In an ideal world, we would all have fantastic managers—bosses who helped us succeed, who made us feel valued, and who were just all-around great people.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. But, whether the person you work for is a micromanager, has anger management problems, shows favortism toward one person, is a flat-out workplace bully, or just isn’t very competent, you still have to make the best of the situation and get your job done.
To help out, we’ve gathered the best advice from around the web for dealing with a bad boss. Try one or more of these tips to find some common ground with your boss—or at least stay sane until you find a new gig.
1. Make Sure You’re Dealing With a “Bad Boss”
Before trying to fix your bad boss, make sure you really are dealing with one. Is there a reason for her behavior, or are you being too hard on him or her?
“Observe your boss for a few days and try to notice how many things she does well versus poorly. When she is doing something “bad,” try to imagine the most forgiving reason why it could have occurred. Is it truly her fault, or could it be something out of her control?”
2. Identify Your Boss’ Motivation
Understanding why your boss does or cares about certain things can give you insight into his or her management style.
“. if the rules are totally out of control, try to figure out your boss’ motivation. Maybe it’s not that he really cares about how long your lunch break takes; he actually cares about how it looks to other employees and their superiors.”
3. Don’t Let it Affect Your Work
No matter how bad your boss’ behavior, avoid letting it affect your work. You want to stay on good terms with other leaders in the company (and keep your job!).
“Don’t try to even the score by working slower, or taking excessive ‘mental health’ days or longer lunches. It will only put you further behind in your workload and build a case for your boss to give you the old heave-ho before you’re ready to go.”
4. Stay One Step Ahead
Especially when you’re dealing with a micromanager, head off your boss’ requests by anticipating them and getting things done before they come to you.
“…a great start to halting micromanagement in its tracks is to anticipate the tasks that your manager expects and get them done well ahead of time. If you reply, ‘I actually already left a draft of the schedule on your desk for your review,’ enough times, you’ll minimize the need for her reminders. She’ll realize that you have your responsibilities on track—and that she doesn’t need to watch your every move.”
5. Set Boundaries
Working with someone who seems to have no boundaries means that you have to go ahead and set them.
“One of the challenges of unlikable people is that they come with equally unlikable behavior—and it’s important to learn how to distance yourself from that behavior. As Robert Frost said, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’”
6. Stop Assuming They Know Everything
Just because someone has a managerial title doesn’t mean that they have all the right answers, all the time.
“I realized then that, just because someone is in a position of authority, doesn’t mean he or she knows everything. From that point forward, I stopped assuming the title ‘manager was equivalent to ‘all knowing.’
7. Act as the Leader
When dealing with an incompetent boss, sometimes it’s best to make some leadership decisions on your own.
If you know your area well enough, there is no reason to not go ahead creating and pursuing a direction you know will achieve good results for your company. People who do this are naturally followed by their peers as an informal leader. Management, although maybe not your direct boss, will notice your initiative. Of course, you don’t want to do something that undermines the boss, so keep him or her in the loop.
8. Identify Triggers
If your boss has anger management problems, identify what triggers her meltdowns and be extra militant about avoiding those.
“For example, if your editor flips when you misspell a source’s name, be sure to double and triple-check your notes. And if your boss starts foaming at the mouth if you arrive a moment after 8 AM, plan to get there at 7:45—Every. Single. Day.”
9. Use Tips from Couples’ Therapy
When dealing with disagreement, pull on some tenants from couple’s therapy to work through the issue.
“Simply repeat back to him what he said and ask “Is that what you meant?” (a standard trick ripped from couples’ therapy). If he agrees to your recap, ask him to tell you more about it. When you repeat someone’s perspective back to him, you give him a chance to expound and, crucially, to feel heard.”
10. Avoid Future Bad Bosses
When interviewing with a new company, do your research ahead of time to make sure you’re not getting into another situation with a less-than-ideal manager.
“Have coffee or lunch with one or more staffers at the new company. Ostensibly, your purpose is to learn general information about the company and its culture. However, use this opportunity to discover as much about your potential boss as possible, without appearing creepy, of course.”
Bad to the Bone: Tips for Working With an Exceptionally Bad Boss
You’re weary. You’re frustrated. You’re unhappy. You’re demotivated. Your interaction with your boss leaves you cold. Your boss is a bully, intrusive, controlling, picky or petty. You are desperately wondering how you can professionally deal with a bad boss.
Your boss takes credit for your work, never provides positive feedback and misses each meeting that was scheduled with you. Or your boss caves immediately under pressure and fails to support you in accomplishing your job. Your bad boss never recognizes your excellent performance nor that of any other employee, so the office is joyless and unhappy.
