When the Boss is Bad

Research tells us that most people take a new job because they are interested in the work, or the workplace. They like the responsibilities, or the work environment and they feel it fits who they are and what they like to do. But, why do most people leave a job? Because of poor management.

A Gallup poll of more 1 million employed U.S. workers concluded that the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor. Working for a bad boss takes a toll. What activities do bad bosses engage in? Badbossology.com lists some of the common bad boss behaviors:

  • Bullying
  • Incompetence
  • Harassment and discrimination
  • Inadequate compensation
  • Not respecting your legal rights
  • Privacy invasion

Another recent survey about bullying in the workplace revealed that we don’t need to worry about this just on the playground and with schoolchildren – bullying is a very real problem in the workplace for adults also. Being bullied by someone in power who determines your salary increase or your bonus can be especially intimidating.

Are employees destined to suffer in silence, or get fed up and quit? Is there anything one can do if they find themselves working for the boss they hate? It’s definitely not easy, because of the power imbalance, but employees can influence their boss and their environment more than they might believe.

What are some steps to take if you have a boss that’s just plain bad?

1. Try to get into their shoes. Are they under a great deal of stress? Are they frustrated by something higher up in the organization? Is there a way for you to become an advocate, or a helper to them? Bosses are human too and may need your help. Take a minute to see if you can turn the tables at all.

2. Watch your “triggers.” It’s very difficult to work with someone who isn’t treating you fairly, but it’s important to figure out what about their behavior triggers you. Is it that you can’t stand to see people in power who are “jerks”? Is it that this boss is picking on you personally? Take some time to think about what impact the boss has on you and how it affects you. Then, having identified what these are, be aware of them “in the moment” and choose to respond differently.

3. Network within your company. Find other support systems, get to know new people, so that others in the organization know who you are and what you can do. When you are “known” to others for your contribution and your competency, the boss can’t hurt you as much and it may also open up other options down the road.

4. In a small company, network in a similar fashion but do it outside of the company with others in your industry. Spend time making connections and becoming known to others.

5. Look at behavioral differences. Do you and the boss have different ways you communicate? Is he or she a thinker, and you are a talker? Is he or she more forceful and you are more quiet and laid back? To the degree you can modify your style to become more like the boss, you will find communicating a bit easier and probably more effective. Listen to our podcasts on behavior style or go to our behavioral tools page for more on this.

Dealing with a bad boss is definitely difficult but don’t flee your workplace until you try to open up some other options and see if you can’t change the situation just a bit.