“A bad job with a good boss, is better than a good job with a bad boss.” – Unknown

Having a bad boss is seen as being synonymous with the often repeated punch line of a favorite joke. So much so, that there are no shortages of movies and television shows that portray bosses in a negative light.

Of course recent studies by Gallup and Staffbay.com, as well as corresponding articles in Forbes, have actually legitimized these anecdotal perceptions. In a poll of 15,000 job seekers, 87.2% indicated that they wanted to leave their present employer within the next 12 months. The reason given by 52.6% is that “they didn’t trust their boss.”

Given the above numbers, it seems that good bosses are far and few between.

But is your boss really that bad?

Take The Bad Boss Litmus Test

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How do you view your current boss?

Saying the first thing that comes to mind without thinking about it, describe your boss in one word.

What was your word?

This is an interesting exercise, because it will tell you how you view your boss and, how you are likely to interact with them on a regular basis.

For example, if you used the word “approachable” to describe your boss, chances are you would be more inclined to talk comfortably and frankly with them on a one-to-one level.

Conversely, if you used the word “tyrant” or “intimidating,” you either assume a subservient attitude or a follow orders persona, just so you can get through another day.

But here is the thing . . . is your perception based on reality or, is it simply well . . . your perception?

The objective of this month’s eNewsletter is to help you to determine if you really have a bad boss, and if you do, how you can fix it.

Rule #1: Confirm If Your Boss Is Really Bad

Is it your boss, or is it you?

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Don’t make your boss (or for that matter anyone) carry your baggage of assumptions.

If for example, you think that someone is a bad boss from the get go, you will have a natural inclination to harbor that thought, regardless of what they do on a go forward basis.

This is why it is important to challenge your original impression of your boss.

Is it possible that every interaction you have had with your boss from the beginning was based on a misperception of who you thought they were?

Of course, what if your original impression of your boss turns out to be absolutely true? What if they are a tyrant who at every turn has belittled you and made your work life miserable? What do you do?  I will be addressing this in the next point.

If however, you believe that a reassessment is warranted, the following are a few tips that will help you to reset your view of your boss:

  • Clean your slate. While I am not suggesting that you forget everything you know about your boss, what I am saying is that you have to be willing to surrender your existing views of who they are (or who you think they are), and be open to seeing them through a possible new lens.
  • Do you currently have a mentor or someone in a senior position who you trust to provide you with sound advice? If you don’t have a mentor, the first thing on your to do list is to get one! If you do have a mentor, tell them how you feel and ask them for feedback. You will find that mentors – who are usually more senior to yourself and, may know your boss on a different level, will be more than happy to offer needed insight. Ask for the conversation to be confidential as you don’t want this to come back and bite you!
  • If it turns out that you were wrong about your boss, but you realize that your dislike is more personality based, try to look for the good in them. This attitude shift can possibly make it easier to work for them.

Rule #2:  Confront Your Boss

What if you really do have a bad boss?

Do you cower behind your desk because you need the job, and achingly endure another day in workplace hell just to get a paycheck?

That’s no way to live because it will drain the life out of you.

Instead, empower yourself by speaking-up. I know that may sound risky, but speaking up now as opposed to when you have reached your breaking point, will be more productive in that you will be less inclined to come from a position of raw emotion.

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Here are a few tips to help you to confront your boss in a respectful, yet assertive manner:

  • Keep in mind, that your boss may not even be aware of how you feel. This means that if you simply quit out of frustration or explode in anger towards them, they might not understand what happened.
  • Find the right time to engage in your courageous conversation. Ask if you can be open and candid about a tough situation that you find yourself in.
  • Engage in what is known as active listening. Don’t approach a conversation with your boss based on assumptions of what you believe they may say or are thinking. Instead, clearly present your position and then stop and listen to their response.
  • Treat the discussion as a fact-finding mission. In other words, don’t expect an immediate resolution. Chances are if this is the first heart-to-heart you have had with your boss, both of you may need time to assess what was said and, what needs to be done going forward.
  • When you are explaining how you feel, take ownership by saying: “When we’re discussing an issue, I often get the feeling that you’re distracted.  This makes me feel….”  Or another example might be:  “I’m having difficulty lately as I feel like I’m being micromanaged. Can we discuss this as I may be misjudging the situation.”
  • Avoid speaking in an accusatory fashion or cutting them off. For example, you would probably instigate an immediate fight or get them defensive if you pointed your finger at your boss and said “You always have to be right!”
  • Always maintain your cool, even if your boss loses theirs. Your boss may explode; they may even fire you on the spot. No matter what happens, stay cool because everyone will be watching, and you never know through whom your next career opportunity will arise.

Rule #3: Construct A New Relationship

You have just survived the confrontation stage with your boss, and not only do you still have your job, you now have the responsibility of building a stronger relationship with them.

How do you build a stronger relationship with your boss?

To begin, you have to move beyond a serial engagement.

What do I mean by a serial engagement? In the past, did you only speak (to your boss) when spoken to, or when a specific situation arose that required their intervention or involvement? You can’t really build a relationship with your boss through a series of perfunctory transactions.

Beyond a mandatory review, when was the last time you sat down with your boss over a 15 to 20 minute cup of coffee and talked . . . really talked?

Bad Boss Relationship

If you can’t answer that question, then here are a few tips for establishing a better connection with your boss which, by the way, will inevitably lead to a greater understanding between the two of you:

  • Be proactive in terms of establishing a meaningful and productive relationship with your boss. We are all pressed for time, but that does not prevent us from grabbing a quick coffee to talk about what needs to be done and how. Ask about their perspective of where the business is going or any topic to tap into their personal viewpoint.
  • Find opportunities to socialize outside of work. This could be a team event or a dinner together when you are at an offsite meeting. Often getting a boss away from the business setting provides you with an opportunity to see a more personal and likeable side to them.
  • Recognize that it is lonely at the top. Most employees limit their interaction with the boss to focusing on something they deem to be a problem. This means that communication is usually a one-way street in which the boss becomes the repository for everything that is wrong with the company. While you shouldn’t ignore a problem, you should also be seen as a problem solver. Positive interactions build both confidence and trust.

In The End, You Really Are The Boss

The greatest problem with having a bad boss, is that you may have an overwhelming sense that you are powerless. Having to pay the bills and having the certainty of a regular paycheck is often the main reason behind this feeling. But ultimately, you will have to make the decision if you can do your job effectively despite the feelings you have for your boss. It’s better to come to terms with how you feel now rather than be so unhappy that your work suffers.

If you decide to find another job within the company or externally, manage your reputation by giving the best you have to your present role.

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Never let others define you! Remember, you are the boss of your own career, and captain of your future.

Wishing you continued success



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