Your boss is a bad boss, bad to the bone. Dealing with less than an effective manager, or just plain bad managers and bad bosses is a challenge too many employees face. No matter the character of your bad boss, these ideas will help you deal with them.
Your Bad Boss May Be Unaware He or She Is Bad
Start your campaign by understanding that your boss may not know that he or she is a bad boss. Just as in situational leadership, the definition of bad depends on the employee’s needs, the manager’s skills and the circumstances of the situation.
A hands-off manager may not realize that their failure to provide any direction or feedback makes them a bad boss. Your boss may think he or she is empowering the staff. A manager who provides too much direction and micromanages may feel insecure and uncertain about their own job. This boss may not realize their direction is insulting to a competent, secure, self-directed staff member.
Or, maybe the boss lacks training and is so overwhelmed with his or her job requirements that they can’t provide support for you. Perhaps your boss has been promoted too quickly, or the staff reporting responsibilities have expanded beyond his or her competence and reach. In these days of downsizing, responsibilities are often shared by fewer staff members than ever before which can affect their ability to do the job well.
This bad boss may not share your values. The youngest generations of workers expect that they can use their vacation time and take action to make work-life balance a priority. A flexible work schedule may make the job their dream job. But, not all bosses share these views. Some, for example, think that remote workers harm the culture and interfere with developing a culture of teamwork.
If your values are out of sync with those of your boss, and you don’t think this imbalance will change, you do have a problem. Maybe it’s time to change bosses. But, until then, these actions are recommended for you to preserve your relationship, such as it is.
How to Approach Dealing With an Unwitting Bad Boss
- Talk to this boss. Tell the boss what you need to succeed in terms of direction, feedback, and support. Be polite and focus on your needs. You need to tell the boss exactly what you need from them. Telling the boss that he or she is a bad boss is counterproductive and won’t help you meet your goals.
- Ask the manager how you can help them reach the goals they want to achieve. Make sure you listen well and provide the needed assistance he requests.
- Seek a mentor from among other managers or more skilled peers, with the full knowledge and cooperation of your current manager, to enlarge your opportunity for experience.
- If you’ve taken these actions, and they haven’t worked, go to your boss’s manager and ask for assistance. Or, you can go to your Human Resources staff first, to rehearse and gain advice. Understand that your current boss may never forgive you, so ensure that you have done what you can do with your boss, before taking your issues up the line.
- You may never hear what the boss’s boss or the HR staff did to help solve your bad manager’s behavior. It’s confidential. But, do allow some time to pass for the actions to have their desired impact.
- If nothing changes, despite your best efforts, and you think the problem is that they don’t believe you, draw together coworkers who also experience the behavior. Visit the boss’s manager to help your boss’s boss see the size and impact of the problem behavior.
- If you think the problem is that your boss can’t—or won’t—change, ask for a transfer to another department. This recommendation presumes you like your employer and your work, so you don’t regard quitting or job searching as your best option.
- If a transfer or promotion is unavailable, begin your search for a new job. Fleeing is always an option. You may want to conduct your job search secretly, but under the circumstances, it may be time for you to go.
When the Bad Boss Knows
A manager at a mid-sized manufacturing company wanted to improve his approach to working with his employees. He knew that he looked down his nose at them. He criticized and screamed at employees. He publicly humiliated any employee who made a mistake, as examples of his bad boss behavior.
One day he called to ask a question of his consultant. The question doomed the relationship to disappointment when he said, “I know that you don’t approve of me screaming at staff as a regular thing.” Agreed. “So, can you tell me, please, what are the circumstances under which it is okay for me to scream at them?”
This manager thought his behavior was perfectly acceptable. (The end of the story? He never did change and was eventually removed as manager.) Most managers that bully, intimidate, cruelly criticize, name-call and treat you as if you are stupid likely know what they are doing. They may know they’re bad and even revel in their badness.
They may feel their behavior has been condoned—and even encouraged—within their organization. They may have learned the behaviors from their former supervisor who was viewed as successful.
You don’t have to put up with demeaning behavior.
You deserve a good boss who helps your self-confidence and self-esteem grow. You deserve a good boss who helps you advance your career. You deserve civil, professional treatment at work.
Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. (Ephesians 6:7–8)
Consider these five things from Ephesians 6:7–8 in connection to your job.
1) A call to radically Lord-centered living.
This is astonishing compared to the way we usually live. Paul says that all our work should be done as work for Christ, not for any human supervisor. With good will render service “as to the Lord and not to man.”
This means that we will think of the Lord in what we are doing at work. We will ask, Why would the Lord like this done? How would the Lord like this done? When would the Lord like this done? Will the Lord help me to do this? What effect will this have for the Lord’s honor? In other words, being a Christian means radically Lord-centered living and working.
