Once upon a time I had a manager. They could have been one of the greatest managers I had the pleasure of working with but when it came to people management they fell short, way short of my needs and the needs of the rest of our team.
Managing people is a tough job and unfortunately new managers and even seasoned managers don’t get the necessary training to equip them with the required skills to excel in this area. As a result the chances that you may encounter a bad boss are unfortunately quite high.
The good news is that they are the minority and as my father says with the right attitude and strategic plan, you can outlive a bad boss. Learning not only to manage downwards but also how to manage up is a great skill that will not only have you surviving, but also thriving under a challenging boss*.
So let’s get started.
- Remove the emotion from the picture – Emotions are great for cheering on your favorite sports team or welcoming a new munchkin to the family. They have no place when trying to deal with a challenging boss. Only a clear, level headed strategy and a defined set of tactics will improve your situation.
Don’t raise your voice; improve your argument
~ Desmond Tutu ~
- Be honest with yourself – Being objective when it comes to oneself is tough but you have to be as your personal brand is on the line. You have to take a moment and ask yourself a crucial question – Could you be contributing to the stress? Are you a part of the problem? If you are, take immediate steps to correct your behavior.
- Initiate a conversation – The definition of bad depends on your needs, your manager’s skills and the circumstances. Sometimes a manager may not know that they are bad so by initiating a conversation you both can get on the same page. Management is a lonely club and your boss is not a celestial being and may be going through stresses of his/her own, possibly caused by poor direction from the higher ups, being promoted too quickly, etc. and may be looking for a helping hand. Give them a chance to make things right. Scheduling a meeting may be especially tough for those who shy away from confrontations but it is a crucial step to improving your situation.
Your conversation with your boss should have the following four objectives:
- Get the manager’s opinion of the quality of your work
- Make it clear that you’re excited about your job and are highly invested in a successful working relationship
- Show that you’re willing to step up and do more and work on any weakness you may have and
- Ensure your manager knows what you need to be successful at your job.
In the meeting, be sure to actively listen to what you boss is saying and take notes to review later. Be open to what the boss says as it could be there honest perception of you. At the end of the meeting be sure to let your manager know that you would like to schedule a follow up meeting just to check on your progress. If the meeting does not go too well, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Do try again. You can put your boss on a 90-day plan so that you can say that you tried your best to resolve the situation before taking next steps.
- Have a follow up meeting – Change requires commitment and consistency, and if you only have one meeting with your boss they may think your are not serious about tackling the issue. The first meeting was to get both you and your boss on the same page and let your boss known that you are invested in creating a successful working relationship. Subsequent meetings are to monitor your progress and your bosses, and determine what needs to occur next to improve the working relationship.
- Support your bosses’ success – making your boss look good may not be what you want to hear but trust me on this. It goes a long way in laying a solid foundation for greater success for yourself and your personal brand. People are always watching and you can never lose by helping others do better. If your boss is a bad as you say they are, you wont have to do anything to make them look bad, they most likely will do a pretty good job of that all by themselves.
Support their success by helping them focus on their natural strengths and start working around their weaknesses. A disorganized boss will benefit from your excellent organization skills, a forgetful one will appreciate your passion for note taking, a boss who dislikes meetings will admire your penchant for volunteering to attend them on his/her behalf, a poor delegator can be encouraged to “share the wealth” when you request an assignment and kick it out of the park repeatedly. In short, let your boss know you have got their back.
If you feel you’ve run out of options for dealing with your manager, don’t go rumor mongering or bad-mouthing them. You have a personal brand to manage and such poor behavior says more about you than it does about your boss. Instead, follow proper procedures for registering complaints with Human Resources or with higher-level management, and make sure you are documenting each step of the way.
I recognize that your current financial circumstances may make it difficult to leave your current job but if your job is ruining your life, it’s not worth hanging onto.
Don’t undervalue your happiness. You will never be able to thrive where you are downright miserable!
Too often, the title of manager is doted out as a reward for tenure and connections, for solid performance that demonstrates no particular ability to deal with people.
~ Author Unknown ~
* Abusive behavior should not be tolerated at any time so get Human Resources and higher-level management involved immediately.