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How to Deal with a Bad Boss

Your boss has an enormous influence over how you work and the quality of your work life. Sadly, bad bosses are a fact of working life. Forbes magazine recently reported that three out of four employees say that their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job. And another 65 percent of employees surveyed said that they would take a new boss over a pay raise. Wow.

While you can’t change a bad boss, you can change how you work with them, and there are strategies you can use to manage them so you can work better.

Here are the most common types of bad bosses and how to deal with them:

  1. The Micromanager.He or she is right over your shoulder all the time. They want to know and be involved in everything you do, and they try to manage your every move.

How to manage the micromanager: Most micromanagers overmanage because they think the work is incredibly detailed, difficult, new, or important; they don’t trust you; or they don’t trust that the work is getting or will get done properly.

So, the key to dealing with a micromanager is to preempt, preempt, preempt. If your boss is a micromanager you have to anticipate their questions and what they want and have the answers ready before they ask. Preempt them. Give them everything they want and more. Give them regular status updates on everything you are doing, even if you have to do it on a daily basis. You want to be one step ahead of the micromanager. 

Chances are, the micromanager’s behavior is a trust issue, so if you show them you have a firm handle on things and give them very detailed, very thorough updates and reports, they will back off. Micromanagers want to be in the loop, so give them what they want.

  1. The Hands-Off Supervisor.This is the opposite of the micromanager. They are completely hands off, offer little guidance or input, and you never see or hear from them until something has gone wrong. This can be great, unless you need guidance or something goes wrong (and something always goes wrong).

How to deal with the hands-off supervisor: You have to be proactive and ask for what you need. Give them regular updates even if they don’t ask for them. Get on their calendar to talk with them. You have to be proactive and get the attention you need.

  1. The Shouter.Ouch. The shouter. Drama kings and queens. They like to be loud and shout and emote. Everything is a drama or a crisis. You only have two choices here, and shouting back isn’t one of them—never shout back at a shouter.

How to deal with a shouter: Your first choice is to let it wash over you. Just take it with a grain of salt and move along. Your second choice is to ask politely that they communicate with you in a more normal, productive way.

I know that sounds like an impossible thing to do, but it can be done. It can be very effective to ask (they probably aren’t used to it), and it’s not a firing offense to ask for a calmer tone of voice. Don’t be rude or act outraged. Simply say,“You know, it doesn’t help me think clearly when you shout at me. Could we have this conversation in calmer tones?” or “I don’t hear very well when someone shouts. Could we discuss this without shouting?”

Basically, when it comes to a shouter you either have to suck it up or be bold and ask for calmer tones. 

  1. The Seemingly Unqualified.This is the boss who you can’t figure out how they got the job. They don’t seem to know what they are doing. They seem unqualified and incompetent. But if you spend all your time wondering how the heck she got the job, then you are going to miss how the heck she got the job, which is an important thing to learn in any workplace. She got that job for a reason; find out what it is.

How to deal with the seemingly unqualified: Be proactive in the relationship. Do what you need to do to clarify you work, be productive, and move forward. Give them updates and briefings, and cover his or her mistakes if you have to. Be sure to ay attention to the seemingly unqualified boss, because they got the job for a reason, and if you pay attention you may discover what it is. I promise you there is something you can learn from it.

  1. The Friend.This seems nice. Your boss is your friend. They want to have lunch with you, know about your family, be friends on Facebook, socialize on weekends and after work, etc. The problem here is that when things go bad they go reallybad. Coworkers may resent you. Your boss’s boss or colleagues may resent you. If he or she gets fired you may be painted with the same brush. So proceed with extreme caution if you have a boss who wants to be friends.

How to deal with the friend: They don’t know where the line is so you have to. Don’t overshare. Don’t accept every invitation to dinner or outings. Keep some personal distance.  It’s hard because it’s flattering when the boss wants to be your friend, but you must maintain a professional distance. Be friendly, but be careful that you don’t become besties. That rarely ends well.

You can’t change a bad boss, but you can control how you interact with them. Good luck!

Click here to see my segment on Difficult Bosses on News Channel 8! Visit our media page here to see more.

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