Is a Bad Boss Getting You Down? This is what you do about it:
Bad bosses make great material for comedies like “The Office” but if you have a bad boss then you know that it’s no laughing matter. A bad boss could simply suck any joy from work, or in the worst case can leave you clinically depressed, looking for a new job. You see bad bosses come in many shapes and sizes but there is a universal truth about bad bosses and when you know this truth, then you don’t have to let a bad boss get you down anymore.
Now some bosses are bad bosses because they suffer from personality disorders. But even bosses with personality disorders don’t want to be bad bosses. Because being a bad boss is going to mean that they fail at work. The truth is that they are bad bosses because they simply don’t know how to be a good boss. And that gives you the key to fix a bad boss. You don’t have to rely on your boss doing what they are meant to do by taking ownership for doing it yourself.
If you think that sounds simplistic, then try the following thought experiment: Who in their right minds wants to be a bad boss? Only someone who is crazy, pure evil or trying to sabotage themselves would want to fail at being a good boss. The truth is they just don’t how how to be a good boss in an ethical way.
And the reason why they don’t know how is simple: hardly anyone actually gets trained how to be a manager.
Even perfectly nice people can turn bad when they are given all the responsibility of being a boss. They are expected to lead their team to produce great work but they don’t know how. And that’s what happens to “nice”, “well meaning” people, when someone with a borderline personality disorder is placed into a position of power, placed under stress and doesn’t know how to positively manage their employees, then this stress and confusion is just going to magnify their bad parts.
Of course sometimes you do have a truly flawed boss and your best option is to make a plan to get a better boss (aka change jobs). See this article to see if you really should find a different job.
But because most bosses aren’t trained, the chances are your new boss isn’t going to be the answer you really need. The simple answer is if your boss isn’t doing what they’re meant to, then instead of accepting this state of helplessness, you can take responsibility for making sure that your needs are met as I will show you below.
The only place you can turn frogs into princes is in fairytales. You’re not going to turn a bad boss into “World’s Best Boss” contender but you can do enough to turn the situation around. The things that bad bosses do that impact you and you can easily fix are:
- Bad bosses don’t give you a clear direction of what work to do
- Bad bosses don’t build functional relationships with their employees
- Bad bosses aren’t aware of the contribution you make and don’t give you credit for the work you do
- Bad bosses don’t let you know in a constructive manner about your blind spots and your career limiting mistakes
- Bad bosses don’t grow you and develop you
Instead of waiting for your boss to do the right thing, you can empower yourself by accepting responsibility for the above. Essentially if your boss doesn’t manage you then you can manage up. What you can do instead:
- Find out what your boss’s goals are and what your role is in achieving these goals,
- Invite your boss to One on One Meetings to build functional relationships, (Use this email invite),
- Give your boss status updates on what you’ve done and problems you’ve solved (in those one on one meetings with your boss),
- Solicit feedback and ensure that you are working on the right priorities by asking the right questions (See questions you must ask your boss)
- Find out what skills your boss wants you to develop and take responsibility for developing yourself (See 9 Ways to get your company to pay for your training)
In a perfect world you wouldn’t have to manage your boss but the truth about bad bosses is that they don’t know how to manage their employees. The temptation is to blame your bosses character flaws to explain why they are a weak manager but the truth is more mundane. That’s because the truth is no one showed them how to manage employees and they’re trying to hide their shortfall with bluster.
Leaving it up to your boss just leaves you helpless. It’s far more empowering to take control of your own destiny. And bosses love employees who take the initiative to get things done. This isn’t just for bad bosses, doing the above is going to help you have a happier and more successful career in any job.
Where to start: The best way to start managing up is in your One on One meetings with your boss. Because this is your best communication channel with your boss where you can do everything else. I have a free online guide for you to show you how to get the most from your one on one meetings with your boss and you can access it here. This includes:
Downloadable One on One Meeting form for employees
One on One Meeting Agenda
Questions you must ask your boss
9 Mistakes to avoid in One on One Meetings with your boss
Tips to get the most from your One on One Meetings with your Boss
Get all this and more in the Ultimate Guide to One on One Meetings with your boss (free, online course)