How to Deal with a Bad Boss
Most everyone deals with a bad boss at some point in their career. But whether the boss is demanding or simply incompetent, there are advantages to learning how to deal with a bad boss – instead of just quitting.
Many workers quit when faced with a horrible boss. A recent Robert Half survey of more than 2,800 American workers revealed that almost half of them (49%) have resigned from a job before because of a bad boss.
If things get awful enough, resigning and finding a new job is always an option. But before you jump ship, we recommend learning how to “manage up” and deal with a bad boss. In the long run, dealing with difficult bosses can build your character, teach you how to deal with difficult people, and develop essential strengths for the workplace.
Empire Resume will delve into dealing with a lousy boss, including what works, what doesn’t, and when bad-boss behavior crosses the line and becomes toxic.
Surprising Benefits of Bad Bosses
There’s an old adage that workers don’t leave companies – they leave bad bosses. This is mostly true, as multiple surveys over the years have shown one of the top reasons workers quit is because of a bad or unsupportive boss.
But you may be surprised to learn that having a bad boss at some point in your career has some advantages.
People who deal with bad bosses but work through it often become more self-reflective and self-aware. Instead of falling into a victim mindset, they start thinking about how they can better manage the situation and what they can and can’t control. For many people – especially young workers – it can help you develop maturity and professionalism in the workplace.
Other benefits of dealing with bad bosses include:
- Teaches you how to handle difficult people. No matter who you are, you will at some point have to deal with a difficult co-worker, customer, or boss. Learning how to do so is an excellent skill in your career and life in general, and it can further your maturity and development.
- Teaches you how to be a better boss. After dealing with a bad boss, you’re often taught what not to do when leading others. Later on in your career, you can use those lessons if you become a manager.
Take an Honest Look at the Situation
So, having a bad boss has surprising upsides. But when you’re in the thick of the stress and frustration, you’ll have to do something to manage.
The first step is to honestly evaluate the situation with your bad boss. Before blaming everything on the boss, look in the mirror and ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to improve the situation.
For example, are you meeting deadlines? Are you communicating well enough? Be honest, and if you think you share some of the blame, hold yourself accountable and try to improve.
After making some minor adjustments, you may be surprised at how well the relationship with a bad boss improves.
Don’t Let it Get You Down
Some bad bosses can be downright toxic, and it’s natural it’ll affect your attitude a little bit. However, try your best to always take the high road and be professional.
Don’t gossip or badmouth the lousy boss to co-workers. If you have to vent, do it professionally and discreetly, ideally with someone outside the company.
If things get bad enough, you can speak to HR. But until then, do the best you can and don’t waste time or energy thinking too much about your bad boss.
Talk to the Boss One on One
If the boss’s behavior is really bothering you, speak up. Talk to them in private and tell them your concerns, and have a polite and professional conversation.
Most of the time, your boss will appreciate the feedback and try to correct what they are doing. Getting your feelings out in the open is much better than talking behind their back or staying silent and becoming resentful.
Empathize and Understand Motivations
Try to understand your boss’s motivations and what drives them to do and behave the way they do. You’ll be surprised by the insights you gain into workplace psychology and office politics when dealing with a bad boss!
For example, your boss may be under a ton of pressure to meet goals and objectives, and they could be taking it out on you. While this isn’t necessarily fair, it can help you to not take things personally.
Reach out to a Career Mentor
You may eventually want to reach out to HR, but only if things get bad enough and the boss’s behavior becomes harassment. In the meantime, be careful about talking to other managers about the bad boss. Talking to someone else in the organization other than HR can backfire on you.
Speaking to friends and family about the bad boss can help, but an even better option is to talk with a career mentor or coach.
Career coaches can give you an outsider’s perspective of the situation and some valuable insights and tips you may not have thought of. Mentors or coaches are also safe bets to talk to, as you can vent and not worry about anything getting back to anyone at your company.
When Bad Bosses Go Too Far
Some bosses are unaware they’re bad, and, in some cases, a “bad boss” is purely subjective. You may think they’re bad, but others may disagree.
Bad bosses can run the gamut from micromanagers, those who are too hands-off and don’t provide enough feedback, and others who are simply overwhelmed. Usually, if you speak to a bad boss like this, they’ll be receptive to your input and try to improve.
However, there’s another category of lousy boss: bosses who know they’re toxic and think they can get away with it. Depending on your company’s culture, there could be bosses like this who bully and demean employees.
In most cases, resolving conflicts with these types of toxic bosses is a dead-end. They may know they’re wrong, and they may actually enjoy being a bad boss.
If you are being bullied or harassed by a bad boss, know that you don’t have to put up with that type of treatment. Report the boss to HR if their behavior doesn’t change after you talk to them.
If HR can’t resolve the situation and the boss remains a bully, it’s in your best interest to begin looking for a new job. Everyone has the right to a professional environment, and no one should be subjected to harassment at work.
Lessons Learned from Bad Bosses
Being managed by a bad boss is a challenging situation, but you can learn valuable lessons from it, given the right approach. At the very least, you can learn how to handle a difficult person until you’re able to get a new job or boss.
As we mentioned, some bad bosses don’t do it on purpose – they may be unaware of their flaws or simply inexperienced. Always try to work out the situation as best as you can in a professional manner.
If your boss is toxic, though, be prepared to talk to your HR department about them. Toxic bosses can make life miserable and, while you’re weathering the storm, consider therapy or talking to a career coach to sort things out.
Above all, remember that a bad boss isn’t a reflection on you. True, you should take an honest look at your part and be accountable. But if you’re doing the best you can and the situation still doesn’t improve, a bad boss’s behavior is a reflection on their character and not yours. So, don’t take it personally.
If your bad boss is making you consider a new job, reach out to Empire Resume today and let us craft you a resume that gets results.
Stay tuned to Empire Resume’s blog for more helpful insights on employment and careers, such as articles like How to Get Promoted, Signs of a Layoff, and What it’s Really Like to be a CEO.
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Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.