If you’ve been in the workforce for any number of years, more than likely, you have worked for a bad boss. Bad bosses come in many shapes, sizes and genders. The traits they exhibit are belligerent, belittling, controlling, narcissistic, clueless or just plain ridiculous.
One way to approach a bad boss is to coach them into change. This isn’t the easiest approach to take and its success rate is dependent on the reasons the boss is not a good one to work for. If the boss is a bad boss out of malice, this approach won’t work. If they are bad out of cluelessness or ridiculousness you may have success with it.
Think of 2 or 3 things you would like the boss to do differently. Remember when coaching it is best practice to pick one thing to work on at a time. After you have identified the top 2 or 3 items you want them to change develop the following:
How to state them as requests rather than complaints
If you approach your boss with a request they are more likely to be open to hearing the message and perhaps engaging in a dialogue about the topic. If you come with a complaint it will likely be dismissed and be directed back to you as your problem.
How to translate them into actions rather than attitudes
Being clear on what actions you want your boss to take will lead them to evaluate their current method of doing something. When you approach it with an expression of disfavor toward them they are likely to take it personal and will stop listening to what you are trying to say.
How to demonstrate why the change would be of value to them
Effectively articulating how this change will be of value to them will increase the likelihood of them wanting to make the change. If you are unable to do this they will likely dismiss the request as not necessary.
Rather than telling your boss “I wish you would stop being so inconsistent and changing your mind on what you want after I’ve delivered the request to you.”
Tell your boss “I’d really appreciate it if we could sit down and map out what you are looking for and spend time discussing the causes and effects of the request so that we can get you what you need more quickly.”
The first approach will cause your bosses defenses to rise and they will shut you down or merely say OK but go about their usual mode of operating. The second approach states a request, offers a solution and then provides value to your boss should they choose to implement that feedback.
Remember that upward coaching is clear, behavioral, supportive and not too frequent. Spend time planning the conversation then role-play it with friends, family or peers. Doing this will likely lead to a successful outcome and over time could help change the bad boss into a good one.
Share your stories of successful coaching-up a boss. How did you approach it and what did you learn from the experience. Did it result in a positive outcome?
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