Surviving a Bad Boss: What to Do Next

According to survey results, most adult professional employees get along “well” or “fairly well” with their direct supervisors in the workplace. Most managers understand the basics of fair and respectful workplace interaction, and those who don’t are usually trained, coached, reassigned or terminated by their own direct supervisors. But every now and then, a bad boss manages to gain a foothold in the system and get away with corrupt or incompetent behavior year after year, and this can create a serious problem for this person’s direct reports. Short of quitting, which may not be an option, what should you do if you find out that you’re working for a bona fide terrible boss? Here are a few common bad boss characteristics and how to deal with each one.

The Boss Who Can’t See the Big Picture

Some bosses simply don’t have the best interests of the company in mind. They make foolish decisions that alienate customers, perpetuate inefficient processes, waste money and time, and drive the company into the ground. If you depend on this company for your livelihood, this can be hard to accept. But before you leap in to change things, watch out. Keep your arguments clear and compelling, and keep your change efforts visible and aboveboard. Don’t sneak around behind your boss’s back or go over her head, and don’t criticize or call him out in public. Be respectful and diplomatic as you work toward the greater good.

The Boss with a Personal Political Agenda

Your boss sees the company as a human chess board, and he’s determined to win the game even if he’s the only one playing. While the rest of you are focused on making money, he’s focused on politics, petty competition, vendettas and one-upmanship. If his hands aren’t on the wheel of the ship, recognize this and cultivate some self-sufficiency. In the meantime, don’t expect his moves (including orders and instructions) to seem relevant to the circumstances at hand.

The Climber

This boss sees her current situation (including her relationship with you) as temporary and fleeting. She has her eyes on the next goal or the next rung of the ladder, and she’s already living in the future. If you help her get where she’s going, you’re golden. If you stand in her way, watch out.

The Mean One

This boss actually seems to have it in for you for some reason. His actions toward you can only be described as cruel, biased, deliberate attempts to hold you back or cause you harm. Only one piece of advice works for this boss: Get out of there. If your company can’t rein him in, straighten him out, or get rid of him, then the company doesn’t deserve your talents.

Use Your Resume as Leverage

No matter how frustrated you become, keep in mind that your manager is a human being and is probably doing his or her best with limited resources. Be patient and don’t be afraid to communicate directly in order to get the things you need to do your job. If you’ve tried every option and you know that it’s time to head for the door, visit MPR for the resume and job search help you need in order to move on.