Dealing With the Boss From Hell
There’s no written formula or instruction manual on how to deal with a bad boss. Every situation has different variations. However, there are some similarities. You’re not the only one having stressful work dreams. You’re not the only one waking up feeling uninspired and dreading to leave the shower because you know drying off and getting dressed means it’s time to go to work. A bad boss can even make a great job not so great. A bad boss that is controlling, intrusive, constantly on a power trip, has no desire to communicate, micro-manages or is a mean bully can be enough to kill your motivation and your happiness.
Whether it’s a lack of positive feedback on a job well done, disengaged leadership with no sense of direction, or taking credit for your work; these situations are not easily recognized by those who turn a blind eye. Bosses are different all across the board. There are many different styles of management, but if your boss makes your experience unbearable, it’s likely possible that they probably fall somewhere under one of these five categories. Perhaps even more than one:
These types of bosses are usually motivated by their own self-promotion. A boss with a giant ego can be hard to deal with because, in their own mind, they are not the problem. If a project slips off course, a client walks out the door, or negotiations end without a deal, they are quick to blame someone else before even considering taking any responsibility. Management style like this can be very destructive because even if you try to cater to their overbearing personality, usually appreciation gets lost in their mirror.
This could be considered the opposite of the Egomaniac. While an Egomaniac could be in your face or hovering over your shoulder dominating the air you breathe, the invisible boss is the extreme opposite. This style of management offers almost no support or feedback for your role. If you like your job and you want to grow, it can be challenging to get answers or support when the boss is nowhere to be found. This kind of management style can make the most confident employees question themselves because they aren’t getting the feedback to know whether they are doing a good job or where they may need to improve. These bosses seem like they’re on a three-hour lunch break, don’t answer emails or calls, and their unresponsive style can leave you standing in the dark.
These bosses are in and out like a tornado. At times, it can seem impossible to carry on a steady stream of communication because they don’t give you focused responses. When they want an update on a project, they only give you a minute to relay the details, and when you want to ask follow-up questions, they’re already taking another call, leaving the building, or storming away to deal with something else. This management style is disorganized. They ask you to do something or begin a project and then completely forget about what they told you to do hours or days later causing more confusion.
If you are friends with the boss or the boss wants to be friends with you, things can get complicated. Bosses that want their employees to love them can detour from the management role, which isn’t always the best practice for running a business or a team. This style of leadership makes work seem more social than business and, depending on the severity of work or the industry, a friendship with your boss may actually slow down your own growth. The other side of the coin is you may not always be receiving the most honest feedback. If you want to develop your talents and the boss is your friend, they might go a little too easy on you, which could hurt your personal growth in the long run.
This is the boss that people dread the most. Nobody wants to go to work and get hollered at on a daily basis. The bully style of management works off of fear and degradation. Keeping employees low to the ground and muscling their personality is the way of the old hard-nosed cigar-smoking boss. A bully boss doesn’t lead, but instead keeps your coat tails under their shoe. You won’t grow or develop with a bully boss because they don’t want you to. The bully boss uses over-intimidation that stems from their own fear of being surpassed by someone that is more talented. Bully management is inspired by the self-doubt of having decent leadership capabilities.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
First, find out what drives your boss. If you know what they are trying to obtain on a daily basis, you may understand them more, which could lead to a better acceptance of their behavior. You may also develop your own strategies for handling them. This is not a suggestion to let them treat you poorly, but you might be able to gauge how you can react in certain situations and determine which actions will work to your favor.
If your boss is deep into their career, with it at the center of their life, they might have a different philosophy than you do. Check your passions. Why do you have this job? Do you believe in the same ideals they do and believe in the company? Often times bad leadership calls for a cultural change, especially when it seems like the boss is forgetting how to manage the driving engine of the company. Culture change is part of what David Couper Consulting specializes in. You can learn about what kind of positive change is possible here: https://davidcouperconsulting.com/organizational-development
This is key for a boss that manages differently than what you are used to or what you expect. If your boss is old school and isn’t savvy with technology, you should be patient with them. If they have a different way of organizing files, reports, and data, you should consider working within their comfort zone. Your boss has risen to their current position by knowing the industry and advancing in their work. Don’t assume just because they don’t have the latest apps or know how to perform the techy detailed tasks you do that they are just a dinosaur waiting for their turn to become extinct.
