It seems to be spreading these days: problems with ‘bad’ bosses who alienate, intimidate, confuse, or otherwise frustrate their subordinates—sometimes to the point of leaving the company altogether. Many of these poor leaders have been promoted up to their individual levels of incompetence—and left there with nowhere else to get promoted up the corporate ladder…and demotions are pretty rare.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins—career coach, author, radio show host, and Director of Career & Professional Development and Adjunct Faculty at Indiana University Maurer School of Law—has been fielding questions on this worrisome topic on her CBS radio show, Career Coach Caroline, and has some tips in case you find yourself the victim of one of these unsavory bosses:
- Take Control. Instead of leaving what is otherwise a good job, take control of how you operate in your work environment and how you communicate with your boss. Figure out your boss’s work and communication style and deliver your message accordingly. Most conflicts in the workplace stem from differences in personality, communication, and work styles. Understanding how your boss operates may alleviate some of your stress and give you and your boss better clarity of expectations.
- Manage Up. In many workplaces, the boss does not notice what their staff is doing unless something goes terribly wrong. If you are chugging away, producing great results, chances are your boss will focus more on his work since you don’t appear to need anything. While the autonomy may seem liberating, you may remain a well-kept secret if you don’t tell the powers that be what a great return on investment you are—and that will stunt your professional growth within the organization and beyond. Don’t wait for an annual performance review to showcase what you do well. Schedule a periodic check-in or send written updates documenting your results and initiatives.
- Set the Record Straight. Many naïve bosses simply don’t know what their team needs—so have a frank conversation with your boss and spell out what you need. Tell her what your purpose is on the team, your goals, and the culture you believe will enhance productivity. If you can clarify your aspirations for the future of your organization and be a solution provider, instead of a complainer, then your boss may learn from you and appreciate your leadership insight.
- Consider Moving On. This utopian concept doesn’t always work and sometimes bad bosses are just jerks. If your boss is beyond repair and you have an unhealthy work environment that prohibits you from doing your job successfully, you may want to consider moving on. Since you are much more employable while you still have a job, start a job search covertly. No matter how bad it gets, your bad boss is not worth being unemployed for, so stick it out until you find a non-toxic environment and let their shenanigans roll off your back.
- Don’t Diss Your Bad Boss. As tempting as it may be to announce to the social media masses what an [expletive] your boss is—take the high road and keep all communication professional. The network is small and you will need a recommendation from your current boss if you move on. Never throw your boss under the bus; develop talking points for why you are looking to move on. In many cases, a bad boss’s reputation is far reaching, so your potential new employer may already know. When you are on the job hunt be sure to interview your prospective bosses wisely. Don’t assume that your next boss will be better.
Caroline Dowd-Higginsis the author of the book, This Is Not the Career I Ordered and maintains a career reinvention blog. She is also the Director of Career & Professional Development and Adjunct Faculty at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. She hosts the national CBS Radio Show Career Coach Caroline on Tuesdays at 4pm Mountain.
This is Not the Career I Orderedis available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.
About this Examiner: Kathryn Marion is the award-winning author of GRADS: TAKE CHARGE of Your First Year After College!, the most comprehensive resource for navigating the world of work and independent living after graduation, as well as host of the book’s companion resource site, www.GradsTakeCharge.com. The print edition of GRADS: TAKE CHARGE is available through Amazon and other online booksellers. The e-book edition is available through e-junkie.
Kathryn also coaches students, graduates, and career changers as well as consults with small businesses and aspiring authors.
Follow her other Examiner columns:Job Search and Life After College. And even more articles on SelfGrowth.com.