The bad boss figure has become so ubiquitous that it’s now a cliché. But a bad boss is more than a harmless movie stereotype good for a laugh. It’s real, and it’s more than likely you’ve had some experience working for one.
Bad bosses can stand in the way of your career, erode your self-esteem and make you carry that bad mood into your personal life. Of course, not all bad bosses are created equally. There are bully bosses, narcissistic bosses, micromanaging bosses and, well, the list can go on and on. Each boss may need their own tailored approach.
Work shouldn’t be a sentence, so whatever type of bad boss you have, these tips are sure to help break the cycle of suffering.
1. Document Your Conversations
Just as you document the process of your work, you want to keep a record of your experiences with your boss. If you do bring up their behavior to human resources, you’ll want to have something to back up your accusations. If you’re worried about saving those files to your computer, use a cloud-based service like Dropbox or a project management software with file storage.
In a sense you’re building a case against this person. But in another sense, you’re providing yourself a therapeutic outlet. The documentation gives you an opportunity to process the problems you’re facing with the boss and realize whether those issues are due to your boss or yourself.
Related: How to Disagree with Your Boss
2. Remember, They’re Human
It’s harder than you might think to not demonize your boss. But, they are human beings after all, and like all people, they’re suffering private trials and tribulations. If you can accept this, then you’re on the path towards compassion and understanding.
From a place of empathy, you’re more likely to bridge the gap between the bad boss and yourself, and your kindness might create a crack in their façade. They could even become your ally in the office, and suddenly, a bad boss is a good one.
3. Support Them
What? Well, they are your boss. Good, bad or indifferent, they’re working for the same goals as you. If you don’t fight, but comply with their leadership and contribute to their success, you’ll likely find the boss changing their attitude.
It’s called killing them with kindness. But it’s also called doing your job. Try not to take things personally, and let the pettiness roll off. Don’t hold onto those resentments because they’ll just make you miserable, and worse, the boss won’t care one way or the other.
4. Stand Up for Yourself
Some bosses are bullies, and the most effective thing you can do to a bully is to stand up to them. That’s because bullies tend to be all hot air and are easily deflated when confronted. That doesn’t mean you should start a war, but you also shouldn’t surrender.
State your case, dispassionately, respectfully and professionally. If you’re right, and the boss isn’t an idiot, you’ll sway them. They might take credit for it, or they might surprise you. Either way, you’re not on the job to prove yourself right but to accomplish tasks and help the business.
5. Know Your Boss
You might have a bad boss, or you might just have a bad understanding of your boss. To know which, and how to proceed, try to figure out the reasons behind their behavior. Do they exhibit signs of self-serving bias, negativity bias, etc?If you can figure out what is driving them, then you’ll have a better chance of steering them towards positive interactions and outcomes.
Yes, it’s sort of like psychological profiling, like the FBI does with serial killers, but if you’re aware of why they’re doing something, then you reduce the risk of having them act out on you and your coworkers.
6. Adapt or Die
The sad truth is that your boss is in a position of power over you. If they want things done a certain way, then they’re going to get it done that way, or there will be consequences. But people are nothing if not adaptable. So observe your boss to determine their preferences, habits, etc.
Related: How to Deal with Micromanagers
Now see if you can align your behavior to your boss’. That can be structural, such as if they communicate better in person or over email, to personal, such as sense of humor. By doing so, you’re more likely to catch your boss’ ear and manage their expectations of you, which will help you avoid problems. In other words, be flexible, or you’ll break.
7. Don’t Go Over Their Head
While it’s recommended to report any really bad boss to human resources, that ideally is a last resort. But if you think going to your boss’ boss to complain is going to help, you’re wrong. Yes, it feels like a constructive action. After all, your boss has a boss who can reign in their bad behavior.
However, it’s like walking into a minefield. First of all, you might not have a clear idea of the relationship between your boss and your boss’ boss. They might have a very different view of your boss from their perspective. Secondly, such a move is sure to aggravate your boss. They’ll find out that someone complained, and if they find out it’s you, then you’re really going to get it. Unless you’re intimate with the hierarchy at work, it’s best to avoid going over your boss’ head.
When a Bad Boss is Truly Abusive
There are bad bosses and then there are bad bosses. The difference is that some bosses are just difficult. They’re unpleasant and can cloud the atmosphere at work. Those bosses are manageable.
Then there are truly abusive bosses. These are bosses who cross the line, either physically, emotionally or mentally by abusing people under them. They use their position of power to exploit and worse. These people are not the subject of this post. They need to be dealt with by the law. Don’t be a victim. Contact your human resources department and report them.
Hopefully you don’t have a bad boss. But if you do, another way to get on their good side it by showing them how to manage better. Introduce them to ProjectManager.com, a cloud-based project management software that monitors and reports with a real-time dashboard and makes scheduling tasks simple with its online Gantt charts. Try it today with this free 30-day trial.