Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to Manage A Bad Boss

Bad supervisors come in a variety of models. For example, there’s the Micromanager who nitpicks about the font size in your e-mails, there’s the Royal Pain who treats you like a personal assistant, there’s the Office Politician who takes credit for all your hard work, and there’s the Lead Grunt who was only promoted because of seniority and shoots down any attempt at change. When you manage a bad boss, it pays to know which model stands before you. No matter what the specific flaws are, bad bosses all have one thing in common: they can’t be ignored. Complying with your supervisor’s abusive behavior or working around incompetent decisions is tantamount to saying that these poor management techniques work on you, and it’s only a matter of time before this affects your health and self-esteem. Here are five tips to help you when you manage a bad boss.
Always keep your cool
No matter how frustrated you get when you have to manage a bad boss, it’s important that you remain calm and composed at all times. Getting angry in front of your employer or your colleagues makes you look like the bad guy, and it may affect your professional reputation. Keep in mind that people usually don’t realize that they’re being bad bosses; a simple, non-confrontational observation is often all that’s needed to make them reconsider their approach. If your supervisor is of the Royal Pain variety, try casually repeating his or her unreasonable request as if to confirm it: “You’d like me to find your daughter a camel for her birthday before six o’clock tonight?”
Dress your issues as business concerns
When you manage a bad boss and express your misgivings, treat the conversation like any other business meeting. In other words, keep the tone neutral and be solution-minded. Instead of complaining about what your supervisor is doing wrong, discuss management changes that can improve the department as a whole. Micromanagers are particularly receptive to this strategy because it allows them to feel like they’re still in control of everything. You should also avoid bringing up personal issues. Bad bosses, especially Lead Grunts, often have trouble with the notion that maintaining employee morale is part of their responsibilities. As a result, your complaints may be perceived as petulant.
Communicate in writing
When you manage a bad boss you'll be required you to always follow up any verbal agreement with an e-mail confirmation, and make sure to CC at least one other person in the company. In fact, if you have an important request or proposal to make, it’s best to do it entirely in writing, especially if your boss is an Office Politician. Since written communication is considered official record, your supervisor is more likely to pay attention to your comments. You’re also covering your ass in case anything goes wrong and your boss tries to blame you. Similarly, you should keep a private journal to record the date of every conflict or incident and detail the respective actions you and your supervisor have taken. This will come in handy if you need to make a formal complaint.
Keep the matter private
Discretion is paramount when you manage a bad boss. You absolutely do not want to confront your supervisor in public, as they will (Micromanagers in particular) go out of their way to put you back in your place if they feel that you’re trying to challenge their authority in front of coworkers. You should also avoid venting to your colleagues -- even if they seem to agree with you. The last thing you want is for your boss to find out what you really think of him through office gossip, which will turn a professional conflict into a personal one. By the same token, you should never denounce your boss to his supervisor. Remember that upper management is under no obligation to keep your complaint anonymous.
Don’t compromise your job performance
Don’t botch your work just to get back at your boss; it’s your professional reputation that you’d be throwing away. Ask yourself: If the conflict were to come to a head, would upper management be more likely to believe the person they trusted enough to make supervisor or an employee who has been slacking off these last few months? If you’re dealing with an Office Politician, it’s crucial you maintain a spotless record. Depending on how tense the situation has become, your boss may be looking for an excuse to get rid of you. If you’re having trouble staying motivated, get a more experienced employee to mentor you and expose you to new challenges. This person might even be in a position to shield you from some office politics.
Get up, stand up... for your rights
If all else fails, be prepared to discuss the issue with human resources (HR), though you may have to wait a while before you see results. Also, note that this should only be done as a last resort. Employees who keep coming back to HR are often branded as troublemakers. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should suffer in silence for the rest of your days. What people often forget is that staying in a toxic environment too long can be as damaging to your career as quitting on a whim, and it’s only a matter of time before your stressful office situation starts affecting your personal life. There’s nothing wrong with fighting for a better work environment as long as you do it with tact and forethought.