7 Ways to Survive a Bad Boss

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Monday, June 2, 2014
"Glengarry Glen Ross" (1992) / New Line Cinema

So you hate your boss. But who at one point didn't? But that doesn't mean you need to take the heat everyday. Most people will tell you to find another job, but that's an even riskier venture and you should always try to resolve an issue before making a radical change. If you have a bad boss and you're still employed, chances are you're probably not in as big a risk as you may think of losing said job. Instead, let's just focus on ways you can repair the damage and earn a better relationship with your boss.

1) Try stepping up your game.

Is it just your boss, or do other co-workers have complaints? If so, it might mean you need to step up your game, or you just might not be cut out for this line of work. If your boss is asking for extreme detail in your tasks, then you need to deliver, regardless if you know that it's superfluous to the task completion. Before considering that you have a bad boss, understand there's a difference between a bad person and a bad relationship with a person. Despite what you may think, it's often the latter, and you may need to make some changes in your work and attitude, even if it was never your fault. But if you hate your job on top of hating your boss, then it might be time to face the fact that what you actually need is a career change. If not, continue on!

2) Develop trust to stop micromanagement.

The reason bosses like to micromanage is usually because they take their job and business very seriously. So seriously that they don't trust anybody else to do it. They may have been exactly where you are, doing these tasks, or have had problems in the past with others mishandling these same tasks. If you are not good at these tasks, see the above paragraph. If you are, you need to develop trust in this situation. Find a time to sit down and chat with your boss, but not about his management style or the tasks, but their importance. Once the boss knows you think your job performance is important and you actually care that it gets done right, you might see a change. Ask for their advice on how to do it the way they want can't hurt. Even if you disagree, they should loosen up just believing that they've been heard and understood.

3) Work with them, not against them.

It feels great to undermine a bad boss, and you might even find it too easy to do, but it's not helping your relationship with them. If your boss thinks you're competing with them, they might be jealous of your talent, or insecure of their own ineptitude. You need to make sure they feel you're on their side. If they make a mistake, don't rub it in their face. Bring it to their attention in private, and ask whether or not that's what they intended. We all make mistakes, and you need to set the tone of how they should be handled. Throwing it in their face, in front of others, will only be seen as a challenge. One that you probably can't win. Also, try to be more humorous about these things. Positivity and humor are contagious, and if they see you're laughing and having fun with them despite the challenges, chances are they'll see you as less of a threat, and want to join in.

4) Do not gossip. Period.

In the workplace, gossiping can be a career killer, no matter how much you trust your co-workers. The fact is that a tense energy can be intuitively felt, and people just seem to know when they're being talked bad about. Just as much as you can assume, and often correctly, that someone doesn't like you. Guess what? So can your boss. Except they're in charge and have power and you don't. Stop the gossip, no matter how good it feels to vent. Channel it all in a more positive energy, and be the better person. If someone tries to pull you back into the hate-feed, just change the topic or even better: tell them of your boss' redeeming qualities. Now if that tidbit should ever make its way back to your boss, expect a promotion.

5) Prepare to go to war.

Is your boss a false-accuser? Eventually, we all deal with this $%!&@. They can't admit fault, and they always seem to find a reason to blame you. This is the most dangerous boss you can imagine, and you shouldn't take them lightly. Their lies begin small--and they may try to convince you that they're really on your side--but lying is a nasty, self-reinforcing habit that will soon threaten your job. Immediately, keep a record of all of your interactions. All of them: phone calls, texts, emails, conversations--everything--and document them neatly describing what they told you to do, why and at what time. This way, when you're called in for the big meeting to explain yourself in front of the higher-ups, you'll come to the table organized and ready to battle. Your boss will be caught off guard, and as you defend yourself, the boss' lying will become very apparent in front of the everyone.

6) Push back against a bully.

Steve Jobs may have inspired a change in computer technology, but he didn't do it without being labeled a tyrant. Bullies are people who really don't care about the feelings of others, they just care about getting what they want. They steal ideas, confine people from contributing their opinions, and even harass and belittle others. While these bosses are a nightmare to deal with, there's always a chance to get them on your side. With the utmost caution and pragmatic approach--no name calling, or accusations, but just straight facts--stand up for yourself, tell them like it is, or even take formal action against them. Just like a barking dog often backs down when you shout back at them; strength tends to respect strength. Once they see you are of a similar energy who won't compromise, their attacks will become less satisfying and they'll believe they've found an equal. An equal capable of helping them achieve what they want.

7) Be a leader when you need to be.

Sometimes your boss is, actually, just too nice. This is the rarest complaint, but it can seriously stifle your job performance and career. Most people would say they'd love a nice boss, but too nice of a boss is often passive and just there to please everyone else. This often results in poor disciple and poor initiative for everyone to get their work done on time and of superb quality. This can make the entire team look bad, and your boss won't be fighting to make your workplace any better, either. Need new software or new desk chairs for you to do your job easier? Forget about it. Too nice of a boss means they'll take "no" for an answer and let sleeping dogs lie. There's no easy solution for this bad boss, because we know they probably won't risk making any management changes you suggest to them, because playing it safe is at the center of their core. Instead, we suggest you find a way to become the boss. Assert yourself as an authority among your team, and don't be afraid to go directly to other departments without the assistance of your manager. Remain respectful at all times, and include them in on everything so there's no surprises. You'll get things done and other people will take notice of your strength and leadership.