If you’re like most people, you’ve experienced a bad boss at one point or another. They may have even been your boss at some point.
You’ve probably had a lot of bad bosses throughout your life. Some of them were probably even good at their jobs. However, there are certain traits that all bad bosses share that can help you deal with them when they come up.
- Figure out your manager’s style and how you can adapt
- Recognize when it’s time to leave (especially if the situation is toxic)
- Identify Your Boss’ Motivation
- Stay One Step Ahead
- Stop Assuming They Know Everything
- Identify Triggers
- Avoid Future Bad Bosses
- Keep detailed records
- Remember, it's not forever
- How to Approach the Bad Boss Who Knows They're Bad
- YOUR BOSS ISN’T RESPECTFUL
- YOUR BOSS LACKS LEADERSHIP
- Don't gossip
Figure out your manager’s style and how you can adapt
Figure out your manager’s style and how you can adapt
It’s important to figure out how your manager likes to work. How he or she communicates, what their priorities are, and what gets on their nerves. Understanding their preferences will help you work with them effectively.
The goal is to get a better understanding of your manager. How does he or she think, feel and act? Is there something about your manager that could benefit from your input? Can you help your manager become more effective?
Recognize when it’s time to leave (especially if the situation is toxic)
Recognize when it’s time to leave your boss (especially if the situation is toxic with your boss) Many people stay in a toxic situation much too long. It is often not until the damage is done that they realize how bad it was. If you are in a toxic situation, you need to begin the process of finding a new job immediately. Don’t wait until everything is ruined. When you do finally decide to leave, it should be for good. There is no coming back from that. Make sure you have a solid plan to help you get yourself out of the situation. Figure out who you can trust and work with them to put the plan into action. You should also start looking for a new job right away. It is important to recognize toxicity when you are in it, because it can happen to you and it can happen quickly. The signs are there if you know what to look for: Signs of Toxicity
It’s never too early to prepare for a potential job transition. Start by asking yourself some questions. These may include: What are my career goals? How do I want to be perceived by future employers? How do I want to be perceived by others? What are the best companies for me in my career field? How do I want to spend my time on the job? Are there ways I can better contribute to the team? How do I want to spend my personal time outside of work?
Identify Your Boss’ Motivation
There are three primary motivators that affect almost every person: money, status, and recognition. These motivators often affect your boss as well. If he or she is motivated primarily by money, your job will be easy. You’ll know that if you make your boss happy (with good performance) he will do what is necessary to keep you happy (provide you with more money). However, if your boss is not primarily motivated by money, but rather by status and/or recognition, you will need to be more careful. Your job will be more difficult because you will have to understand his or her “core” motivations. Core motivations are the deep-rooted reasons why someone does something. They are usually more difficult to change than surface motivations such as money.
There are three primary motivators for human beings: money, status, and recognition.
Money: This is the most important motivator for business owners and executives. It explains why they do what they do (or don’t do) from day-to-day operations. It also explains why they make strategic decisions that affect the long-term viability of their business. Money is the lubricant that makes the machine of the organization run efficiently and smoothly.
Status: Status is important in any group of people and is especially important in an organization. Status is defined as “the favor or respect that is accorded to someone or something on account of some characteristic.” Status is critical to human nature. We all like to be around people who are higher in status than us. We strive to achieve status ourselves. In an organization, status is often conferred by position. A person with a high-status position will have more influence than someone with a low-status position. Influence is the ability to get others to do something. Someone with a high-status position will usually have a lot of influence because he or she is the one other people are most likely to do what he or she wants.
Recognition: This motivator is less important than the other two but is still very important. It is defined as “the knowledge that people possess of your existence, activities, and achievements.” Recognition is important because it gives us a sense of self-worth. We all like to know that people know about our efforts and acknowledge them. We like to feel like we are part of something important and worthwhile. In an organization, recognition comes from the position but also from accomplishment. If someone in a high-status position acknowledges and honors your efforts, this elevates your status and gives you a sense of satisfaction.
Stay One Step Ahead
Anticipating what your boss wants is not as simple as it might seem. Often, what he wants is simple. He just doesn’t know it yet. And often, what he wants is very complex. In fact, in some cases, his request may be impossible to fulfill. This is why it is so important to “read between the lines” when communicating with your boss. You don’t want to guess wrong. If you guess right, you will be able to avoid a lot of stress and headaches. If you guess wrong, you may find yourself in an untenable position, unable to respond or unable to satisfactorily explain why you can’t respond.
