Bad bosses are everywhere. Whether they’re the butt of countless sitcom jokes, or something far more sinister in the corporate world, poor leadership can stunt the growth of even the most talented and ambitious people in any industry.
Bad bosses come in many shapes and sizes. From micromanaging their talented team to stealing credit, these ‘leaders’ can turn your passion into a chore. When under a bad boss, even the most motivated employees feel entitled to slack off, lose interest or stop performing well. The only person who will be harmed by this is you.
Here’s how you can constructively manage interactions with a bad boss and improve your work situation.
See things from your boss’s perspective
It’s easy to take things at face value, but is your boss really all that bad? Try to see things through his or her eyes before you label them a bad boss. Try to understand the pressures, motivators, hopes, fears, and targets that drive their behavior. Management comes with its own pressures, and there’s a chance that your bad boss is under an even worse boss.
The more you understand the pressures your boss is under, the easier it’ll be to pre-empt his or her tirades.
This will also prepare you to take on a leadership role in the company. If the organization is led by people like your (bad) boss, perhaps it’s time to move on.
Be a work superstar
You may already be amazing at what you do, but a bad boss can reduce competent team members to 9-to-5 drones, so just being good at what you do isn’t enough. Nothing succeeds like success, so make your work speak for itself by mastering what you do. No matter how incompetent or insufferable your boss may be, if you make yourself indispensable to your boss, then chances are you’ll be seen as his or her best resource – beyond reproach.
It also helps to know their triggers. If punctuality is their thing, make sure you’re ten minutes early to every meeting. If it’s organizational, make sure you’re doubly prepared before any interaction with your quick-to-anger boss.
If your boss is a micromanager, head them off at the pass by anticipating their requests and getting things done before they come to you.
This may get you noticed higher up, get you promoted beyond your boss’s remit, or at the very least, prove that you have the gumption to tough it out even in the worst situations.
Don’t go over your boss’s head
It may be tempting to complain about your boss to his or her superiors, but this has a history of backfiring. There’s a chance that your boss’s boss may be on their side, for one. Secondly, if this gets back to your boss, things at work could become worse.
No one likes their team to go over their head, especially because this suggests that you don’t respect your boss enough to address issues with him or her directly.
Of course, some situations may call for you to ‘blow the whistle’, such as illegal acts or if you’re being harassed by your boss.
Stay true to your values
If you’ve had to suffer under an egotistical boss for long, it can make you feel powerless and stifled. But this doesn’t mean that you should let their actions define you or your outlook. If you find yourself thinking about ways to retaliate, rebel or otherwise sabotage your boss, it may be time to confront the situation head-on.
Passive-aggression is unhealthy and can damage your career and wellbeing in the long run.
Schedule a sit-down with your boss, preferably at a time when you’re calm and have had a few days to ‘cool off’.
Know when to walk away
There’s no reward in being a victim. If you’ve done your best to tough it out under poor management and nothing has changed, it may be time to speak with your actions.
Your career won’t thrive under a bad boss for long, so if you can’t change the situation, change the situation.
Even the most inspirational leaders you look up to today started at the bottom, most likely under a bad boss or two along the way. Remember that nothing is forever, so if you weigh the pros and cons of your current job and it pays to stay, find creative solutions to deal with your bad boss. If the situation is unbearable, it might be time to take a leap of faith, and that might mean knowing when to leave.