You’ve got a bad boss. Maybe it was a surprise — he seemed nice during the interview. Or maybe it was a gift from higher-up in the organization — she was brought in to replace your previous boss. Whatever the reason, now you’re stuck with a bad boss, and you have to do something.
There are basically three approaches to dealing with a bad boss: leave, get rid of the boss, or make the situation better. Here’s more information about each approach:
This seems like the most logical answer, but it’s actually the last alternative that you should consider. The unfortunate fact is that there are a lot of bad bosses out there, and you’re just as likely to leave one and end up working for another one. And it’s a shame to give up your knowledge and seniority in your position just because of this idiot you work for. And then there’s the current economy — jobs aren’t that easy to find these days.
Of course there’s more than one way to leave your current job. You can try to find another position in your current company — maybe something in another area that reports to someone else. That way you can broaden your experience base, continue with your company, and get away from your boss all at the same time.
And if your boss is just difficult to be around, then there are ways of “leaving” while staying in your current job. Telecommute as much as you can. Travel if it’s justified for your job. Spend time with customers. Do whatever it takes to decrease the amount of time that you actually have to spend face-to-face with your boss.
2. Get rid of the boss
This is the least common alternative, but I’ve had it work for me twice. There are two ways to get rid of the boss — well, two legal ones anyway. One is to get your boss a different job, and the other is to get your boss fired.
Getting your boss fired is the more difficult way unless your boss is doing something illegal. You have to somehow make your boss look really bad while making sure that the problem can’t be blamed on the employees. I don’t recommend this approach — it tends to backfire on you.
Getting your boss a different job is a bit counterintuitive. You have to make your bad boss look so good to upper management or an outside company that your boss is promoted or hired away. This is a much safer approach than getting your boss fired, and it can have huge benefits for you as well.
Think of it this way: In spite of your boss’s failures in his relationship with you, there’s probably something he does well. Maybe he was promoted into management from a “doer” position, and he was really best at being a super doer. Maybe he excels at independent thinking and strategy, but just has trouble with people skills. In either case you need to convince your boss that he needs to focus on what he does best, and that he needs to build on his true strengths. Work with your boss on a plan to highlight his skills and get him promoted or moved to a different position.
And if your boss doesn’t want to work with you on this, then do it anyway. Play up your boss’s true strengths every chance you get. Mention them to higher management whenever the occasion arises. Praise the things that your boss does well, and make him a good candidate for promotion.
Why does finding your boss a better job have huge benefits for you? Because you’ve turned your bad boss into someone who owes you a favor. If the boss doesn’t immediately get a new position then you’ve improved your relationship with your boss. And even if you’re caught trying this tactic then what can they say? “You shouldn’t try to make your boss look good?”
3. Make the situation better
The last alternative is more practical in most situations. First you have to understand that the bad relationship between you and your boss may have something to do with you. A relationship has two sides, and your behavior may be aggravating the problems between you and your boss.
The best way to improve your relationship with your boss is to try to put yourself in her shoes. Try to see things from her perspective: How is she being measured? What pressures is she under? What goals is she trying to achieve? If her organization isn’t achieving its goals, then her being rough on you may be her way of just trying to do her job.
Maybe her method of coping isn’t the best one, but to improve the situation you’ve got to ignore her methods for the moment and focus on the result she’s trying to achieve. If you help her achieve her goals, then you will change your position in her eyes from an adversary to an ally. And if you’re an ally then maybe you’ll be treated better.
So the best way to change your boss’s behavior toward you is to do the things that will help make your boss successful, and to make sure that your boss knows it. It will be hard for your boss to be harsh to someone who’s helping her, even if she’s a bad person at heart.
There’s also a bonus benefit to approach #3: If you help your boss become successful, then there’s a good chance that approach #3 will turn into approach #2.