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How to deal with a bad boss

How to deal with a bad boss

Starting a job with a bad boss is a bit like moving into a haunted house – everything seems too good to be true until a poltergeist comes storming into your bedroom at two o’clock in the morning screaming bloody murder.

A bad boss has the ability to make or break a job – so if you’ve found yourself working with one, you have our sympathies. But before you go ahead and apply the ‘Bad Boss’ label, it’s worth trying to pinpoint what it is about them specifically that grinds your gears. Are they inappropriate or ill-mannered? Do they micro-manage? Are they blatantly incompetent?

Or could it be that you simply don’t like them? We’re hardwired to prefer people with the same or similar attributes as our own, and as a result, we often make snap judgements without looking for any similarities or mutual areas of interest. There are always going to be people we don’t see eye to eye with, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build a worthwhile working relationship.

Is there anything you can do to help restore the balance? If there is, great – but if there’s not, you’ll need some tactics to cope:

 

Tip 1: Show them your support.

During periods of stress or tension, it’s easy to adopt a fight fire with fire approach by treating others the same way they’re treating you.

But nothing good will ever come from throwing your boss under the bus (although this can be a tempting scenario to entertain). Not only will it reflect poorly on them, it could also damage your own reputation – so don’t use your boss’s bad behaviour as an excuse to slack off.

While it might seem counter-intuitive, try finding ways to support them to be better. Do they struggle to communicate? Do they change their mind at a whim? Are they always stretched for time?

When they’re busy, offer to sit in on a meeting on their behalf, or communicate progress and decisions with them so you always have a point of reference if they change their mind. Try treating them the same way you would a difficult client rather than a difficult boss.

 

Tip 2: Put yourself first.

When you’re being pressured to perform, especially if your work is being continuously scrutinised, it’s easy to make your job your number one priority. But it shouldn’t be - you should be your number one priority. Put yourself first - look after your health, and make time for the things and people you love.

Try removing your emotions from the equation. Sure, this is easier said than done, but remember your boss’s behaviour is their responsibility, not yours – so don’t allow your emotions to be dictated by theirs.

 

Tip 3: Speak up or shut up.

Sometimes it’s easier to suffer in silence than it is to call your boss out on their bad behaviour. And in some scenarios, this is probably the right decision. For instance, if your boss uses bullying tactics, they probably thrive off fear, so instead of giving them the satisfaction of allowing yourself to be victimised, stand tall and keep your head held high. They’ll soon focus their attention elsewhere.

But then again, it can be worthwhile confronting your boss about their performance or behaviour, particularly if they’re unaware of it. Prepare a list of detailed examples to back up your points, and keep it strictly objective – any personal criticisms will leave them feeling offended or attacked.

Sure, they might not listen, and they might even hate you for it, but you’re better off trying to confront the issue head on and seeing if it does the trick rather than biding your time until you can hand in your notice without saying a word.

 
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