Bad bosses don’t mean to be bad. Most of them don’t even know that they are bad bosses. But studies continue to show that more than pay, more than the commute, more than the actual workload – people leave jobs because of bad bosses. They create and add to an employee’s stress, depression, anger, and frustration. People end up realizing that life is too short to be so unhappy.
While I tell clients all the time that you cannot change anyone else (only yourself, and even that isn’t so easy), I also tell them a change in your own behavior may influence the relationship you have with your boss.
If you think about your boss as a customer, you might be able to move things in a positive direction:
- Discuss hopes and goals. Set aside some time and talk with your boss about you’d like to see in the relationship and ask them what they would like to see. Determine how far apart you are from each other and how far away you are from that sort of relationship now.
- Learn what motivates them. What are their goals? What are they worried about? What relationships do they value? How do they measure success? When you figure out what drives them and what they are paying attention to, you can line up your concerns with theirs.
- Adapt to their preferences. If the boss is a morning person, adjust your schedule accordingly. If they need to see something in writing before making a decision, get good at creating concise and well packaged proposals.
- Focus on what they do well. There is nothing to be gained by shining a light on their areas of weakness (That’s for the bosses boss to address.). Work around the areas where they are lacking prowess. Helping your boss succeed and appear successful is a better long term strategy.
- Don’t blame them for your work. It’s harder to do great work when you don’t have a great boss, but it’s not impossible. You never know who is listening to you and taking the high road has never hurt anyone’s career. Getting ‘even’ by replicating a bosses poor behavior doesn’t help your colleagues, the organization, or your clients. If the camera was on you – would you be proud of what was recorded?
- Learn the art of tactfully conversation and disclosure. Address your concerns in terms of the impact things have on your work and the success of the team. Engage in conversations about what caqn be done to improve things. If it’s on a time frame, take responsibility for following up and checking in to show that follow through is as important as raising the issue.
- Don’t hide. If you boss is a yeller, wait until they are done, take a deep breath and calmly ask questions about what they need from you. It’s not easy to stay calm when someone turns the volume up or gets emotional, but if you can do this, after a while, the boss may recognize that this bullying behavior is extreme for the situation and inappropriate. It may be that they have simply gotten away with this behavior before and still think they can.
If you have a bad boss, you know that it isn’t much fun. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
(And these strategies can work for co-workers as well!)