A recent survey of my readers reported that many of you work for people who fall along the spectrum of being Horrible Bosses. On one end, there are classic ‘Horrible Boss’ horror stories: a boss who is sexist or racist; a boss who takes all the credit; a boss who thinks you have no life & makes you work late every day; or a boss who is a pathological liar.
We love to make fun of bad bosses, from the Dilbert comics, Michael from “The Office,” to the officious boss of the movie “Office Space”… but bad bosses are no laughing matter when you have to face them every single working day.
But there is another kind of ‘Horrible Boss’. One exponentially more prevalent and damaging than bullies is the poor, mediocre or poorly trained manager. A US study found that almost 80 percent of the employees surveyed identified their boss as a lousy manager, and nearly 70 percent stated that their immediate superior had “no clue” what to do to become a good manager.
In my case, I had a boss with whom I was close and considered myself a trusted confidant. Over time, she went quiet, stopped sharing reasons for decisions and stopped responding. People were hired people onto the leadership team to which I belonged, whom I believed did not demonstrate the standards I expected of them. My performance began to slip, and my reactions to events were not always as professional as I either hoped or was expected of me.
In retrospect, all the signs pointed to the simple fact that I was nearing, or had gone past, my best-before date as far as she was concerned. I have never purported myself to be perfect in any regard. Still, in this case, I was dealing with a boss who was not providing me with precise and proper performance management or effective leadership.
What did I do? Well, to quote one of the best bands of all time, The Clash, I had to decide: “Should I stay or should I go now? If I go, there will be trouble, and if I stay, it will be double.”
I had to decide if it was time to stay or go … now … before someone decided for me!
I took control and managed my fate.
Are you dealing with a horrible boss?
Here are four actions you need to do to protect yourself, your professionalism and possibly your career.
1. Are You Right?
Have you carefully and honestly evaluated your actions and behaviour? How have you been doing your job? Have you always taken the high road, or have you been under-performing?
Hey, let’s be honest here: No one is as good as they think they are. You might be a horrible employee.
That said, you’re human, and the people closest to you will affect your performance, so try to focus on your work to see if that changes anything.
2. Keep A Journal
Start journaling your interactions with the boss. Don’t judge or write emotional reactions; document the facts of the situation and how your and your boss’ behaviour has impacted your performance.
Writing things out dispassionately allows you to articulate and evaluate the event with less emotion. You can then pick it apart to see what and where things went wrong.
A bonus of keeping a journal is for your protection in case things turn entirely pear-shaped. Your journal can support you in any settlement or package negotiations.
3. Be Careful About Complaining
I am not talking about illegalities or improprieties; if sexual harassment, fraud or anything wrong is going on, you must report it to someone. But sometimes, even being right can still get you fired.
I have a friend who was 100% correct in their assessment that their boss was a horrible boss. She regularly went over the boss’s head and complained, and it wasn’t long before she was shown out the door. The boss was eventually fired based on poor performance, which was little solace to my unemployed but morally correct friend.
In my experience, you seldom win a fight with your boss. Management will usually close ranks around their own, and you can’t win against such a formidable opponent. They, Management, will deal with that poor performing manager in their way, but they won’t lose collective face to you or anyone.
4. Don’t Sacrifice Your Health
The worst thing you can do is nothing. I hope the problems will be resolved. No job, boss, or company is worth losing your health, sanity, or self-esteem.
If you can’t find a way to resolve these issues and your boss will never change their behaviour, you should immediately start working your network and begin looking for a new job.
Try not to quit before you find a new job, but again, if work becomes too unbearable, you may need to consider leaving to save yourself.
Dealing with a horrible boss is similar to being in a destructive or failing personal relationship. Eventually, you have to decide … Should I Stay Or Should I Go…