Being successful when working for a bad boss can be tricky but it is possible. First, it is important to identify the traits of a bad boss. Second you have to develop a strategy on how you will work with them. These solutions can be simple to implement but will feel uncomfortable at first. While this list is not inclusive of all the traits that make a bad boss, they are among the most frequent.
Bad Communication – This is the boss that you either never hear from or when you do hear from them the topics are of little consequence to your goals or projects.
What to do – You set the meetings, you publish the agenda and you make sure it is followed.
Micro-manager – This is the boss that not only gives you a task but also outlines step-by-step how it is to be done, their way is the only way. You are not empowered.
What to do –Begin to build trust by over communicating. Provide frequent status updates or publish a daily/weekly report of your activities. Explain why you are doing what you are doing, before you do it to get their buy-in but then you will need to deliver.
Sets a bad example – This is the boss whose motto is do as I say not as you see me do.
What to do – Don’t adapt their behavior. Rise above it and do what you know to be right and true. People who lead this way are usually spotted very quickly by executive management. If you are feeling particularly confident, call them on the confusion between what they say and what they do. There may be an otherworldly reason for it.
Bully boss – This is the boss who is verbally abusive, has offensive conduct or intentionally sabotages you or your peers.
What to do – Shower them with positive reinforcement and model the behavior that you want them to emulate. Garner support though speaking with co-workers. If that fails report it to HR quickly.
Other people are threats – This is the boss who views others as threats rather than assets. They either fear others for their knowledge, tenure or simply because they are not confident in their own abilities and value.
What to do – Praise your boss for something they do really well. Praise is thought of as top down and seldom used bottom up. Chances are your boss’s boss isn’t praising them. If you fill this gap through praise chances are they will gain confidence in their abilities and no longer see you as a threat but an ally.
Drama seeker – This is the boss who seeks and promotes drama rather than stopping it. Everything is a fire or a mess.
What to do –Try to understand why they need chaos to feel productive or valuable and try to stay ahead of that need. Drama seekers do so because they are bored or feeling neglected an unappreciated. Communicating more frequently and asking for their help or advice could reduce their need to stir stuff up.
Unapproachable – This is the boss who always seems too busy, whose tone is abrupt when you try to meet with them or who works with their office door closed.
What to do – Find out why they are being abrupt, distant or never have time for you. Maybe they have tight deadlines or are having personal issues. Or, they simply may not even know that perception is there. Let them know how valuable their help is and that their input is needed.
Fails to make you feel appreciated – This is the boss who only tells you what you did wrong and rarely if at all that you did something well.
What to do – Initiate more conversations on your performance, don’t wait for them to come to you. Do this with a positive spin by telling them what you are doing well and asking how you can do those things better. Make it clear you are interested in being successful which helps them be successful.
Plays favorites – This is the boss who only sees the good in certain people and those people walk on water and do no wrong.
What to do – In many cases the boss’s favorite is so because they are a high performer or have constant communication with them. Promote yourself to your boss to keep your accomplishments top of mind. Keep track of your progress and regularly meet to discuss the successes and challenges. Sticking your head in the sand and keeping track of what others get that you don’t will not help the situation.
Nearly all solutions to working with a bad boss require you to have a discussion with them. Most of us would rather have a root canal than engage in conflict but it won’t be as bad as you think. However, the bad boss will have to own their role in the relationship and be open to making improvements if there is to be any real change. Practice patience and do your part to work through them. If the boss is that bad eventually they won’t be the boss anymore either because they leave or you do.
Use the comments below to share tactics you have used to work better with a bad boss.
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