2) A call to be a good person.
Lord-centered living means being a good person and doing good things. Paul says, “With a good will [render service] . . . whatever good anyone does.” Jesus said that when we let our light shine, men will see our “good works” and give glory to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
3) Power to do a good job for inconsiderate earthly employers.
Paul’s aim is to empower Christians, with Lord-centered motives, to go on doing good for supervisors who are not considerate. How do you keep on doing good in a job when your boss ignores you or even criticizes you? Paul’s answer is: stop thinking about your boss as your main supervisor, and start working for the Lord. Do this in the very duties given to you by your earthly supervisor.
4) Encouragement that nothing good is done in vain.
Perhaps the most amazing sentence of all is this: “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord.” This is amazing. Everything! “Whatever good anyone does.” Every little thing you do that is good is seen and valued and rewarded by the Lord.
And he will pay you back for it. Not in the sense that you have earned anything — as if you could put him in your debt. He owns you, and everything in the universe. He owes us nothing. But he freely, graciously chooses to reward us for all the good things done in faith.
5) Encouragement that insignificant status on earth is no hindrance to great reward in heaven.
The Lord will reward every good thing you do — “whether he is a bondservant or is free.” Your supervisor may think you are a nobody — a mere bondservant, so to speak. Or he may not even know you exist. That doesn’t matter. The Lord knows you exist. And in the end no faithful service will be in vain.
Common “Bad Boss” Behavior and How to Deal With It
Usually, when you have a boss who is difficult to deal with, there seems to be nothing you can do but to accept it. Many are stuck in such situations because they fear losing their jobs, and our culture dictates that we must obey people who are our ‘superiors’.
Most Filipino employees hate confrontations, especially with their superiors. Many choose to keep silent, but others just go berserk kapag puno na ang salop (when they’ve had enough).
Managing a difficult boss is a challenge that depends on the boss’ character and personality. Some are chronically unreasonable while others just exhibit untoward reactions during stressful situations. The latter are easier to deal with, as there are times when they are open to suggestions or even criticism.
Here are some proactive ways to effectively deal with “bad boss” behavior:
The boss wants you to run her/his personal errands. Your boss asks you to drop off soiled linens at the laundry shop, or buy a gift for her/his parents’ wedding anniversary, or go to the grocery store. Unless it is an emergency, do not even start doing personal favors. This is not part of your job description and degrades your status.
The boss is intruding on your privacy. S/he frequently asks you about your boyfriend/girlfriend. This is quite bothersome, as the boss seems more interested in your personal life rather than your work performance. In this case, you may casually tell your boss that you would rather not talk about your private life. Just be honest, and say you are uncomfortable discussing things not work related.
The boss does not compensate you properly. Before complaining, check your contract of employment for the salary or what benefits stated in the contract. If the contract has been violated, or in this case, the wage order has not been followed, you may come to your boss and state your concerns. If s/he does not react to this, you may give a letter of complaint addressed to your boss.
If your efforts are in vain, your only option may be to file a complaint with the Department of Labor. Unfortunately, you must be prepared for long and tedious litigation. Worse, you may find it harder to get a good job since you certainly will not get a good recommendation if your employer is vindictive.
If you feel that you are underpaid relative to your contributions, then a one-on-one talk with your boss to air your views may be the solution. Your superior may have overlooked your value to the company.
The boss takes credit for your accomplishments. Talk to your boss regarding this in a calm and non-confrontational manner. If this seems ineffective, I advise that you have all your reports, feedbacks, plans of action, etc. in writing and with your name on it. This way, you are signaling you want to take credit for your own work. You may also keep all your ideas and suggestions to yourself and only bring them up during meetings. This way, your co-employees will know that the bright business ideas and concepts originally came from you.
The boss always uses offensive language in the workplace. S/he is always cursing, yelling, and swearing. However, expressing anger or desperation in this manner is not professional. It is demeaning and may scare you out of your wits. Never answer back in the same manner; your boss might think you are fighting back or being disrespectful. Your best recourse is to write an objective incident report/s to the HR manager and explaining why this creates a hostile work environment for you. Sure, nothing in the labor code prohibits a boss from being a jerk, but there are limits.
The boss is an absentee manager yet wants everybody to deliver results. S/he is not there to oversee projects and does not guide, advise, nor give directions. Some projects are not executed on time because s/he is nowhere to be found. This leads to the demoralization of the staff. The best thing to do is to ask questions when s/he is present, or to tell her/him that you want her/his opinions or reactions before implementing a task. You may also politely ask how your boss wants to be reached in case you have concerns (Email? Phone?). Nowadays, technology has made communication faster and more efficient. Some companies use videoconferencing; others use internet chat or talk via Skype.
