Everyone has people who rub them the wrong way—but when it’s your boss who gets under your skin, that’s especially difficult. Sadly, many of us have been there, either having bad bosses or simply bosses whose leadership styles we don’t care for.
When handled improperly, life with a bad boss can make your professional life a nightmare—but with the right strategies, you can successfully navigate an unpleasant workplace relationship without losing your cool.
Strategies for Dealing with a Bad Boss
Some guidelines to consider:
- Make sure you really do have a bad boss. Sometimes as employees we can miss the forest for the trees—singling in on the one thing a boss handles poorly while missing the many things that boss does well. Take a step back and try to spend a day or two simply observing your boss; how many things does he or she really seem to bungle, and how many does he or she excel at?
- Don’t take revenge on your boss. Sometimes the instinct is to work slowly or poorly just to enact a kind of vengeance on your boss—but that obviously isn’t going to help you advance in the company or cultivate meaningful relationships with your colleagues or other company leaders. Do what you can to not let your boss impact the quality of your work.
- Try to outthink your boss. If you’re dealing with a micromanager, it’s smart to think a few steps ahead and anticipate the requests or complaints you’re going to get. Think about your boss’s potential reaction to your work and try to minimize the things he or she could fuss about.
- Keep records. Keep a written record of your interactions with your boss—saving emails, in particular—so that if you ever catch the boss in a meaningful contradiction, you can prove it.
- Be patient. If you’re dealing with an intense conflict with your boss, the best solution is sometimes to wait things out—especially if your boss is having a tough month or is going through a lot of stress. Rather than force a confrontation, see if you can wait for a cooler, calmer moment.
- Study your boss’s triggers. Pay attention to the things that seem to set off anger or frustration—and be vigilant about avoiding them.
More than anything else: If you have a bad boss, you may need to step up and be a leader on your own—making key decisions and trying to work as smartly and as independently as possible.