You may tell yourself you should feel lucky to have a job — but it's tough if that job comes with a bad boss.
You may tell yourself you should feel lucky to have a job — but it’s tough if that job comes with a bad boss. Herewith, seven ideas for everyday coping:
Put everything in writing. It’s good business practice anyway — and if you have a bad boss, it’s essential. When you receive verbal instructions, summarize them in an email. Write and date progress reports, including the time of day. Confirm all deadlines.
Pick your moments. Study your boss’s patterns and you’ll find that some times of the day are better than others. If your boss is a grouch in the mornings, that’s when to steer clear. Does lunch put a smile on your boss’s face? If possible, schedule interactions for early afternoon.
Seek community support. Build strong ties with co-workers and with managers in other departments; just be careful not to say anything that your boss could use against you. Maintain a businesslike and above-reproach behavior at all times. Also, find someone discreet outside of work to confide in (and vent to).
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Keep your cool. Strive to look past your boss’s accusing, scolding, belittling or intimidating tone and respond only to the substance of what he or she says. And take care of yourself — eat right, get enough sleep, exercise, associate with smart and sane people.
Be a star performer. One clever way to manage a bad boss is to do great work. It’s hard(er) for a boss to attack you if you’re an unusually good employee.
Know your rights. If your boss’s behavior is illegal, you may get help from your company’s human resources people. But be sure to have documented the problem, be able to describe what steps you’ve taken to solve it, and know what you are asking for (transfer? severance package?). Remember that HR’s first loyalty is to the company, not to you. (Sorry.)
Consider that he or she might have something to teach you. A micromanager will improve your attention to detail. An incompetent supervisor will force you to work smarter. Plus, bad bosses are great examples of how not to act should you ever become a boss yourself.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at email@example.com.