You can’t choose your boss, but you can choose how you react to a bad one.
It happens to the best of us — we start a new job only to find that our boss is not ideal. They might be a micromanager, a visionary that lacks the ability to get the job done, a boss who likes to take all the credit for their team’s good work, a poor communicator, a non-communicator, an absentee boss … the list goes on.
In what might be the worst-case scenario, your manager doesn’t like you or how you do your job no matter how hard you try, and you’re reminded of it on a regular basis — and yes, I know that the manager who is “out to get you” isn’t just a tall tale or exaggeration. It truly does exist in today’s world because I’ve seen this type of manager in the workforce first hand. I’ve had employees call me in tears because of their boss’ belittling and immature behavior, being at their wits end in trying to make the situation work, and asking for advice on what to do next. That’s why I’m not surprised that in this TopResume survey, 71 percent of respondents revealed that they felt bullied by a boss or direct supervisors.
Yet, to give managers a break, they often do have their hands full with the work that crosses their own desk and also feel the pressure of meeting the numbers, achieving certain goals, and then some. Couple these demands with the fact that many organizations promote people for the wrong reasons — being good at your job tactically or technically does not mean you’ll be a good manager or leader — and sometimes organizations lack management and leadership training.
Regardless of why your boss might be less than ideal, you need to determine the best way to work with them, especially if leaving your current position isn’t an option (which it isn’t for many). Below are some tips on how to manage your boss, to help you evaluate your situation and get the support you need to be productive while maintaining your sanity and mental health.
Honestly evaluate the situation
It can be tough to look in the mirror, but take an honest look and determine if there are items on your side of the table to work on that could help improve the relationship with your boss. Maybe you could be more efficient, meet deadlines better, and so on. If we’re slacking at work, we typically know it. At the same time, you might be doing the best you can and it’s still not good enough, so take a breath and read on.
Understand your boss’ issues and communication style
The better versed you are in “emotional intelligence” and how to get along with others, the better positioned you’ll be to deal with tough situations like a difficult boss. Take note of how your boss works, their pet peeves, their management style, and try to meet them on their side of the fence when it comes to work and communication style. Doing so could make your life a lot easier.
Create a written record
If your boss is always on your case about what you have or haven’t done or that you’re not meeting deadlines, be sure to keep a detailed written record of all of your work, from what to when to who, as well as any reasons as to why a project or item was delayed. You might also consider scheduling a daily meetup for five minutes or so to discuss what you’ve accomplished and to ensure you understand your manager’s priorities towards your current task list. This keeps you both accountable and your boss in check. I advised one employee to take this approach, and it helped her maintain her sanity and provided her with proof of record if her manager approached her about a perceived issue, like accusing her of missing a deadline when she had actually completed the task on time.
Don’t waste your energy on thinking about your bad boss
I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing managers during my career. Only once did I have a manager that was difficult to work with, to say the least. I was spending so much energy thinking about how frustrated he made me and what to do about it that I was wasting my energy on things I couldn’t control. If you find that you’re often upset or thinking about your boss, consider paying yourself a dollar each time you do it and save the money for a rainy day. This trick will help you become aware of how much time you’re spending on your boss that you could be using for more productive and enjoyable endeavors! It will also allow you to shift your thoughts every time you think of them so it doesn’t consume you.
Know that you did not do anything wrong
At the end of the day, some relationships simply don’t work well. It takes two to tango and only one to back out of the dance for the dance to fail. Do the best you can and focus on your work until a better scenario comes along.
Take the high road
Choose to act like an adult, even if your boss doesn’t. Don’t badmouth or gossip about them. It won’t help the situation. If you need to speak to someone within your company because your work is being impeded or negatively impacted by the situation with your boss, do so professionally and discreetly.
Speak to someone in Human Resources
This is especially true if the behavior of your manager borders harassment or makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. HR might also be able to advise you on how to best deal with a situation that you’re trying to make work.
Speak to someone higher up in the organization that can help
This can be tricky, I know. You’ll need to use good judgment as to when to take this approach, as well as whether or not it will backfire on you. Most employees I speak with are more comfortable going to HR first. Also, if you choose this approach, it’s best to go in with “I’m having a difficult time in dealing with X and am looking for some guidance or suggestions as to how to improve the situation” instead of pointing the finger and blaming them by saying something like, “My manager is wrong and difficult and making my life miserable.”
Refer to a career or personal coach or your mentor
It can be helpful to speak with a career coach or mentor to vent, as well as seek advice and guidance on how to deal with a boss that’s making your work life difficult. Someone outside of the situation might be able to give you a perspective that will allow you to deal with the scenario better or even look at it differently. You can conduct an online search for career coaches to find local career and personal coaches, as well as coaches that conduct sessions via phone.
See the situation as a learning opportunity
Consider the silver lining in a bad-boss situation to be the fact that you can learn what not to do if you’re ever a manager or supervisor one day.
In certain scenarios, we might not get to choose our bosses, but we do get to choose how we react to the tough situations in our life. Being dealt a hand that includes bad bosses is not fun, but with the right mindset and approach, you can make it work until you’re able to move on to a better environment.
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