Creative Leadership

Do You Have a Bad Boss?

Sometimes, you find an article that so important to your readers, you have to post it.  Dennis Nishi wrote this piece in the Wall Street Journal and it’s worth repeating.  If you have a bad boss, you don’t have to ignore it.  Here’s a few good ideas for dealing with the issue.  At the end of the article, let me know if you have any other ideas:

A bad boss is the most common reason employees quit their jobs, according to staffing firm Robert Half International. And a survey of workers by the Workplace Bullying Institute, a nonprofit group that does research and training on the subject, conducted last year found that 27.5% of respondents reported that ill treatment by superiors got worse after the start of the financial crisis. You don’t have to suffer silently.

Here are ways to deal with a difficult boss without scuttling your career:

Cool down. If you’ve had a disagreement, sit on it for a couple of days, says Richard Hart, director at ProActive ReSolutions Inc., a Vancouver, Canada, company specializing in workplace conflict resolution. Do an honest self-assessment of your own work to determine whether you’re doing anything to cause the problem. Ask coworkers and personal friends for some outside perspective. “If you’re still thinking about it after two days, it’s probably important enough to require resolution,” he says. At that point, take the time to write down recent incidents of abuse, arguments and anything else that falls outside of a normal employee/management relationship. Be objective about your observations, since your notes may be used down the line if any actions are filed. Writing your thoughts down can also be cathartic.

Go to the source. Employment experts say talking with your boss is usually the best way to solve a problem. “Have a regular conversation and focus on the problem and not the incident,” Mr. Hart says. You might find the boss isn’t aware there is a problem. A recent study done at the University of Iowa showed bad behavior can often be enabled by supervisors who overlook abuse if the boss delivers results. “Whatever you do, don’t be confrontational,” he says. “Be ready for the fact that the conversation may not go well.”

Find allies. If it seems reasonable, consider talking to another manager within the organization who you trust. They may be able to approach the problem boss as a peer or offer perspective about the behavior that could temper the issue. Look for somebody who is respected by coworkers, who doesn’t play office politics and who understands the role that you and your department play in the company.

Seek outside help. If these tactics don’t work, seek guidance from the company human-resources department, says Rich Falcone, a labor attorney and partner with Payne & Fears LLP in Los Angeles and San Francisco. They may be able to give you very specific advice, but aren’t likely to be able to immediately solve the problem for you. Unless the HR person believes there’s a harassment or discrimination issue they’re legally bound to report, “they can keep the matter confidential and work with you,” Mr. Falcone says.

Grin and bear it. If it’s critical to your career to simply put up with the boss, try to make the best of the situation. Focus on doing your job well and minimizing conflict. Lean on your friends and family for empathy and support says Joel Mausner, a business psychologist at Irvington, N.Y.-based Workplace Psychology. “Find other ways to cope like taking up a new hobby or using relaxation techniques,” he says.

Walk away. If nothing else has helped, consider asking for a transfer to another department. “If you decide to quit, plan ahead,” or you could end up being traumatized by long-term unemployment, says Dr. Mausner. “You don’t want to quit precipitously since you can traumatize yourself even more by facing extended unemployment.”

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3 Comments

  1. Anytime your future success is dependent upon someone else changing their behavior pattern, you are in a tough spot.  Good advice above.  Do what you can, tough it out as long as you need to, if all else fails make a gracious but well-planned departure.  Also realize that you can learn a lot from a bad boss, and bad experiences can be the seed for future success.

  2. Accept, allow and receive…. and survive the day. People serving their country in the military can obey their commander in chief…. even as that person changes from election to election…. from radical left to radical right and everything in between, even from peace to war. The answer to most problems… is simply more maturity.

  3. Or you can listen to the country-western song that goes:
    “…take this job and shove it!
    I ain’t working here no more…”
    Put it in your iPod or play it in your car as you commute home every day.

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