How to cope with a bad boss

Posted October 13, 2011, by Davide Crisante

Like death and taxes, it’s inevitable that you will have a bad boss at some stage of your career. Rather than treating work like a battleground or hiding in the toilet cubicle, there is an easier way to deal with bosses who are lazy, demanding, mean-spirited, sexist, racist, stingy or simply anally retentive.

Just follow these simple steps to manage your workplace and regain your sanity.

Improve your own behaviour

Before criticising your boss’s behaviour, make sure you’re not contributing to the problem. Don’t develop a reputation for under-performance, whingeing or backstabbing. If you’re working to the best of your ability, a bad boss will have less ammunition to fire at you each day.

Re-evaluate the boss’s behaviour

Remember nobody is perfect. Put your boss’s flaws into perspective and redefine the aspects of their bad behaviour. A finicky boss could be continuously striving for perfect results while a stingy boss might be trying to improve the total profit of the workplace.

Stay positive

A team is usually only as good as its captain, so be supportive and reinforce the positive aspects of your boss’s behaviour. A smile goes a long way, particularly when everyone is under pressure to perform. If you are a gracious, appreciative and proactive team member, you probably won’t incur the boss’s wrath. And remember – you won’t be working for this person forever.

Maintain your visibility

Never make yourself a high-profile target by publicly undermining the boss or flaunting your lack of respect. On the other hand, you can’t hide from bullying bosses forever so make sure everyone else in management and all your colleagues know how valuable you are. Dealing with your bad boss by being good at your job is a sure way to earn respect in the workplace.

Find out who can help you

You need to know your rights at work. Behaviour such as discrimination and harassment is illegal. If your boss is doing something like this, make sure to keep a record of everything that happens. You will need this evidence to back your claims if you make a formal complaint.

Talk about it

If you are willing to take the risk, discuss a particular situation with the boss that reflects the broader problem. Keep the meeting businesslike. Don’t get emotional or personal. You have a better chance of initiating change if you keep the focus on work and productivity. You could also speak to the human resources manager or a union representative. But be careful in your approach because this could lead to a whole set of new problems for you.

Davide Crisante

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