How To Handle Horrible Bosses



Feb. 12 2015, Published 2:30 a.m. ET

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As a career coach, I’ve had the chance to ask managers why they manage the way they do. Many didn’t have good role models and are repeating bad behavior they experienced in their own careers. Others need to brush up on basic people skills and find ways to encourage and galvanize the team to work more effectively.

If you google managers, you’ll find they have pretty distinguished bios and accomplishments. They dress the part and are charismatic during your interview. However, after you start to work with them, you find they have become your biggest nightmare.

Are these horrible bosses familiar to you?

  • The Bully screams and berates employees in front of everyone and makes you think the same treatment could happen to you. So, you don’t want to put yourself out there!
  • The Insomniac sends emails at all hours of the night with the demand for an immediate response, especially at 4:00 a.m. when he/she can’t sleep and needs your input.
  • The Hoarder only shares information on a need-to-know basis then doesn’t understand why key pieces of the project are missing or incomplete. You always feel like you’re working with one or both hands tied behind your back.
  • The Blamer doesn’t respond to emails, answer questions or attend follow-up meetings, but hangs you out to dry when the project fails, saying you had all the information necessary to get the job done. The work wasn’t properly managed, and you get the blame!
  • The Micromanager starts every sentence with “did you?” Did you call the client; arrange the lunch; check the figures; make sure the presentation is ready? You might develop a severe case of self-doubt if your boss repeatedly questions your ability to do your job. Way to promote confidence and ownership of the work, right? Not! This boss just doesn’t know how to delegate.
  • The Grinch does not believe in giving praise or encouragement for work done by others. “Thank you” is not part of his/her vocabulary thus undermining the team’s loyalty and morale.

I could describe many more horrible bosses, but you get the idea. So, let’s look at some strategies that can help you survive.

Taking a breath and taking steps to build a better working relationship — especially if you know you are doing good work – can help you develop key skills for problem solving. Set a time to talk with your boss. You might start by saying, “I sense a lot of tension here. What can I do to make things better?” Ask for specifics, so you can understand his/her expectations. Seek constructive feedback by asking, “How can I improve my performance?”

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If your boss is not responsive to your effort, don’t be afraid to reach out to HR for assistance or guidance. A good HR person can often help you and your boss reach a more positive outcome in a difficult situation. Remember, bosses frequently have the jobs they do because of their innovative ideas and relationships with clients, but not everyone is cut out to be a manager.

What’s important in encounters with horrible bosses is to take a step back and ask yourself what’s going on here. No, it’s not your job to psychoanalyze what’s happening in your manager’s life that impacts his/her behavior at work. But, you do need to keep in mind that everything is not about you and there may be other things in play.

You’re not always going to connect with everyone you work with, and it’s especially challenging when you don’t mesh well with your boss. That doesn’t mean you can’t work out an approach that produces a positive outcome for everyone.

YOU CAN WIN THE DAY! Just know that you’re going to encounter one or more of these bosses, so how you handle it in the early stages of your career will serve you well later when you become the boss.

Ambition Delivered.

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