In honor of National Boss's Day on October 16, we're taking some time to acknowledge and appreciate the great bosses who keep our work meaningful, our lives livable, and our economy in motion. And there are plenty of them out there. At least once, almost every working person has had a first-hand encounter with a world-class cool boss, the kind who helps employees launch their careers in a positive direction and who works to lift up their organizations at the same time. If you've had a boss like this, you may remember this person warmly for the rest of your life.
But not all bosses are great. Some are barely tolerable. And these difficult leaders of the pack are memorable in a different way. In fact, working under a difficult boss can actually hold back your growth, undermine your confidence, and send you into career stall that may take years to overcome. If you're working for one of these types, Boss's Day may not present much reason to celebrate.
And if this is the case, not giving thanks to the chief is the least of your problems. What you really should be focusing on is a way to cope with poor leadership, so here are some helpful suggestions:
Recognize the Problem
Hey, look at you! You're hiding in a bathroom stall, crying. Again. This time, it's because your boss insulted you in front of 10 other people. Or denied your PTO request so you have to miss your best friend's wedding. Or any number of other tyrannical behaviors delivered on the (implicit or explicit) grounds that you haven't shown the talent, skills, effort, or determination to earn his or her respect. Here's some news: You have a bad boss. Your talent, skills, and effort are not the problem. Your boss is the problem. Working harder won't fix this. Recognize what you're dealing with, and identify the true source of your unhappiness. Then you can look for a solution.
A Tough Boss and a Bad Boss are Not the Same
"But my boss is only trying to help me improve," you say. That may or may not be true. To find out, look back over the past few months. Do you actually know more about the business than you used to? Do you have more marketable skills that you can add to your resume? Are you a better leader, speaker, coder, writer, or administrator? Be honest. If you really are learning, stay on track and be patient with your manager. But if your skills are about the same, face the facts. You're not being coaxed along with hard love; you're just being abused.
If your boss is pulling your strings, cool down and close down. Practice your Mona Lisa smile and don't share feelings or information that can be used to manipulate you. Recognize that this is a work relationship, not a real relationship, and outside of the work you're being paid for, you don't owe your boss anything, including emotional honesty. Just do your job as well as you can between nine and five and then get out of there, so you can relax with the people in your life who matter.
Focus on Others
Your boss may be giving you a hard time, but who else is he or she potentially hurting? Underlings, interns, customers, shareholders? Make an effort to keep this destructive force contained. Your boss may be clueless, spacy, corrupt, out of touch, or actively malicious, but as long as you're working here, do your best to protect the company, its customers, and the people around you from harm. Sometimes our problems seem smaller when we turn the focus away from ourselves.
Get Ready for your Next Move
A few generations ago, an employee-boss relationship could easily go on for decades, but this isn't the case anymore, and worker-employer relationships now last an average of 2.5 years. If you truly can't stand your manager, don't let this experience undermine your ambition or sap the momentum from your career growth. Take action.
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