Sometimes your boss may be indecisive. Indecision can be especially frustrating when you are trying to complete your tasks and they keep changing their mind. Sometimes the best way to decompress from the frustration of not being able to find common ground is to desensitize yourself. This is not to say you shouldn’t care about your work, just to realize at the end of the day that it’s just a job and not your life. You may find that if you don’t take everything personally, you might find working with such a contrasting management team a lot easier. If your boss likes change and likes to mix up procedures and protocol all the time, you may have to keep up. Good bosses know what works and even bad bosses know what works. You have to understand your surroundings.
Take pride in yourself. Your personal brand shines by the power of your own integrity. It’s easy to walk into work and do your job just good enough to not get in trouble when you don’t like the environment. Letting your motivation drop undermines the potential of what you can really do and where your career could go. Don’t let yourself get labeled as a whiner or a slacker. Continue to step up to the plate and hit home runs regardless of if the pitches are above the plate or aimed at your head. If you continually do well at your job, regardless of how horrifying of a monster your boss is, people will notice. You could even get promoted or transferred to an area that is a better fit for you.
If your boss is a bully, you don’t have to instigate arguments, but you should stick up for yourself. If you know your job well and consistently come to work with a can-do attitude, you won’t be pushed around. Engage your boss with a professional demeanor and remain calm. Don’t sink to their level of unprofessionalism.
If your boss is unorganized or chaotic, remember to take the initiative into your own hands. Step up your note taking, keep files of meetings and minutes, and be organized. If you are good at record keeping, you might be able to help your boss in moments of chaos and help create a positive change in their attitude.
All in all, stay positive. If your boss has narcissistic characteristics, they may just see you as a worker ant. And when the magnifying glass is hovering above you, it can seem like you might burst into flames at any moment. But don’t beat your head into the wall. Look for ways you can gain something out of the entire experience.
WHEN IT SEEMS HOPELESS
If your boss is just going through the motions and working for the weekend, you should consider why you are here. If you are satisfied with that kind of philosophy, then you might be able to find a common ground. But if you want to advance in your career and feel empowered to gain more knowledge, you probably won’t be able to learn a lot from your boss if they’re checked out indefinitely. They may run an adequate ship, but you won’t be exploring any new uncharted territory, which could slow you down in the long run.
When you think it’s time to leave your current position and move into a new organization, do your homework first. You don’t want to transfer from one bad situation to a worse situation. Find out what kind of culture and environment you want to be in and go from there. Sometimes desperate escapes can land you in scenarios that end up being even worse than the previous. If you have tried to be flexible and made attempts to have healthy communication with your boss but things won’t change, perhaps a visit to your Human Resources staff will give you perspective. Be forewarned before you do. If you do go to HR, your boss may hold it against you, so make sure the HR rep handles the situation carefully. If you have the option to transfer to another department, you may want to consider this. You could also speak to your boss’s manager if that access is available and the culture supports that level of transparency.
If you feel it’s not in your best interest to talk with Human Resources about your boss, you can always speak with a coaching consultant. A coach consultant will support you in defining ways to grow professionally, teaching you tools to move forward in your career, and creating your own leadership style. David Couper Consulting specializes in development and leadership coaching. Our coaches help point you in the right direction. Don’t be discouraged if you feel helpless, you have options: https://davidcouperconsulting.com/
Jon Hauer is a freelance writer and digital designer based in Del Rey, CA. He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication Studies from the University of St. Thomas and graduated from Pepperdine University in 2015 with a Master’s of Fine Arts Degree in Writing. He has worked in the tourism/hospitality industry for years and writes professionally on a number of topics including but not limited to travel, business, marketing, tourism, home services, art, sports, entertainment, news, etc.