Monday, November 10, 2014

How to deal with your boss

Nothing good can come from a yelling match:

Bad bosses - whether ogres, control freaks, jerks or bumbling fools - can be found in all organisations. They are no laughing matter when you have to face him or her every working day. Having a bad boss can make your work life a misery, but it can also make you sick, both physically and mentally.

Having worked for nearly four decades in the corporate sector, of which first half with a number of not-so-inspiring bosses including tyrants and hypocrites, and the other half as a boss myself, I’ve identified three types of bad bosses and also trade secrets of how to handle them.

Who are these three are the top “bad boss” characteristics:


This type of a boss plays an excessively large role in the work of the subordinates. Instead of letting the team members use their own judgment, the boss makes every decision or dictates every step to take. This can be especially frustrating to capable workers, turning an interesting task into boring work.


This type is on the other end of the spectrum. Unlike micromanager, they fail to give any directions at all. The subordinates feel that their boss is ignoring them. As a result, they feel that they have to guess what their bosses want.


A boss who gets angry and abuses his or her workers is probably the worst type of “bad boss.” By yelling at or otherwise belittling his or her employees, an abusive boss fosters an environment of fear. There is no excuse for this behaviour - yet abusive bosses can be found in all sorts of organisations

If you have one of these three types as your boss, it can really siphon out the enjoyment from what might otherwise be a rewarding career, and wondering whether you should begin searching for something new. Before you take that decision, let us see what you can do about it right now.

Managing the bad boss

Let me give you five tips.

Don’t act immediately. Maybe you will want to fight back. You may think of writing a blistering review of your boss and e-mailing it to the CEO. Those thoughts aren’t necessarily harmful. But thoughts don’t have to lead to action. Your boss may be small-minded, two-faced, spineless, and technically inept.

But would a dramatic gesture be worth the lost salary? Is it worth a hole in your résumé, the one you’ll find difficulty in explaining for years to come? This isn’t the economy to choose pride over practicality.

Play the game. You were been unfairly smeared. But don’t let it turn you sour or sloppy. And don’t let your boss get to you, either. Nod and smile when he delivers another self-serving sermon. Maintain a “can-do” attitude, like you have your dream job. Respect and defer, even when trust is lost. You’ll have to work with plenty of bad bosses over your career. You may as well start practising now.

Fix the micromanager. If your boss is a micromanager, first make sure that he or she isn’t merely responding to your own poor performance. If you have shown that you cannot perform good work without heavy-handed supervision, your boss may feel that he or she has to constantly look over your shoulder.

In that event, when a relatively unimportant assignment comes up, ask your boss to grant you additional responsibility “just this once.” If he or she agrees, put forth extraordinary effort to ensure that the project exceeds the expectations.

If your boss micromanages your entire team, you can be confident that it’s not just you. Your next step should be to sit down with your boss and talk about his or her overbearing supervision. It is not an easy task. You may fear that your boss will take your criticism as an attack or otherwise identify you as an “enemy.”

Don’t be scared. In my experience, this type of bosses often respond well to constructive criticism from their subordinates.

Clarification then and there

Many micromanagers have an underlying fear that something will go wrong if anyone is given managerial discretion. You can address this fear by frequently sharing information throughout the course of an assignment. Don’t wait for your boss to ask how things are going; instead, send a daily email with status reports and next steps. This helps reassure your boss that, in fact, everything is under control.

Fix the ‘neglecter’. To fix the ‘neglecter’ type’s problem, you’ll have to be very self-asserting to get your boss’s attention. If you receive an assignment with unclear goals, ask for clarification right then and there. Don’t leave your boss’s office or hang up the phone until you are satisfied that you know what you need to do.
During the course of the assignment, you should also communicate more frequently with your boss. For instance, if you send your boss a key email every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4 p.m., he or she will know that it’s important - and be more likely to respond to it.

If that doesn’t work, try to speak face­ to­ face with your boss about getting more direction.

Be specific about what you need and how your boss can be helpful.

Fix the yeller. The only way to deal with a yelling boss is not to take personally the fact that he or she regularly loses self-­ control. The boss’s unacceptable behaviour has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with his or her own problems, which you can’t fix.

Nevertheless, your behaviour may unwittingly push your boss’s “hot buttons” and trigger a stream of abuse. If you want to stick it out with such a boss, try to identify what those triggers are. Does your boss go ballistic if you arrive five minutes late or if your desk is slightly messy? If so, the simplest solution is to avoid behaviours that invite your boss’s wrath.

But this strategy won’t work if your boss plays the blame game and gets angry whenever an assignment turns sour. You can try to explain the key causes and suggest how you will address them in the future. You can try to brush off abusive behaviour with self-control.

Unfortunately, many abusive bosses know exactly what they’re doing. They’ll push and push until they meet resistance, at which point they’re likely to retreat. The only way to succeed with such a boss is to stand your ground.

Insist that your boss treats you with respect. Be specific about how his or her abusive behaviour is affecting your work and which particular actions are intolerable. But whatever you do, keep your cool; nothing good can come from a yelling match.

If you fail in your all remedies, there are a couple of alternatives. They come with no guarantees, but they may be worth considering.

The first is to wait it out. Bad bosses can be like bullies who eventually get tired of harassing people, particularly once they realise that it won’t get them anywhere.

A boss’s bad behaviour is visible to others, so hanging in there, without complaining, will be viewed positively. And over time, a bad boss may even self-destruct and lose credibility.

The second alternative is to seek other options, both inside and out. Use the situation as an opportunity to reassess your career, your work-life priorities, and how you define success. In the long run, the bad boss will liberate you to pursue another direction.

By Lionel Wijesiri - Sunday Observer