Dealing with a Difficult Boss
We’ve all had a difficult boss or supervisor who until we found a way to deal with them, they drove us absolutely crazy. Or they left the situation/job/career/company. Or we did. That’s the last resort but you may get there unless the situation improves.
The first step in dealing with a bad boss is to make a personal determination. How bad is this? Can I live with it? Is it likely to change in the short term? If your evaluation shows that it is having a strong or severe negative reaction on you, you have to do something. If you simply can’t put up with the boss’s behaviour or if you don’t think it will change anytime soon, you need to act.
You may have learned this lesson already but in case you haven’t, a bad situation never gets better on its own, especially at work. It only gets worse. So if you’ve had it with your particular bad boss here are five ways you can deal with them.
1. Speak Up
It’s amazing how many people just sit there and tolerate bad and even offensive behaviour. The very first thing that you have to do with a bully or a bad boss is to speak up. Tell them in no uncertain terms what behaviour you find hurtful, degrading or just plain awful. Speak up and tell them that you do not like this behaviour and in as respectful a manner as you can muster, ask them to stop and to treat you with respect.
Then wait for their response, not just their oral response, but if they actually change their behaviour. That’s assuming that their first response is not to scream at you or even worse to threaten to fire you. If that’s the case then at least you know where you stand. But don’t be surprised if they go away, think about what you have said, and actually improve their behaviour a little. If not, proceed to step 2.
2. Reclaim your Boundaries
Even in this difficult job market you still have rights, no matter how much a bad boss or supervisor will try and tell you otherwise. You have the legal right to work in a safe and healthy workplace and if it is now you have a right to complain and ask that it be improved. You have the legal right not be sexually harassed or interfered with any way at your place of work and even if your company doesn’t have a policy on this, there are laws that will protect you.
But even more than your legal rights you have the right to be treated with respect and dignity and if you are not then you need to reclaim your boundaries in this regard. No one has the right to treat you disrespectfully but sometimes we let people, especially our bosses, think and act differently. Part of the onus is on you. Re-create your safety zone if someone has violated it and don’t let anybody cross over your personal red lines. If they are then move to Step 3.
3. Ask for Help
Sometimes we think that we have to solve problems, particularly workplace problems on our own. And that is true, sometimes. But then there are times when we’ve tried all that we know and the situation just doesn’t get any better. That’s when we have to remind ourselves again that it’s okay to ask for help. That help in dealing with a difficult boss can come from a variety of sources including moral support from our friends and co-workers. A problem shared is a problem halved.
But sharing isn’t enough to change the situation. For that you probably need to go over or around your boss. It could be possible to ask for help from your human resources section who sometimes can offer to mediate. But more than likely it means going to your boss’s supervisor. That is a difficult thing to do and it should only be attempted when you’ve tried and exhausted all other avenues. That person is likely aware of the bad boss situation already and may have some advice or suggestions to offer. If that route doesn’t work then you may have to go to Step 4.
4. Think about Leaving
This doesn’t mean threatening to quit, which you should never do unless you intend to carry that threat out. But if you can’t make the situation at work better then you need to take some time and think about leaving your current work arrangement. Even if it’s your dream job in your dream company it is even very good for you if you are having nightmares about it.
Weigh out the pros and cons of leaving and talk it over with your family and close friends. Then if you decide that the situation is intolerable for you, make a plan to leave your current job at some fixed point in the future. That could be six months or a year but just by setting a date you will take the pressure off. Don’t tell anybody, especially at work about your plan, but work towards it, including finding a safe landing place for you and your career. You can always change your mind in things get better, but if they don’t you can look after yourself.
Mike Martin is a writer and the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People.
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