It’s natural to want to trust your boss. After all, this is the person who has the power to either help you grow your career or to make your daily working life a living hell. We all wish for a boss worthy of our loyalty, respect and — ideally — admiration.
But perhaps you’re not there yet. Your current manager is lazy, incompetent, cowardly, inconsistent, perhaps even unethical.
Sadly, most of us get saddled with a “bad boss” at least once in our working lives. Until you move on, here are a few time-tested coping mechanisms.
Get closer. Your instinct may be to avoid all contact with a boss you can’t like or trust, but you’re much better off getting as much face time as possible. You’ll be in a position to head off small problems before they become big ones. You may even be able to influence your bad boss to be a better boss.
Keep good records. Documenting schedules, plans and decisions is just good business practice. When you have a boss who “forgets” promises, changes course for no apparent reason or who regularly pins his or her screw-ups on others, it becomes essential. Record the results of meetings and phone calls in emails, and distribute to relevant parties. Building a paper trail becomes even more vital if you suspect your boss of shady dealings. Ultimately, you may need to take the whole thing to HR or even higher.
Be above reproach. It’s human nature: When the leader sets a bad example, everyone else is tempted to lower his or her standards. Strive to resist this. Do honest work and be straightforward in how you deal with people. Adhering to a moral code you can be proud of will actually improve your morale.
Lean on loved ones. It takes energy to manage a problem boss. Don’t do it alone. Rely on the people in your life who lift you up.
Look for a new position. If you can’t switch employers at this time, at the very least continue networking and stay current in your field. Remember that you are the one who owns your career, and that your journey through bad-boss land is going to be just a blip in a long and successful working life.