How To Deal With a Bad Boss

How To Deal With a Bad Boss

7 Options for Managing Up

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In This Post: How to Deal With a Bad Boss

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  •  Are you working for a bad boss?
  • 7 Keys to handling a difficult boss
  • What if none of these 7 options work for you in how to deal with a bad boss?

Are You Working For A Bad Boss?

Would you categorize your boss as one of these:

  • Micro-manager
  • Incompetent
  • Angry
  • Scattered
  • Passive aggressive
  • Asleep at the wheel
  • Oblivious
  • Plays favorites
  • Terrible advocate
  • Not strategic

I’ve worked for many of these types, and it can be incredibly frustrating, demotivating, and downright unacceptable at times. 

One of my bosses played favorites. It turns out he was having a relationship with one of his subordinates and, as you can imagine, he was not open to any feedback  when it involved any of her responsibilities.

Another boss would constantly forget important work he had on his plate, and constantly needed reminders and prompts. He often said his computer “lost his work” when we had important client deadlines, leaving me to try to pick up the pieces and pull our client proposals together at the last minute.

I’ve also had a boss who had anger management issues. I would wake up in fear each morning, wondering what angry text I might receive from her. It was always a guessing game as to whether I was being categorized as a “high performer” or a “deadbeat” on any given day. Usually, that label she gave me had nothing to do with what I had or had not accomplished, it was all about her mood of the day.

I’ve had other managers who were afraid of the CEO, and unable to successfully advocate for what was important to make us all successful. It was incredibly frustrating to work for a manager who couldn’t clear the roadblocks and obstacles, those that were preventing our success.

I should have kept a notebook with all the crazy corporate antics and drama.

This  poor leadership slowed down our revenue, the progress of our software to meet market demands, and our ability to service our customers in an excellent way.

And, if I’m being honest here (which I always strive to be), I know there were times when I wasn’t the best version of myself, and the best manager I could be. I let the exhaustion of office drama (and the circumstances like the affair my boss was having) weigh me down.

I was sometimes a micro-manager too, especially in the early days when I had less confidence. 😏🤔

Can you relate to any of this?

Having bad managers and poor leadership is very common.

The question is, what can YOU do about it?

Try some or all of these options, especially #7:

#1 Approach For Dealing With A Bad Manager – Consider You Might Be Wrong About Them

Option #1 for how to deal with a bad boss.

It’s possible that you could be wrong. They might not be a “bad manager”, they might be in a bad phase or buckling under some sort of pressure you don’t even see.

Consider whether you’ve become so jaded that the situation seems black and white. They’re bad. But, could the situation be gray? Are they really “bad”?

Think about what expectations you have for a manager.

Where do they fall short of these expectations?

Have you ever talked to them about the expectations and had an open dialogue? 

So many of my coaching clients (and I’ll admit I’ve done this too), sit stewing in frustration but never have a direct conversation with their manager about the working relationship and how it could be more effective.

#2 Approach For Dealing With A Bad Manager – Know You Won’t Change Them

Option #2 for how to deal with a bad boss.

You can help them to be successful, and support them as best as you can.

Know that the likelihood of you changing them is basically zero.

You can only change how you show up in this environment (and if you even want to)….

#3 Approach for Dealing With a Bad Boss –  Figure Out Their Motivation and Play to Those

Option #3 for how to deal with a bad boss.

Figure out your manager’s motivations and drivers behind their behavior:

  • Are they trying to get a promotion?
  • Are they struggling to establish their own credibility, and taking their frustration out on you?
  • Are they on the hot seat with the CEO, and allowing that pressure to be placed unproductively on their team?
  • Are they missing their target numbers and expectations?
  • Are they insecure or lacking confidence for their role?
  • Are they having personal challenges?

Ask a lot of questions of them.

Pick a “good time” to do this, don’t start probing when they’re in a frenzy. Find a quiet moment, or a time when you’re together on a business trip, and ask them for more background on what’s going on. Help them to understand that you’re  genuinely interested in helping them.

Know they’re human too and so much could be influencing their behavior. If you know what that is, you have a much greater chance of establishing a connection and trust with them. This connection and trust, will help you to partner with them to make you both successful.

After you understand their motivation(s) and the drivers behind their behavior, you can figure out how to 

  • Show them you’re an ally, interested in your mutual success
  • Show them you’re someone they can count on and confide in
  • Align the work you’re doing to what will help them the most
  • Possibly have more compassion that they’re not the “perfect” manager

#4  Approach for Dealing With A Bad Manager – Manage Your Own Mind

Option #4 for how to deal with a bad boss.

Watch your thoughts, feelings, actions and results.

Write all of this down at least once a day, as a method for unraveling what’s going on for you.

Start with a thought download, listing all the thoughts are you having about your manager. Then, look at those. Which are facts (can be proven and agreed to by everyone) and which are your thoughts.