The key here is to find out what your boss really wants and then go ahead and give it to him (or her) without any argument. You can do this by paying attention to his (her) nonverbal cues. Pay attention to the tone of his (her) voice, the speed at which he (she) speaks, the degree of formality of the setting, and many other clues that reveal what he (she) is thinking. By understanding these signals, you will be able to anticipate his (her) needs and provide the “pre-requisites” that enable him (her) to feel good about the situation and give you the credit for the positive outcome.
Stop Assuming They Know Everything
It is important for junior members of an organization to remember that their bosses are human too. They make mistakes just like everyone else. Don’t be afraid to question your superiors if you have a concern about something – chances are they won’t even be aware of what you are talking about. And even if they are aware of it, they may not agree with you or may have a different point of view. Don’t let this discourage you though. Simply raising a concern and presenting an alternative point of view is often the best way to get your point across. You may surprise yourself at how receptive your superiors will be.
If your boss has anger management problems, identify what triggers her meltdowns and be extra militant about avoiding those.
“For example, if your editor flips when you misspell a source’s name, be sure to double and triple-check your notes. And if your boss starts foaming at the mouth if you arrive a moment after 8 AM, plan to get there at 7:45—Every. Single. Day.”
Avoid Future Bad Bosses
Avoid Future Bad Bosses When interviewing with a new company, do your research ahead of time to make sure you’re not getting into another situation with a less-than-ideal manager. There are many warning signs that can indicate you are working for an unethical person. However, even if you don’t have any obvious red flags, you may find yourself in an unpleasant situation if you are not on top of things. Know what questions to ask and what information to seek out ahead of time.
Keep detailed records
If you find yourself the target of inappropriate or abusive behavior from your boss, customers, clients, or anyone else, it can be very helpful in resolving the issue to have documentation of what was said and done. If the situation is not resolved, you may need to use this documentation later as evidence in a lawsuit or some other type of legal proceeding. In addition to this, having such documentation can help you if you ever need to defend yourself against similar allegations in the future.
Keep detailed notes of everything that was said and done. Write down when and where the comments were made. If you are asked to leave the room during a meeting, write down who told you to leave and why. If you are repeatedly ignored, take notes every time the offender says or does something rude or abusive. If you are offended, take notes immediately after the offensive comment or behavior and then, later on, re-read those notes and remind yourself of what the person said and did so you don’t have to rely on your memory. Over time, these notes will form a sort of “record of reality” that can be very useful if you need to defend yourself against similar accusations in the future.
Remember, it’s not forever
Remember, it’s not forever. For many toxic leaders, the lure of more power, prestige, and control means that they move positions frequently, so you may not need to deal with the toxicity for long. While you wait them out, focus on developing your skills and your network so you can find a new position if necessary. If nothing changes, you should seriously consider leaving. Toxicity is not something you should put up with for the good of your career. It is something you should only tolerate when there is no other choice.
How to Approach the Bad Boss Who Knows They’re Bad
It’s not easy to confront someone who is difficult to work with. Most of us try to avoid conflicts whenever possible. But sometimes avoidance isn’t an option. Maybe your boss is impossible to please. Maybe he makes unreasonable demands on a regular basis and expects you to jump through hoops that are simply absurd. Whatever the case may be, if you are forced to work with this person, it is important to understand why he is the way he is. Is he really bad? Or is there some understandable reasons for his behavior? Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter; you still have to deal with him. So, to get through this situation as efficiently as possible, it helps to know a little about the “psychology” of this type of person. What follows is a list of questions you can ask yourself (and hopefully, your colleagues) that can help you determine if your boss is a bad boss:
Is He or She Intransigent?
If someone is truly bad, he will be intractable. There is no reasoning with him. If you suggest an alternative approach, he will immediately tell you that he has already considered that option and rejected it. The only option left to you is to agree with him and go along to get along. That’s not the way to deal with a bad boss. Instead, confront this person with the facts and see if he will change. If he won’t, then you need to find another job.
Does He or She Have an Inability To Learn?
If so, there is little hope for this person. No matter how bad he is, he will always be able to learn something from someone who is willing to teach him. A bad boss who cannot learn is like a pig who cannot stop rooting in the mud: Eventually, he will foul his own nest.
Does He or She Have a Black-And-White Mind-Set?
If so, there is little hope for this person. You see, a black-and-white mindset is often a symptom of mental immaturity. People with black-and-white thinking cannot grasp the concept of shades of gray. Everything is either right or wrong, good or bad. There is no room for nuance. You can’t tell if your boss has a black-and-white mindset by looking at him; you have to examine his behavior and the environment in which he functions.