If you love your job but your boss seems to be a major hurdle to your aspirations, it is futile to react negatively by fighting back, yelling, or taking revenge with petty acts. Be less emotional, as you might say or do things you will regret.
Show you are hardworking, and doing your job to the best of your ability. Be as professional as you can, as some superiors have the tendency to bully employees who act like wimps. The idea is to give an impression to your boss that you are decisive, serious, and gutsy. In this manner, you can show that you are not the type that can easily be pushed around.
As your last recourse, if the boss is overly abusive, then it is time to tell the boss’s boss your situation. However, the best way to do this is by asking your co-employees who have the same predicament to support you in this undertaking. Remember, there is power in numbers!
Ask some co-employees to be with you when you approach the boss’s boss. Tell her/him everything, but also understand that your immediate boss will never pardon you for this. You may be successful in convincing your boss’s boss, who might take your side. However, if a positive result is not achieved, you may consider seeking legal advice, or else study your prospects of finding employment elsewhere. This is better than sacrificing your health to the stress and pressure of handling a difficult boss.
There are many ways to improving your working conditions under a “bad boss”. It is up to you gather the courage to do what is right. It may be exceedingly stressful to try to fix the problem but doing nothing will condemn you to a hellish working environment every workday.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.
Very good speaker! I learned a lot. Now I see HR in a different light. (Human Resource Management Seminar)
Katherine Kay Macdon, iAcademy
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Free Book Preview: Unstoppable
Do you work under a bully? The easiest way to answer this question is to check in on how you feel. If you feel intimidated, frustrated and dread going into the office because you be belittled, humiliated, ignored and cut down, you are in a hostile work environment.
Typically, bosses who bully are under tremendous pressure, love control and feed off of two things — emotional reaction and attention. They thrive on the power they have to manipulate others. Unfortunately, the toxic boss may produce success from inducing fear in their employees, but they will also prove to have a shorter shelf-life when it comes to long term success.
Just know that you’re not alone. The number one reason people leave their job is because they don’t like their boss. A toxic boss exists in nearly every work environment in corporate America. A survey in 2017 by the Workplace Bullying Institute defined this sort of workplace emotional abuse as the “repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees or boss; abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, work sabotage, or verbal abuse.” The survey found that:
- 61 percent of Americans are aware of the bullying that takes place in their workplace.
- 60 million Americans are affected by workplace bullying.
- Bosses comprise 61 percent of bullies.
- 65 percent of bullied employees lost their original jobs when they tried to stop the bullying.
Most importantly, nearly 40 percent of people targeted by a bully experience stress-related health problems including debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, and clinical depression (39 percent).
1. Shift your focus from your boss to your job.
A bully is unlikely to change their behavior, so your first option is to work to change yours. Instead of focusing on the boss who is trying to intimidate you, focus only on the details and tasks of your role. You have direct control over your performance, so make sure you are focused on the right thing, which is your job not your boss.
The more emotional power you give your toxic boss, the more your boss will focus on you as a target. A bully is more interested in reading your vibe than analyzing your performance. If your boss never gets your eye contact he/she never gets the invitation to come into your emotional space. When you focus solely on the tasks of your role you stop giving off the vibe of fear and anxiety over gaining approval from your boss.
2. Understand the bully.
The boss who is a bully at his/her core is an insecure, manipulative person who throws tantrums. They are selfish and immature. Most of you would not put up with this type of behavior in your own children and should not tolerate this type of treatment from your boss. The problem is your boss has a significant amount of control over your position. For this reason, you cannot meet fire with fire.
Toxic bosses manipulate their demand-arsenal so rapidly that it makes it difficult to meet their expectations or correctly follow their direction. It is a good practice to take detailed notes with times, dates and details of conversations you have had with your boss. This helps you stay on task. You will have evidence of what was said and requested, when and on what date, when your boss makes a move to gaslight you on what you think you’re supposed to be doing. Keeping this log available helps you stay grounded in the facts and out of the fire of emotional drama.
These notes also keep your boss in check with the fear that you may report him/her to human resources. Taking notes allows you to stay organized and to call your toxic boss out on your terms.
3. Set silent limits
Body language is a great way to silently but effectively deal with a boss who is a bully. Turn your body away from your boss every chance you get. Give your boss the side of your body or the back of your body at all times. When you have to be face-to-face with your boss, focus on lifting your chest and your chin. This posture gently but firmly communicates that you’re open to talk and not intimidated.
