If you’re depressed, angry or constantly chewing your fingernails to nubs because you have a bad boss, the good news is you’re not alone. Millions of workers join you in your despair and anguish.
Yet no matter how miserable you are, you’re probably not going to quit, because let’s face it: even if you can land another job, the likelihood is another bad boss will be attached to it.
Dry your tears, quit pulling your hair out and learn what’s not going to work so you can stop spinning your wheels and get your career on a successful track… even with a bad boss.
1. Managing up
Having a nice sit-down conversation with your bad boss about what’s not working and offering some suggestions about how to make things better — so civilized, so PC. Unfortunately, it’s never going to happen.
Managing up works well with mediocre bosses or bosses who are difficult because they’re struggling with their own pressures. But when it comes to diehard, bad-to-the-bone bad bosses, all you’ll get is a glazed look — or summarily dismissed — and suddenly you’re a problem employee.
Instead, turn your boss into a mentor by asking him how you can improve your work. Take his advice seriously (no matter how inane), turn it into something that does improve your work, then give your boss sincere appreciation and credit. Rinse and repeat. After a while, he’ll be proud of the sterling accomplishments he led you to.
2. Giving your boss a workplace reality check
A bad boss may be incompetent for any number of reasons, but she certainly doesn’t want to be seen as incompetent. By complaining about a lack of resources or training, that’s exactly what you’re doing: exposing her incompetence. Your well-intended lament will only earn you further disdain, or more work, as your boss tells you to suck it up.
Instead, take charge of your job and your to do list. (Click here to Tweet this thought.) When your boss slings another do-it-do-it-now on your overloaded plate, say, “I’d be glad to handle this, but which of your other requests would you like me to back burner, Project A or Project B?” When she answers, reply “Got it!” and get on it before she can pile the whole list on you.
Also be creative about getting support, like engaging willing coworkers in a “Do this for me, I’ll do that for you” system.
3. Confronting your bad boss’s bad behavior
Your boss is a screamer. Or a blaming finger-pointer. You stand up for yourself. You tell your boss, calmly and in private, “This is unacceptable. I’ll not be screamed at or blamed for something I didn’t do.” You expect your boss to recognize his bad behavior and cut it out.
At the least, you’ll get counseled on your bad behavior, and a note will go into your personnel file about the problematic employee you are. Or you’ll be on the short list for rapid — and perfectly lawful — termination.
Instead, make a note of your boss’s directives in front of him. If questioned, put on your best innocent face and say something like, “I want to make sure I get what you want done right.” Avoid sarcasm or a snarky tone.
Bosses are loathe to have their bad behavior set down in writing. After all, it may end up upstairs or in HuffPost. With any luck, the bad behavior — at least the part aimed toward you — will diminish.
4. Working harder and longer
All that nose-to-the-grindstone effort won’t reap well-deserved rewards. If you work like a slave, your bad boss will cry “Hallelujah!” and work you harder, with no return consideration or reward.
Don’t give your all to what you think will please your bad boss. Instead, work like a slave — for yourself. Do your absolute best, but be proactive and discriminating. Target those projects, teams and tasks in line with your career goals, and do the hustle-and-persistence dance on your own behalf.
5. Going above your bad boss’s head to complain
The reason why your boss is a boss probably has something to do with the person above him. Leapfrogging your bad boss will only get you dumped faster.
Instead, get the higher-ups’ attention with outstanding performance and productivity. Volunteer to take on projects that involve other departments and explore your talents.
Get bosses from other departments to value your work, and either your own boss will see your value or you’ll get poached into a better boss’s department.
Work hard, but on your own behalf, for your own success.
Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist, business trial consultant and the author of 12 books, including her most recent, Got a Bad Boss? At the core of Noelle’s books, leadership seminars and consulting practice is the power of appreciation: how to be happier, healthier and more successful at work, at home and in relationships. You can visit her website at www.noellenelson.com/.