By Bernice Alhassan.
Horrible bosses – they’re funny in movies, but they’re not so funny when they’re in the office, down the hall. Your output on the job is greatly determined by the kind of boss you have. While an amazing boss can make life easy and take the edge off even the most painfully boring task, a yucky boss can make even the most exciting task feel downright exhausting. Horrible bosses range from those who are just plain cruel, crazy and rude to those who won’t hesitate to call you at midnight about a presentation or expect you to just anticipate their every need without them having to communicate it. As a matter of fact, it is said that employees don’t leave bad jobs; often times it is bad bosses they leave. Unfortunately, most employees have had to put up with a less than ideal boss at one point of their careers or the other. So when your boss is crazy, cruel or just plain old incompetent, how do you cope?
Firstly, figure out what kind of crazy your boss is: Monica Wofford, author of “Make Difficult People Disappear” says conflict typically occurs when you’re dealing with someone who has a personality preference directly opposite from your own. She categorizes leaders into four management styles: the Commander, who is result oriented and wants to get stuff done; the Organizer, who is process oriented and wants to get it done right; the Relater, who is people focused and wants to get along; and the Entertainer, who is confident and charismatic and wants to be appreciated. For pointers on who you’re dealing with, Wofford explains that Commanders and Entertainers often use animated facial expressions and talk with their hands. Organizers and Relaters often listen more intently and take time to process and think through problems. Consider your manager’s motivations based on where they put the most emphasis, and try to meet their specific needs. If all they’re interested in is achieving performance metrics, focus your energies and conversations on getting results. This way you stand a chance of getting on their good side.
Next, be positive and keep an open mind: Sometimes, due to nasty previous experiences, you can find yourself hurriedly jumping into the defensive even when your boss isn’t in attacking mode. Be objective and positive in your workplace. Scan for the good and stop making yourself believe your boss doesn’t like you for sure. Give them a benefit of doubt cos it’s possible your manager is simply unaware of the effect of his or her actions. Go into each encounter with the assumption that they mean well, but are clumsy about interpersonal relations. Believe it or not, some of them are just not aware and this brings me to my next point.
Communicate with your boss appropriately. This involves speaking both about the job and about your feelings. Believe it or not, most managers appreciate honest feedback. So give yours the opportunity to address your concerns about problem behaviours sooner rather than later (when you are so frustrated that you are ready to leave the company). For the best result, choose the appropriate time and setting for this discussion. Don’t try to tackle “the talk” as your boss is dashing to a meeting, in a meeting or in the hallway in front of co-workers. Instead, schedule time on their calendar and pick a neutral location like a quiet conference room away from teammates and higher ups. As regards the job, consider when and how your boss likes to communicate in order to establish trust and rapport. Don’t give a long-winded diatribe if they want a bullet-pointed status update. If they bristle at pointed questions, try to connect more on a personal level and soften questions to ensure they don’t come off as critical. Meanwhile, always bear in mind that the manner in which you communicate, both verbally and with your body language should correspond with the boss’ style. Make eye contact and lean forward to show engagement, but try not to take an overly aggressive posture.
Sometimes, you just have to get thick-skinned: That’s it. There are certain times when you just have to train yourself to become impervious to your boss’s attitude or confrontations. The unfortunate truth is that the chances of getting stuck with a horrible boss at some point in your career are very high and if you have to react to every dart your boss throws at you, you’ll lose your sanity and peace of mind. Moreover, since you don’t have the option of firing your boss, the best thing to do is develop a coping mechanism. Here’s the trick: if you’re clear about your own purpose (what you want to achieve in your life and career) and your values (what you stand for), you’ll be better equipped to tolerate a horrible boss. Why? Because each time you experience irrational behaviour from your boss, you can ask yourself:
How important is this situation in the context of my overall purpose?
If I were to react according to my deeply held values, what would I do?
By using the two questions as a filter, you will pick only those battles that really need to be picked, and let go of the rest. In essence, you can choose to not let your boss’ every move upset you. After all, he/she won’t be your boss forever.
Move on if you have to. Sometimes you get to that point when the straw does break the Carmel’s back. You just have to realize when it’s time to move on. An employer’s habits won’t change overnight but if after many attempts to improve fail, it may be best to get on another train. As a matter of fact, in this present economy, whether you work with a stellar boss or a horrible one, you should always be preparing for your next career move. Don’t wait until you are out the door to lay the groundwork for your next job. Weigh up whether the effects on your health, your emotional state and your personal life are worth staying in the job for. Meanwhile, make sure that you are actively growing your network of connections, and that you are up to date as regards your area of specialization.
Your boss’ horrible behaviour shows how crucial it is to spend time thinking about your own big picture – what you want to do and how you want to achieve it. It’s a huge venture and thus requires an incredible amount of thought and introspection, but I guarantee it’s the best investment you’ll ever make. You’ll learn to channel your emotional energy toward positive and worthwhile outcomes – and you won’t repeat your boss’ mistakes when it’s your turn to lead.