Bullies love to see people cower. When your toxic boss aggressively comes after you it is natural to cower; this posture will take over immediately when under siege of emotions like shame or humiliation. When you focus on your body language you covertly give yourself the upper hand. Your toxic boss will pick up on you having a stronger vibe and they will naturally respond less aggressively. Body language is a more powerful communicator than words which the bully can turn around and use against you; body language cannot.
4. Set verbal limits.
Analyze how your boss treats you from an objective place. Make a list of the facts. You will say less and get more accomplished when you approach your boss with facts and a strong physical posture. The more nervous we are the more we tend to talk. When you have facts you will set better limits. You can stick to the facts without trying to convince your boss of anything or squeeze any empathy or understanding from him/her.
Knowledge is power and facts are the knowledge you need. You must let your boss know you will no longer tolerate the negative facts on your list in terms to how you’re being treated. If your boss argues or starts acting out, leave the conversation and escalate to the person above your boss. Tell your boss that since he/she is unable to communicate rationally that you will be addressing your concerns elsewhere.
5. Build a network.
It is important to keep in communication with other employees who are also targets of your boss’s poor treatment. Encourage your coworkers to document dates, times and conversations they have with your boss. The more people involved in documenting the facts the stronger the case you give to human resources to intervene and possibly seek to further train or terminate your toxic boss. The more evidence that is brought into human resources from multiple people the clearer the pattern of abuse is to diagnose and treat.
6. Tell management and HR about the bully’s behavior.
Let your superiors and human resources know, through your documentation and meetings with your coworkers and boss, that you have done all you can do on your own to cope with and abate your boss’s flagrantly abusive behavior. Explain the impact the bullying has had on your physical, emotional and mental health along with how it has negatively impacted your work performance. File a formal complaint and allow human resources to instigate an investigation. In the meantime you may need to take a paid leave so as to avoid even more abuse once your boss is made aware that he/she is being investigated, or if possible, continue to work as you always have and give your boss the chance to show some change.
Coping strategies for employees.
For the majority of employees, the leaders in their organizations are a source of stress rather than inspiration. Since bad bosses are ubiquitous, it is hard to avoid them. So what’s the best way to deal with a stress-inducing boss? First, learn to predict their behavioral patterns and ensuing moods, which will help you prepare yourself for dealing with the situation. Try not to make things worse by being a source of stress yourself. If you annoy or upset your manager, or the work you produce is unacceptable, you can expect the worst aspects of their personality to emerge. Instead, make yourself indispensable to your boss, and ensure that he or she looks better with you on board. No matter how stress-inducing your boss might be, and how good you become at coping with their dark side, the only way to ensure you remain on their good side is by being a valuable resource to them.
Coping strategies for employees.
Discussions of leadership tend to focus on its positive outcomes, such as innovation, employee engagement or organizational performance. However, for the majority of employees, the leaders in their organizations are a source of stress rather than inspiration. Indeed, for every transformational leader and emotionally intelligent manager out there, there are dozens of toxic bosses, and they come in many different forms. Barbara Kellerman at Harvard University has devoted a great deal of her career to studying problematic leaders. She identified seven major types: (1) incompetent, (2) rigid, (3) intemperate, (4) callous, (5) corrupt, (6) insular, and (7) evil. What all these types have in common is their ability to induce stress in others, particularly their subordinates. Unsurprisingly, research shows that the experience of having a bad boss can be akin to post-traumatic stress disorder.
You and Your Team Series
Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure
- Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan
How to Evaluate, Manage, and Strengthen Your Resilience
- David Kopans
You’re More Resilient Than You Give Yourself Credit For
- Andy Molinsky
Since bad bosses are ubiquitous, it is hard to avoid them. The best way to deal with one would of course be to leave them, but the next one may be equally bad, or even worse. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. And while self-employment is tempting — it is much harder to complain about the boss when the boss is you — people who work for themselves tend to work longer hours only to earn less, and make a smaller contribution to the wider economy than when they’re employed by an organization.
What, then, is the best way to deal with a stress-inducing boss? Although there is no universal formula, here are three simple recommendations that generally help:
Get inside their mind: No matter how bad your boss is, they are probably consistent. Learn to predict their behavioral patterns, and they will become a much smaller problem. The Norwegians say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” This pragmatic approach can also be applied to dealing with one’s boss: once you figure out what they are like, there is no excuse for being unprepared. Much like the weather, your manager’s moods will fluctuate on a daily basis, but their personality will show clearly defined patterns, just like any climate. Focus especially on decoding your manager’s dark side — the undesirable or maladaptive aspects of their personality that harm their ability to build and maintain a high-performing team and engage their staff. Scientific meta-analyses show that there are 11 derailers managers can exhibit – 54% have at least three, but it is possible for managers to have all 11. While these derailers are best assessed via data-driven tools, it is hard to force your boss to take a psychometric assessment, and, alas, most managers don’t share their results with their teams. The information below may help you infer your manager’s derailers, and how to deal with them.