Is He or She Arrogant?
Arrogance is another symptom of immaturity. In fact, arrogance is often used as a defense against facing reality. This is true even in adults. For example, an arrogant person may say something like, “That’s not true. I don’t have a black-and-white mindset. Look, I’ll show you.” Or, “I’m not intractable. Just wait until you see how reasonable I am.” Or, “You can’t tell if I have a black-and-white mindset by looking at me. After all, I’m very reasonable.” These are all signs of mental immaturity. The adult equivalent of an adolescent with black-and-white thinking is someone who refuses to acknowledge that anything is more than 50% likely to happen.
Does He or She Have an Inability To Take Criticism?
If so, there is little hope for this person. No matter how bad he is, he will always be able to learn something from someone who is willing to teach him. A bad boss who cannot take criticism is like a pig who cannot stop rooting in the mud: Eventually, he will foul his own nest.
Does He or She Have a Pattern of Behavior That Repeats Itself Over And Over?
This person may change in the short term (i.e., when you are not present), but over the long term, there is a high probability that he will continue to behave in exactly the same way. If you examine his behavior over time, you will find patterns that repeat themselves. For example, if he has a bad habit of belittling and undermining people who do good work, then you can bet that he will continue that pattern when you are not around.
Is He or She Lazy?
Laziness is another symptom of immaturity. This person will try to avoid doing anything that requires effort. If he cannot avoid it, he will do it in such a half-assed way that it will take more effort to fix the problem than it would have taken to do it properly the first time. A bad boss who is also lazy is like a pig who cannot stop rooting in the mud: Eventually, he will foul his own nest.
YOUR BOSS ISN’T RESPECTFUL
We all crave respect, particularly these days when the pandemic has given us reason to doubt ourselves. We may not feel as centered as we once did. But our bosses aren’t going to change. In fact, they may not even care about your feelings. They need to be treated respectfully, but so do you.
You don’t have to like your boss, or agree with his or her policies, or even trust him or her. You just have to work with them. When you do, you have to be respectful of them and their needs.
If you can’t work with them, find a new job. If you can’t work in an office, work from home. And if you can’t work from home, make a list of what you need to get done. Then ask for help.
YOUR BOSS LACKS LEADERSHIP
Not every boss is a great leader. Some bosses are worse than others, but all of them suffer from the same malady – they lack true leadership ability. True leaders inspire people to perform at a higher level. They do this by setting challenging goals and by showing by example that such goals can be achieved. Unfortunately, most bosses simply don’t have the skill or inclination to do this.
What makes a person a good or bad leader? There are many characteristics, but one of the most important is a person’s capacity for self-awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. Most people are very poor judges of their own abilities. Take self-awareness as an indicator of a person’s overall character. The truly great leaders are always self-aware. They are aware of their blind spots and they are constantly working to improve themselves. Bad leaders cannot admit they are wrong. Worse, they often deny that there is anything wrong with them at all. Great leaders take responsibility for their actions and they learn from their mistakes. Bad leaders blame their failures on external factors such as circumstances, luck, or the actions of others.
Don’t Gossip About Your Bad Boss! When you gossip about your bad boss, you make his problems yours. And if he happens to hear about it, it will seriously damage your chances of getting ahead in life. You see, when a person finds out that you have talked about him behind his back, the natural reaction of almost any human being – including you – is to get even. This vengeful urge is very hard to overcome. But the good news is that most people (even those with a bad temper) will eventually forget about what you said. However, if your remark was truthful and if your boss did indeed treat you unfairly, then you will always be burdened by the knowledge of what you said. You will be reminded of it every time you are in a situation where you have to deal with him. This will cause unnecessary anxiety and stress for you. And you know what else? If you continue to gossip about your bad boss long after he has stopped paying attention to what you are saying, then you will seriously jeopardize your chances of getting ahead in life. You see, your boss will eventually realize that no matter how unfair he was to you, you will never stop talking about him. And when this happens, he will make it his business to prevent you from getting ahead in life. He will do whatever it takes – even if this means killing you – to keep you from achieving your goals.
I know how frustrating it can be when you work for someone who is not a good boss. You may have had a bad experience with a previous employer, or you may simply not like the way your current boss treats you.
Whatever the reason, you’re going to want to learn how to deal with a bad boss in the best way possible. And the only way to do that is to look at other people’s experiences and learn what they did to deal with a bad boss.
To help you, I’ve put together this list of effective ways to deal with a bad boss. You’ll find out how to deal with a bad boss by avoiding common mistakes and how to get your boss to change.