You might be shocked that things you think are 100% facts (e.g. I have a bad boss) are actually your own thoughts. 

You can change your thoughts to thoughts that better serve you.

Let me give you an example.

You might be thinking “my boss is a micro-manager.” When you think that thought, you feel irritated. When you feel irritated, you get less work done and you complain about your boss to your co-workers. It turns out that you are getting less done and your manager will probably feel a greater need to micro-manage you. 

See that cycle?

You could change your thought to something simple like “I know what work I have to do and I’m going to do it.” From that thought, you dig in and feel focused. And when you feel focused, you get more work done, you don’t complain, and you have a greater chance of keeping your boss in a place where he’s not looking over your shoulder every time.

This doesn’t mean your manager won’t try to micro-manage you. He might try to micro-manage you regardless of what you do.

But, you can shift your thoughts to something more productive and away from the thoughts that are just making your work even more frustrating than it needs to be.

#5 Approach for Dealing With A Bad Manager – Develop Professional Relationships With An Internal Champion(s)

Option #5 for how to deal with a bad boss.

Another method for dealing with a situation where you feel you have a “bad manager,” is to branch out and make as many relationships as you can with internal champions. 

Be cautious here. You don’t want your boss to feel like you’re going over his head or trying to go around him.

With that said, if you can set yourself to develop other champions in the organization with people in HR, Finance, Legal, and other leaders, take advantage of those windows of opportunity. You can establish relationships when you’re working on cross-functional projects, on sales deals, on customer facing work, etc. Take every opportunity you can to show other leaders in the organization what you can do.

These are oftentimes the people who are on the committees that make decisions about salaries, promotions, important project assignments, etc. You want to have your name and work well-known.

#6 Approach for Dealing With A Bad Manager – Stay One Step Ahead & Over Deliver

Option #6 for how to deal with a bad boss.

Make sure you understand your objectives and then over-deliver on them. 

Stay one step ahead of your manager, anticipating what he will need and delivering it before he asks.

Take the extra 15 minutes to

  • provide an executive summary,
  • send an email that recaps a meeting,
  • warn your manager about a risk you’ve identified, along with a mitigation strategy,
  • send a status update, or
  • put a polishing touch on a deliverable. to make it look a little more professional.

These efforts make a difference.

#7 Approach for Dealing With A Bad Manager – Decide If You’re In Or You’re Out

Option #7 for how to deal with a bad boss.

Figure out if you want to stay.

This is very clear. You either want to stay and manage through this issue or you don’t.

Don’t allow yourself to get into the zone of indecision, and have that impact your attitude, your performance, your professional relationships, and your overall mood.

If you want to stay, own that decision and manage through the issues, keeping your eye on what matters the most for your role, and to your organization. Don’t fall into the trap of gossiping, complaining, and commiserating. It’s a waste of your time and energy. 

If you want to go, it’s imperative that you’re clear with yourself on your reasons. Are you hoping to outrun your problems?

Try this – work your damndest to make yourself happy in your current environment, and then decide if you want to stay or go from that place. 

(IMPORTANT caveat here: I’m not talking about situations that involve abuse or harassment. Don’t stick those out. Those should be reported to HR and handled accordingly.)

One of the biggest mistakes most of us make is thinking if we change our circumstances we’ll be happy, but really all that old baggage comes with us and we quickly realize it wasn’t all about the bad manager. It was our own baggage, and we can’t outrun that

What If You’ve Read This Post and Think None Of These Options Will Work?

I hope these 7 steps for how to deal with a bad boss are useful to you.

Read them with an open mind, and try them. 

If you feel you have a special scenario, I’d be happy to talk it over with you. Schedule a complimentary time with me on my calendar (click this link) and let’s dive into your situation.

Recap

The 7 methods to deal with a difficult boss are as follows:

  1. Consider You Might Be Wrong About Them
  2. Know You Can’ Change Them
  3. Figure Out Their Motivation
  4. Manage Your Own Mind
  5. Develop Professional Relationships with An Internal Champion(s)
  6. Stay One Step Ahead and Over Deliver
  7. Decide If You’re In Or You’re Out

Pick one or several to try out, to see if you are able to adjust working relationship to one that is more productive.

Did You Know?

I’m a success coach for working moms. I work with other moms to create and execute the mindset, strategies and routines that are required get out of survival mode and achieve your goals, both personally and professionally.

Think of it as a re-set for ambitious moms who want to maximize what they do, who they are, and all they impact, to make the most out of life.

The first step is to meet for half an hour to talk about your goals, obstacles and mini action plan. If you want to create your own mini action plan, here’s the link to schedule the free session on my calendar

I’ll coach you through building the plan and identifying your next steps. Then, we’ll talk for a few minutes at the end about what I do and if we might be good working together. I’m not a salesperson so don’t expect a sales call. I only accept clients who are a good fit.

This is time focused on you and your goals, and how to get to the next level. 

Related Links

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