Don’t be a source of stress yourself: Every manager has a bright side, and even the worst boss in the world will be able to display some positive qualities some of the time. However, stress tends to bring out a manager’s dark side. Indeed, the above derailers will be much more likely to emerge when managers are under pressure, or in any situation where they are not proactively managing their reputation. Thus, don’t make things worse by being a source of stress yourself. If you annoy or upset your manager, or the work you produce is unacceptable, you can expect the worst aspects of their personality to emerge, turning into a source of stress for you. Unsurprisingly, regardless of the job and industry, managers tend to promote employees who are rewarding to deal with. This explains the career-related importance of emotional intelligence (EQ), and why employees who have none are often in trouble even if they are talented and hard-working. Regardless of your own level of EQ, you can become a less stress-inducing and more soothing influence on your boss by taming your own derailers.
Make your boss look good: Finally, remember to get some leverage. Make yourself indispensable to your boss, and ensure that s/he looks better with you on board. As Ben Dattner illustrated in his book, Credit and Blame at Work, many managers succeed in their careers not because of their leadership talent, but due to their ability to take credit for others’ achievements and blame others for their own mistakes. No matter how stress-inducing your boss might be, and how good you become at coping with their dark side, the only way to ensure you remain on their good side is by being a valuable resource to them. Nobody wants to bite the hand that feeds them. However, even if you make your manager’s life easier, be sure to keep that a secret. The ideal situation for a boss like this is that you are not just a critical asset, but also a well-kept secret. If they see that everyone is aware of your value, they will be concerned that you may sooner or later leave them, take credit for their achievements, or even take their job. At the early stages of your career, your success is mainly a function of managing the dark side of your boss; at the later stages your success will mostly depend on managing your own dark side, especially if you are interested in being an effective leader.
Is he or she just demanding—or a demon? Triumph over any bully with this advice.
Too many of us have had one: the bully boss from hell. One who doesn’t like you on sight. One who starts out all sweetness and light, and then begins undermining you. One who pushes your stress levels into the stratosphere. One who has zero problem denigrating you in front of other people or rants like Howard Beale on meth. The good news: You’re too old to put up with it. “Don’t rationalize it,” says Gary Namie, Ph.D., founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute. “Bullying is not a rational process.”
But there are steps you can take to attack the problem that don’t involve taking it or running for the exits (at least not at first). Namie walked us through them. And we have even more advice on how to deal with a bad boss here.
There is a discriminatory process going on. Bullies single people out for misery. Other people have time to fix mistakes and are forgiven for small infractions. But for the target, social misery is dumped disproportionately on them. A fair and consistent boss applies demands to everyone. Also, when crunch time’s over and a project is complete, they can turn it off and celebrate. But with a bullying boss, there’s no celebratory end stage. In our 2014 survey, 56% of bullies in American workplaces are bosses. Now, if you’re boss has got you stressed, check out these workplace stress-busters.
We’ve done 49 studies on this. It’s usually a technically proficient, highly competent person. They’re wonderful people, but they can’t defend themselves. Targets are very stubborn—they want to “prove them wrong” and “not let them win” because of the injustice of it. They end up getting terminated. Also, make sure you aren’t a bad boss by taking our test.
Self-blame is a natural tendency of people who are targeted. If you don’t get out of that rut, you’ll have trouble recovering. A bully-resistant person knows he’s good. He can defend himself. Bullyproof people are political—they see it coming and blow it off. And they won’t be intimidated—they’ll push back. Bullies love aggressive people, because that’s their personality. For more insight into how to survive at the office, be sure you know how to fireproof your career.
You need to recognize bullying early and get the support of your coworkers, so it’s not you acting alone to tell the employer that this is wrong. And for more great career advice, here’s how the smartest men get ahead at work.
Call out immediately for other people to observe it. Open the door. The idea of doing things behind closed doors is so they have plausible deniability. You literally have to say, “Can you hear this? I need your help here.” Rally the support of your co-workers, or you will go down.
We’ve said that for years. Do not go to HR thinking you’re going to get support. HR is a management support function, and they know it. This is like going to your high-school hall monitor to complain about bullying. In the end, it will only incense your antagonist.
Find a higher-level manager and appeal to the financial impact of the bully’s behavior. Say, look at how this person is responsible for turnover, difficulty in recruiting and absenteeism costs. Then if the company cannot make you safe, it’s time to move on.
