How to Survive a Bad Boss

survive a bad bossA great boss can bring out the best in you; a bad boss can transform the best job in the world to the worst one ever. You spend half of your weekday life in the presence and under the control of your boss. If you’re fortunate, the two of you are on the same wavelength; your boss is supportive, deadlines are met, progress is made and everyone is happy.

But with some bosses, that is not the case. You produce what you think is an excellent report, only to have it shredded before your eyes, and hours of effort are down the drain. Your boss asks your opinion in an area in which your expertise is far greater than theirs, and they ignore your counsel, with disastrous consequences. Your cheery “Good morning!” is met with a sarcastic put down, and you know the day is going to go downhill from there.

It isn’t pretty.

So what are your options? Should you stay or should you go?

There may be circumstances in which abandoning ship is not the best option. You may see opportunities for transfer to another unit, or your compensation may be far ahead of other offers in the market. For whatever reason, you may decide to try and tough it out. If so, consider the following survival strategies.

6 Tips to Survive a Bad Boss

1. Try to figure out their motives. Believe it or not, no one is a villain in their own eyes. What are their goals? What motivates them? Are they a power freak, or terrified of their superior? Do they see you as a threat, or do the think you’re incompetent? Make your best guess.

2. Based upon your analysis, what can you do to compensate for their world view? If they’re a power freak, let them wield power. Don’t bother fighting for equality. If they’re operating from a position of fear, reassure them. If they see you as a threat, emphasize those areas in which they are superior. If they think you are incompetent, either ramp up the skills they criticize, or work to demonstrate your expertise.

3. Your initial analysis may be wrong. If so, pull back, re-evaluate and reposition yourself.
Regardless of your boss’ attitude, stay professional. Don’t backbite or complain in the workplace. It won’t help, and can rebound against you.

4. If your boss is engaging in harassing, discriminatory or threatening behavior, report it. Those behaviors extend beyond permissible management style, and may constitute illegal action. Your employer needs to be aware.

5. Find a positive way to work off frustration. Spend time at the health club, play a game of tennis, or talk things out in confidence with a best buddy (outside of the organization!) Avoid nightly stops at the neighborhood bar, or the triple burger and large fries special.

6. Keep perspective. If you are truly working to the best of your ability and for the good of the organization, you’re doing the right thing. Don’t let a bad boss erode your sense of self-worth.

Sometimes, survival mode is the best you can do. Try to find the positives in your job. There may be some great co-workers, or the company might overall be an engaging place to work. Be flexible and try to adapt to the eccentricities of your boss. Be on the alert for options, whether those may be within your company or elsewhere. Gain what you can from the work experience, and survive and thrive in spite of the challenges of a bad boss.

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