Having a bad boss sucks. Believe me, I know- it’s the reason I became a freelancer. So do the vast majority of people working out there. It’s the #1 reason that people leave jobs- more so even than overworking, people decide to leave because they simply can’t take a bad boss anymore.
Having a bad boss doesn’t mean the end of the line, though. If you have a terrible manager that nobody can deal with, you have to “manage up”, or try and contain and refocus their bad qualities. It’s how many freelancers like me handle dealing with difficult clients- we manage them instead of allowing them to manage us.
So here are 7 tips for dealing with a bad boss!
1) Find out why they’re a bad boss
This one might seem obvious, but is there a reason they’re so terrible? Are they overworked, scared of losing their job, or afraid of their own incompetence? Putting yourself in your boss’ shoes is one of the first steps to finding out why they’re bad at what they do. Perhaps what you perceive as disorganized or laziness might actually be burnout or stress, and if you can figure out what’s causing them to be a bad boss you can figure out how to address it more easily.
Sometimes the solution to a bad boss scenario is just empathy- find out what they’re going through and see how to get at them that way. If you can allay or reassure their fears, it’s possible that will improve the situation greatly.
2) Don’t drag them down intentionally
It’s tempting to try and get away with the bare minimum when you have a bad boss, or covertly try and sabotage them whenever you can. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to be gained by this (except the very unlikely scenario where they get fired and a super competent person takes their place) and you’re better off supporting them.
That may sound strange, but it’s the truth. An incompetent manager will likely take you down with him if he starts to sink, and higher ups won’t appreciate it when they see your score card. If you can show you were performing well in spite of your manager, then you have a much better chance of weathering the inevitable storm!
3) Be a leader for your co-workers
This is easier said than done- but if a bad boss simply isn’t up to the task, than you have to be. You have to set yourself up as a rally point, as the leader your boss should have been. Stay calm, cool, and helpful at all times, and don’t complain about or gossip about your boss behind closed doors. This will not only raise morale, but will also put you in a much better light if the situation unfortunately comes down to a he-said she-said with the HR department.
Keep motivating your co-workers and leading them the way your boss should be doing, and it will make it easier to confront your boss when the time comes. Speaking of…
4) Let your boss know how you and others feel
This one is pretty straightforward, but most people never do it. They’re afraid of their boss and the reactions they might get, so they suffer in silence- when in fact it’s possible your boss may not even realize they’re being a bad boss!
Some bosses truly don’t realize that their managerial style isn’t working. Maybe they believe their rough, harsh approach is what motivates their employees, or that their laissez-faire management style is letting the employees perform optimally. Some of them never even begin to realize they might be wrong!
Take the time to craft a detailed, thoughtful, non-hostile email to air your grievances and concerns. Your boss might not take it well- but in fact many bosses are open to feedback and welcome it!
5) Document everything
A bad boss can sometimes be a devious boss as well. They’ll promise the moon and the stars to management, complain about their employees, and swear that they’re doing the best they can- when in reality they’re treating you poorly and completely failing in their duties as managers.
The fact of the matter is, however, you’re not in contact with his superiors- he is. And the side of the story they’ve been getting day in and day out is his, so when you show up with a complaint they’ll already have a pre-conceived notion in their minds of exactly where the problem lies.
That’s why it’s extremely important to document everything with a bad boss- every complaint you make should be via email, and every response they make should be documented and archived. That way, if things ever get intolerable and the case heads to HR, you’ll have records showing that his side of the story is nothing more than smoke and mirrors!
6) Don’t let yourself be intimidated
Of course, one of the worst types of bad boss is the cruel one. This kind of boss takes pleasure in the fear and submission of their employees- whether a shouting, ranting type of boss or one that is extremely dry, sarcastic, and vindictive. These bosses are on a power kick, and nothing you do is going to change that. They’re in it for the satisfaction of pushing you around.
Don’t let them. Keep your head held high and resist lowering yourself to their level. If the situation becomes intolerable, as it very well might, make sure to confront your boss with a list of grievances as in the step above- but always, always with a cool head. If this fails to resolve the problem, make sure to head straight to HR with your documentation. No one deserves to bear the brunt of someone like this!
7) Leave smartly
Sometimes, with a bad boss, there’s nothing you can do. You’ve tried all the steps above, and the situation is unlikely to ever resolve itself. The only option left to you is to up and get out- but you have to make sure that you’re not moving to somewhere that’s the same- or worse!
Make sure you do your research at any potential employers. Sometimes this can be harder than it sounds (for example, if the company is located far away or in a different state) but it’s definitely worth it if you can. Ask to meet your possible supervisor at their office and take note of the culture- including how happy their employees are or aren’t. Sometimes you can spot trouble before you land in it!
Those are some of the tips we’ve got for dealing with a bad boss. Do you have your own tips? Share them in the comments!