Of course, none of us can afford to lose your livelihood. You’ve got mortgages and obligations. But nobody deserves cardiovascular disease because of a damn paycheck. No matter how big the paycheck is. Get emotional support from family and friends. Keeping it a secret from them is not good for your mental health. You often need someone to say, “Bob’s an idiot, get another job.” Don’t isolate.
I have hope for the future. This somewhat generational. Millennials don’t take this kind of shit. I think it’s great. They say, “You talkin’ to me? I’ve grown up hearing you can’t bully me.” And they’re the ones who will make a change.
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Bosses Day is coming up next week, giving us an opportunity to celebrate their leadership – but not all bosses are as pleasant to work with as we’d hope.
Senior director at the LaSalle Network, Jessica Schaeffer, joined ABC7 Chicago in the studio to talk about the different types of bosses and how to deal with them.
Schaeffer said everyone’s work styles are different and so can be their management styles. She also said “bad bosses” look different to everyone.
Different types of bosses:
Micromanager boss: Oversees every task you do, are on top of you for every single deadline and want you to be held accountable for all of those things.
M.I.A. boss: Missing in action, meaning they could work remote or they could travel a lot. They are not physically sitting next to you every day.
Egomaniac boss: Someone who likes to take credit for you work.
Mean boss: Demeaning or demoralizing.
Schaeffer said dealing with any one of these types of bosses can make work difficult or even get personal in some situations.
She suggests to look at the situation and decide if it is worth staying with the company, or if it can be handled by going to HR or another manager.
For more on Schaeffer’s suggestions dealing with each type of boss, watch her interview.
We’ve all been in a position where we feel our superiors aren’t handling things correctly. It could be that your direct supervisor isn’t managing your schedule efficiently or isn’t using you to your full potential. It could be that your CEO has a concerning new vision for the company’s future. It could be that your manager isn’t treating you and your peers on equal ground.
Poor and ineffective management come in many forms, and all of them can wear on you professionally. When you deal with these habits daily, it’s only natural to want a change, but many people immediately resort to the final option: quitting and looking for a new job.
There’s no question about it; some workplaces are toxic, and downright hostile, and in these cases the only logical option is to pursue a different opportunity. But in most cases, ineffective management can be dealt with, and you can keep your job without having to tolerate it further.
Look at the Situation Objectively
Your first step is to try and objectively analyze the situation. You may feel that your boss has directly insulted or offended you, but one incident doesn’t necessarily mean your boss is an ineffective manager. Everybody makes mistakes and has weaknesses, so it’s rarely worth taking action over one irritating incident.
It’s also possible you’re taking things too personally. If you find your boss is giving you lots of negative feedback, it may be his/her way of trying to help you grow as a professional. On the other hand, it could be an unfair or unproductive means of evaluation. Try to step back from the situation to see if there really is a pattern. Talk to your friends and family about the situation, focusing only on the facts, and see what they think. You can also reach out to other coworkers you trust–but remember that gossip can only do harm. If you determine that your manager is objectively taking bad or counterproductive actions, you can start taking action.
Talk to Your Boss Directly
Your first step must be speaking with your boss directly. Do not ignore the problem. Do not go above your manager’s head. Do not adopt a passive-aggressive attitude. All of these measures are counterproductive. Instead, schedule a meeting with your manager and tell him/her exactly how you feel about the situation.
When you initiate this, be careful not to criticize your manager harshly or personally. Instead, focus on your professional needs and how he/she is or isn’t fulfilling them. Describe specific events to illustrate your points, and listen to what your manager has to say about them. In most cases, you’ll find your manager can illuminate these situations with an alternative perspective, and your manager will be more than willing to make adjustments in the future.
If you find your manager is unwilling to talk about the problem, or is unreceptive to your requests for change, you’ll need to find an alternate route.
Avoid Making Ultimatums
Throughout the course of your discussion and even in the back of your own mind, avoid making ultimatums or becoming fixated on one solution. For example, saying to yourself, “If he doesn’t stop demanding me to be here half an hour early, I’m going to quit,” can distract your attention from the root of the problem, and can prevent you from making other meaningful changes. Threatening to quit in front of your manager, or in front of others, can also make you appear unprofessional and weaken your overall position. Instead, try to keep an open mind.
There is always more than one solution to a problem. In the above example, a manager is demanding his/her staff to arrive half an hour early every day when it isn’t necessary. To the worker, eliminating this practice altogether may seem like the obvious solution. However, finding a compromise can help your manager understand and compensate for your objections without completely disrupting his/her original vision. For example, maybe coming in 10 minutes early is plenty, or maybe you can come in half an hour early for two days out of the week.
This is a simple example, but what’s important to remember is that compromises are always available to those willing to search for them.
