easy to tolerate what’s
happening, here are six proven methods
you can use to train that horrible boss and
minimize your suffering.
1. Control yourself
You spend way too much time at work to let
a bad boss ruin your career or family life.
You start to handle a bad boss best by
working on yourself first. Center yourself by
doing an honest self-inventory about your
strengths and areas to improve. Are you
sure it isn’t you that has a problem? If it’s
the boss, find some personal ways to let off
steam: relaxation, exercise, talking with
others or taking strategic timeouts. Take the
high road, treat your boss with respect,
learn to do a great job or at least a better
job. Why does this matter? If you do your
job above reproach, you lessen your bad
boss’s impact on your work performance,
and you will feel better about yourself.
2. Clarify priorities
Ask your boss for a meeting to clarify his or
her expectations. Take notes. Create a plan,
with goals and action steps for your
responsibilities. Then present it and ask for
input. Listen and make appropriate
adjustments. Why will this help? You are
minimizing misunderstandings about what
has to be done and why. The incompetent
boss will often be delighted with your
initiative, sparing them that necessity.
Nearly all bosses will appreciate this
approach because it saves them time and
3. Communicate upward
Most bad bosses, especially the tyrants,
hate surprises. Regularly let your boss know
what’s going on: email, meetings, casual
update. One of my coaching clients had a
obsessive data-driven manager who sent
long emails at all hours. Other employees
became overwhelmed and started
complaining to one another. This caused
them serious backlash from him. My client
managed his boss with good follow-up on
key priorities. It provided him lots of space
his co-workers never received.
However, don’t overdo the communication;
learn the timing and process that seems to
work best for your boss. By doing this you
will also learn other information that will
help you help your boss look good. Why is
this helpful? This isn’t “brown nosing” here.
You are specifically checking in to keep your
boss off your back and to make a tough
situation better for you. A common mistake
in dealing with bad bosses is avoiding or
retreating from them. This just adds to your
4. Confront strategically
The book, Leadership Secrets of Attila the
Hun, by Wess Roberts, provides a clue for a
dealing with a horrible leader. Be principled,
but don’t be stupid. If you fight a bad boss
on everything you most likely will lose. One
manager I worked with took no gruff from
anyone and had some serious arguments
with his no-nonsense manager. While my
friend made his points, he also lost his job
when he could ill afford to do so. Pick your
fights and confront positively, with key data
and plans to support your point of view.
Document your concerns when
communicating with a bad boss, and keep a
copy. How does this help? You will gain the
boss’s respect, you maintain your integrity,
and you have a record.
5. Consult others
Discreetly talk to other people you work
with. How do they experience your boss? Is
it just you? What’s working for them? What
isn’t working? How do others handle
situations like yours? Do this to broaden
your perspective and maybe pick up a new
idea or two.
You may consider talking to your boss’s
boss. Research the status of their
relationship. What kind of leader is this
leader? Is she like your boss or is the
person approachable? Bring your
documentation when meeting with her and
refer to it, if it seems like she is empathetic
to you. Going over your manager’s head can
come back to haunt you. Do this
thoughtfully and carefully.
Rick Conlow is the CEO & Co-Founder of WCW Partners,
Inc.,Coaching leaders to achieve and sustain.