We’re all bound to face one sooner or later. If you’re lucky, it will be later, so you’ll have had enough experience in the world of work to minimize the damage a bad boss can do to you.
But, just in case, I thought I’d share some of my hard-earned expertise regarding bad bosses, garnered on the job and in studying the art and craft of management.
The good news is that with a little conscious thought, diligent detachment and strategy, you can reduce the impact a bad boss has on your life – even though it’s widely accepted that bad managers are the main reason most employees leave their jobs.
But first, you need to determine what kind of a bad boss you have. They’re not all the same. Here’s a summary of the different types:
The Commandant – This one likes to put people down, and will use even the teensiest amount of power he or she has to make people feel bad. Be glad you don’t run into this one in a war zone.
The Commandant is a bully and, like all bullies, wants a reaction. Try not to provide one, no matter how you’re taunted. He or she will move on to other, more amusing targets.
Miss Priss – This isn’t a gender specific problem. Rather, the term refers to someone who enforces rules for the sake of rules, whether or not they make sense.
But it’s important to remember that, from his or her perspective, these rules do make sense. Try to understand where this boss is coming from, and you just might find it easier to get along at work.
The Micro-Manager – Some bosses give you so little leeway, and spend so much time watching over your shoulder that it seems like work has become a gigantic game of “Mother, may I?” Except less fun.
Handle this one with patience. Let your work speak for itself and try to build trust. Eventually, you could try asking what kind of guarantees you need to provide in order to get some independence.
Here, Carry This – Some bosses assign such unreasonable workloads it’s hard to imagine what they’re thinking, unless they’re actually figuring you should do their work along with yours.
Establishing work plans, and getting your boss to sign off on them, can help keep your desk from becoming a dumping ground.
Mr. Moody – Again, this isn’t gender specific. Some bosses can be friendly one day and foul-mouthed the next, and rotate from casual to buttoned-up just as quickly. You never know how to act or what’s O.K. around these types.
Even if your boss brings way too much of his or her personal life into work, don’t do the same. Don’t even take your boss’s moody fits personally. Practice polite distance.
The Bumbler – This kind of a bad boss is so incompetent you have to work twice as hard as you should to keep everything from collapsing around you.
Let low expectations be your guide if you have a boss like this. You’ll seldom be surprised. When you’ve figured out how you’ll handle your boss’s next screw-up in advance, it might be more tedious than stressful.
The Game Player – Bosses who play favorites and pit employees against each other to curry favor can turn any workplace into a toxic stew.
If you work for a game-playing boss, do your best to sit this one out. Don’t engage and don’t obviously distance yourself. Think of yourself as in the way, way outfield.
The Credit Stealer – You know what I mean… the kind of boss who takes credit for your work. Let’s say no more.
But instead, get busy and document all the work you do.
The Ladder Climber – Some bad bosses are so busy moving on up they can’t be bothered to do what they’re supposed to be doing right now.
This one is kind of like The Credit Stealer, except for one difference – their rising tidy could float all boats. So watch carefully and remember to document.
All of the Above – Yikes! You’re working for a doozy! Although, in truth, all bad bosses are a bit of a mixture.
Remember that, no matter what kind of bad boss you have, there are five things you should do:
- Do your job
- Do it well
- Gather evidence to prove this
- Avoid personal feuds
- Pursue your ambitions
It’s good to jog your memory about your over-all career goals when you’re working with a bad boss. It will remind you that your current position is only one point on your professional trajectory, and you can shape the rest.
Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t let bad bosses – people lacking skill and grace – distract you.
by Danielle Dresden