If you could pick who you worked for, you’d have a great boss, someone who would mentor you, listen to you, and help you grow and develop in your career. And, of course, there are a lot of great bosses out there.
But there are also plenty of bad bosses, and those are the ones who make work miserable. There are all types of bad bosses. Your boss might be unqualified for their high-level position, a micromanager, a yeller, or a bully.
No matter what type of bad boss you have, you need to figure out how to manage the situation if you want to stay in your position. Here are our top tips for how to handle a bad boss, #likeaboss.
Get specific about what’s “bad”
It’s really easy to write somebody off as “bad” and use that as an excuse for our own underperformance or productivity. Take a few days to evaluate your boss, noting both the good and the bad. Be objective and specific. Write down concrete examples of bad behavior (such as yelling at a co-worker during a meeting or making a threat.)
This exercise will accomplish a few things. First, it will give you some insight into what is and is not in your boss’s control. For instance, your boss might genuinely want to hear new ideas from you and the rest of the team but have little to no control over implementing them. Ask questions when your boss tells you “no” without being combative to see if you can get a better understanding of what is at the root of the problem.
Additionally, identifying your boss’s weaknesses can help you develop a strategic plan. You might uncover an opportunity to step up and help your boss succeed while developing your own leadership skills.
Work around their weaknesses
Knowing your boss’s weaknesses can improve your work life drastically. If your boss is horribly unorganized, for instance, take the initiative to help with some simple organization tasks that can improve the team’s productivity. Make sure to frame your suggestions as a way to ease their workload and help the team.
Use positive language and focus on how your suggestion will make your boss’s life easier. No matter how inept your boss is, you don’t want to get combative, especially when you make a suggestion based on their weakness.
Take care of yourself
Dealing with a bully of a boss all day can make you want to go home and sink into the couch with a bottle of wine and a large extra cheese pizza. We get it. But it’s important to take care of your body. Exercising regularly will help your mind clear so you can focus on things besides your crummy workday. If you’re able to, schedule lunchtime workouts so you can get a mental break during the workday.
It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do to stay active. Just make sure to take care of yourself if you notice that your boss’s bad behavior is impacting your mental and physical well-being. Don’t let someone else’s bad behavior keep you from feeling your best when you aren’t at the office.
Take the high road
Don’t sink to the level of your boss, no matter how tempting it is. Remind yourself that your boss is only a part of your work life and doesn’t have the power to control your personal life. Maintain a positive attitude (even if it’s fake) and react calmly.
By doing this, you’ll set the example for your team and demonstrate that your boss doesn’t have the power to emotionally manipulate you. You’ll also make a good impression on other leaders within the company, which can be helpful when you decide to seek out a new position.
Talk to your HR department
When your boss’s bad behavior is severely impacting your ability to work, it’s time to talk to HR. This step can be intimidating, but it’s important if your boss is making you feel unsafe, threatened, or insecure. Be prepared to give specific examples of your boss’s behavior (see tip number one) along with an explanation of what you have done so far to try to improve the situation.
Because this conversation could make its way back to your boss, it’s important to only talk to HR after you have attempted to work things out with your boss or when you are prepared to leave the company (truly bad bosses won’t have a problem finding a reason to fire you).
Chances are, HR has dealt with a similar situation before, whether at this company or a previous one, and can give you some useful tips for how to proceed. Plus, there’s always the possibility that HR has already had other reports about your boss and is building a case for them.
Be ready to leave
We all have our breaking points. When you find yourself dreading going to work, focusing more on your boss’s behavior than your job, feeling stressed outside of work, and generally losing self-esteem and ambition, it’s time to start a new job search.
Do so discreetly and be prepared for your boss to ask you to leave immediately when you give notice instead of working for two weeks. Collect any contact information, writing samples, and personal belongings before giving your notice. Finally, tempting as it may be, never badmouth your boss during interviews or when talking to colleagues at your new company.