You have Covid fears. The economy is weird. You’ve got sales goals to meet. On top of that you work for a bad boss. I’ve worked for great managers and some very, very terrible ones. I’ve survived them all. Here’s how you can survive if you have to work for a bad boss.
Set expectations early and meet them.
The best strategy to survive working for a bad boss is to avoid creating the toxic relationship in the first place. My strategy to create a survivable working relationship was to schedule a meeting with every one of my new bosses. I would ask them what they needed from me to make their work easier. I got their input on type and quantity of paperwork they expected and needed. Some managers like a lot of detail and others don’t like much at all.
It might not be enough to create a good working relationship with a new boss, but at least you’ve done what you could to avoid starting off on the wrong foot with a new boss.
Learn to set boundaries.
My first mistake with my first bad boss was to allow him to behave badly. Of course, I was stunned the first time this angry man started screaming (yes, screaming) at me. That was why I was initially too shocked to reply. He went on and on with his tirade over something I had no control over. I finally said, “Enough already.” He screamed back, “I’m not done.” Unfortunately for me, his tantrum continued.
My ultimate solution occurred months later in his office. At this second outburst I replied very calmly, “If you can’t talk in a civil tone, I don’t need to listen.” I had been practicing this statement for months as I drove and worked in my sales territory. He screamed back at me, “You can come back when you are less emotional.” I quickly replied, “I’ll come back when you are less emotional.” I got up and left his office.
What happened next? A week later he called me into his office. He then asked me to apologize. I told him I had nothing to apologize for. He then asked if we could forget it. I said yes. That year I got a raise and he never attacked me again. Learn to set boundaries early so you don’t have to deal with a bad boss.
Treat your terrible boss like a customer.
I’m not one to let stupid things go by. Of course you would never tell your boss his idea is stupid. But when some people make suggestions, some insecure managers think, “He or she is calling me stupid.” and then they push back more. The war starts.
My mistake was never to give my terrible boss credit for any of his good ideas. Yes, the good ones were infrequent, but I should have seized on those rare times to say a kind word. In fact, when I finally realized (after many months of my stomach churning) that I should say something nice to him, the relationship changed.
I was on the telephone and replied to this good idea, “That’s a great idea.” He was so shocked that I said something nice that there was silence on the other end of the phone. He finally said, “Thank you” and that was the beginning of the truce. I can’t say that I ever respected this manager, but at least it wasn’t war with each interaction.
You often find nice things to say to your customers. Look hard for nice things to say to your bad boss.
Some people just rub you the wrong way. I’ve worked for bosses with terrible tempers, bad judgement and poor communication skills. It is always helpful to try to prioritize what is important for your sanity when working for someone and try to ignore the rest. Try these strategies if you work for a bad boss. Remember, it’s not his stomach churning when you’re working, it’s yours. You can make it stop.