Help! I have a really bad boss.

Did you know that many of us spend around a third of our lives at work?

We all know that our boss has a huge impact on our working life, so it follows that bosses have a great effect on our lives and happiness in general. The ideal boss is competent, kind and earns and deserves the trust and respect of their employees. Bosses have the power to determine which tasks we take on at work, decide how much is expected of us and – of course – to ultimately fire us. Feeling under-appreciated, mistreated or bullied by a boss can leave you feeling weary, frustrated, unmotivated and most of all unhappy. It is no surprise therefore, that being faced with a bad boss is cited as one of the main reasons why employees leave their jobs. So what coping tactics can be employed when you are faced with a bad boss? How do you decide that enough is enough and it’s time to take action?

So you’ve just started to pick up on your boss’s behaviour. Perhaps he makes snide remarks or is unkind and critical regarding your efforts at work. Stay calm and take a moment to think. Have you been working hard recently and doing all that is expected of you? If the answer is no, then maybe it is you that needs to change your attitude. If it is a yes, however, then it sounds like your boss is out of line. Keep track of your achievements. Perhaps this is a temporary blip. Can you solve the problem by highlighting what you have done well recently? If you have only noticed your boss make a few unkind remarks, shining the light on how well you’ve been doing might do the trick. Maintain professionalism at all times. It may be tempting to respond to unkind words with more of the same, but this will do you absolutely no favours and there really is no need. Remember that you haven’t been doing anything wrong, so remaining professional and carrying on as you always do will stand you in the best stead should matters get worse. Pay attention to your boss’s behaviour. Should his jibes continue to the point that you feel that it’s more than a blip, it’s time to do something about it. The last thing you want is to let it slide so that your boss thinks that they can get away with treating you (and other employees) like this.

The next question to ask yourself is: Does he realise he’s bad? Think about what exactly it is that your boss does badly. Once you have identified exactly what the problems are, it is much easier to try to solve them. Let’s consider some examples.

The hands-off boss. When you approach a job raring to go and eager to learn, there’s nothing worse than feeling that your boss neglects to give you direction. This sort of bad boss may really be making an honest mistake. Perhaps they are just trying to give you space to learn and develop through your own experiences. If you feel that you need more from them however, take action ASAP. The majority of problems that bosses have with their PAs – and vice versa – are down to a lack of communication. Talk to your boss, but choose the time wisely. NEVER approach your boss to discuss a sensitive issue in a meeting, when he’s in a rush or in company. You want to have his full attention in a calm environment. Tell your boss what help and direction you need, but be careful not to criticise him. He’s much more likely to listen and make an effort to change if you keep the focus on you and your needs.

The bully. If your boss calls you names, intimidates or is critical, the chances are he knows exactly what he’s doing. As ever, stay professional. Focus on things that you know you do well – don’t let this bad boss knock your confidence. You deserve a boss who helps you grow in your job and creates a professional working environment. If this isn’t what you’re getting, remember that you are not the one in the wrong. Try talking to your boss. Even though this idea may be daunting, your boss deserves the opportunity to make changes before you take greater action or seek out his superior. If talking makes no difference, it may be time to talk to someone higher up. Be very careful here. Criticism of your boss could come across as criticism of his boss, so be objective and professional. This conversation could have a great effect on your future in the company – how you are considered by those in another department you could be transferred to, for example – so professionalism is an absolute must. The HR department might be able to give you a second opinion and help you plan what you are going to say. Your boss is likely to react badly to the news that you have gone to his boss, so make sure that you have exhausted all other options beforehand.

Hopefully taking action and talking things over with the right people should solve most problems with bad bosses, whether it leads to a change in their ways, or perhaps to you being transferred elsewhere. If you end up parting ways with your boss, don’t burn bridges. Be gracious and learn from this experience. Think about what exactly this boss did that made him bad and how it made you feel. You can take this information with you to learn from should you ever become a boss. Remember, you deserve to feel at ease at work, in an environment where your self esteem and competences are nurtured. If your boss doesn’t make you feel this way, then don’t just let it go!

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