Speak to Others Who Can Help
If your direct conversation didn’t happen, if it didn’t help, and none of your compromises are panning out, don’t hesitate to go to someone else in the company for some extra assistance. Your manager’s supervisor or your HR Director shouldn’t be your first stop, but if you’ve made a serious effort for positive change with no results, these people can help drive a more meaningful change. Your identity can be kept confidential, and these superiors can help oversee a process that targets and corrects the destructive behavior.
Escalate Your Actions
If none of these options work and upper management isn’t taking your complaints seriously enough, escalate your actions at the ground level. Gather your peers, coworkers, and other managers to discuss the problem and petition for a change. Many voices have more power than one voice, and if you’re having a problem with a manager, chances are someone else is too.
Put these strategies to use if you’re currently dealing with ineffective management in your position. After consistent use, you may find that they aren’t of any help; if this is the case, it’s likely in your best interest to move on to a new opportunity. However, you may find that these strategies negate, improve, or lessen the impact of those nasty managerial habits, leaving you to better enjoy and execute your daily work.
There’s no percentage in being a victim. (Photo: Shutterstock)
A bad boss can make a good job unbearable, and a good boss can make a bad job. well, at least more tolerable.
But it’s bad bosses I’m concerned with today. People talk to me, or write to me, about problematic bosses all the time. Bad bosses come in many shapes and sizes, but rather than offering a laundry list of dysfunctional management behavior, what I’ll focus on here is what you can do to improve your career situation.
Watch on Forbes:
Accordingly: five constructive ways to deal with bad bosses.
Make yourself indispensable. As the old saying goes, nothing succeeds like success. If you can, despite the frustrations you’re feeling, master all aspects of your job and then some, and become a key employee, it can lead to several positive outcomes. It may change your boss’s behavior in a more agreeable direction; it may get you promoted and out of your boss’s orbit; it definitely will give you the satisfaction of knowing you did your absolute best in tough circumstances.
Try to see things through his or her eyes. I’m always a big believer in trying to put yourself in the place of others. This means understanding, as best you can, what pressures, what motivators, what hopes and fears drive their behavior. Management comes with it a multitude of pressures from many sources: boards, senior managers, employees, customers, investors and sales reps to name a few. The more you understand the pressures your (difficult) boss is under, the better equipped you’ll be to cope. No guarantee this will change your own experience, but empathy is a powerful emotion.
Don’t complain to your boss’s boss. It’s never my preference to “pitch from the negative,” but in this case avoiding a destructive move can in fact be constructive. Going over your boss’s head and complaining to his boss may be tempting, but the truth is it rarely works. First of all, you likely have no clear idea how your boss’s boss perceives him; she may well be totally supportive and hold your boss in high regard. Second, it’s guaranteed to aggravate your own boss — no manager likes employees going “over their head” — so the move often makes a bad relationship worse. It’s a high-risk maneuver. Unless you’ve personally observed felonious acts, say, and want to be a whistle-blower, it’s best avoided.
Stay true to yourself and your values. Don’t let anger or feelings of powerlessness turn you into someone you don’t want to be. The best example I can offer here is a story from my own career. Early in my management days I found myself in a stressful predicament. My boss demanded I give a far lower performance evaluation to an employee than I felt he deserved. The reason was not that she (my boss) had anything against this employee, but that she believed her own boss (the SVP who headed HR) strongly disliked this employee so she wanted to please him and not have her organization be perceived as “soft.” I agonized over the situation, as I believed the employee in question really had given a solid performance. Finally, fearing my decision would damage my career, I did what I felt was right: I told my boss I was going to ignore her request and instead gave the evaluation I felt was deserved. And I did. To my (pleasant) surprise, I never heard another word about it. Maybe my boss gave me credit for having backbone. More likely she realized she’d made an inappropriate demand and it was best just forgotten about.
Don’t be a victim — vote with your feet. Last but definitely not least, there’s no percentage in being a victim. If you’ve made numerous good faith efforts to improve things — to no avail — it may just be time to go. Leaving an intolerable situation is usually liberating.
Gaining control of your own career can take many forms. Managing your own management is an important one of them.
Nearly a quarter century of Fortune 500 management experience. Long interested as practitioner in the subject of management, both good and bad, effective and ineffective,…
Nearly a quarter century of Fortune 500 management experience. Long interested as practitioner in the subject of management, both good and bad, effective and ineffective, what works and what doesn’t. My book is “The Type B Manager” and my online Udemy courses are “The Manager’s Mindset” and “How to Manage Difficult Employees.” Graduated from Harvard College, with MBA from Western New England University. My work has appeared in Harvard Business Review and I contribute regularly to Psychology Today. Founder and principal of Howling Wolf Management Training, LLC.