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How to Manage Horrible Bosses

Is your work life becoming a nightmare because of your boss? Do you feel uninspired, undervalued, and helpless?

You could be one in the millions of employees currently suffering under the weak leadership of a terrible boss. Clearly, having a bad manager can have a huge impact both on employee productivity and engagement. However, quitting isn’t always the only option. If you like your team, the company, and the work you do, then stand up. Don’t stew in silence. Before you file that resignation letter, here are ways to manage different horrible bosses. 

Bad Bosses 

1. The horrible (for a reason) boss

Try to see the world as your boss does. Knowing what’s behind each of his actions may help you understand your boss better. What if he’s not really that bad and you’re just being too hard on him? If he is really ‘horrible’ then there might be something or someone causing this. When you know what frustrates him you’ll have a higher chance of delivering good results, managing expectations and avoiding failures. You can ask yourself these questions to better understand your boss: 

·         What is my boss scared of? 

·         What is the most important project he wants to be done ASAP? 

·         How does he measure performance? 

·         What annoys him and what does he like most? 

·         What triggers his meltdowns? 

·         What’s his preferred method of communication? 

After you’ve successfully answered these questions, try to view everything and everyone according to his mindset. Once you’ve adapted to his management style, you can ‘manage upwards’ by matching your work and efforts to what’s causing your boss the most problems. 

2. The incompetent boss

Perhaps your boss’ incompetence is what’s making you and the company in trouble.  When things go wrong, bosses often try to compensate for their lack of ability by taking it out on others. If you think you know how to solve the chaos, why not step up and help? Make the best out of the situation by assisting your boss, particularly if your skills complement your boss’s weaknesses! 

If you want to fix something, you must first understand what the problem is. A lack of technical skills? Poor time management? See what you can do to fix this. When you come to pitch how you can help, remember to compliment your boss and show how it will make them look good. Of course, you don’t want to undermine his position and authority, so keep him close whenever you make decisions. Be the one who makes your boss feel like he’s done well.

If all goes well you may be recognized for your work – someone else senior in your company will likely notice. If you helped your incompetent boss, he might even share his success with you. Remember to work with your boss, not against him, as this could impact your work and reputation.

3. The bully boss

Is your boss a bully?  Boss bullies love to yell, criticize, and judge their employees. If you have this kind of boss the best way to respond is to simply keep your head high. Bullies earn satisfaction when they see someone whimpering or showing fear. You will only fuel the fire if you choose to cower and look affected. It also won’t do any good to try and retaliate by working slower or purposely miss deadlines. Again, this will just impact your own reputation.

Keep your focus and work harder to prove him that you’re not someone he could bring down easily. For example, if he’s micromanaging, try to get things done before he even makes the request. If he’s insulting, keep your mouth shut and simply work best to your abilities. Even if you’re tempted to vent about his ways to other coworkers, you should keep those negative feelings to yourself.

However, if it comes to the point that your boss’ bullying is getting out of hand, you should not be afraid to call your boss on his behavior or report to HR. If you feel like you’re going to quit, there’s no harm in speaking up before it’s too late. 

4. The micromanager boss

Do you have a micromanager as a boss? A micromanager is someone who stands over your shoulder and dictates everything you have to do. They’re a control freak who has lots of ideas and is probably obsessed about working according to “plan” – and it’s driving you insane. A micromanager has likely had a bad experience with an employee and is doing everything (including annoying you) to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

The best way to deal with a micromanager is to mimic her micromanaging.  Give her a list of the things you plan to do for the day and ask her how she wants it done. Ask her how many times you have to send her an update. Ask her what time of the day should you send it. Your boss will learn to trust you and will finally tell you to do things your way. Of course, she might still be a micromanager to everyone but at least not to you. 

The bottom line

Nobody wants to work with a horrible boss. However, you must understand that not all bosses are intentionally bad. In many cases, they are only misbehaving because of issues at the company, their own failings or bad previous experiences. If you want your career to go well, you must learn how to deal with horrible bosses and start managing upwards. If all else fails, you might just be recognized by a better boss in your business or can leave with your reputation in tact.

Armela Escalona

Freelance blogger who writes about work, tech and productivity

6 min read

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