Dealing with a Monster Boss

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They don’t need the excuse of Halloween to lurk malevolently in the hallways, scream bloody murder or just make you uneasy – at least as far as your career and job performance are concerned. They are Monster Bosses, and we’re all bound to encounter at least one in the course of our professional lives. If you feel you work for someone who loves to give harsh criticism, steals your ideas, passes the buck, or generally does things that make your workday unpleasant, you are not alone. In fact, a 2003 study revealed that one in three employees think they have extremely difficult bosses. The good news is that there is always a solution for dealing with sub-par superiors.

Two Breeds of Bad Bosses

Before you decide on a course of action, you first have to be clear on whether or not your boss is being deliberately difficult. As surprising as it may sound, many superiors are unaware of the adverse effect they have on their subordinates. They may be setting overly high standards or unreasonable deadlines thinking they’re challenging you to do better. You might feel they are micromanaging and breathing down your neck when they are really just – in their own way – trying to give you guidance and support. Conversely, some bosses think they are empowering you when in fact they leave you feeling abandoned and utterly lacking in direction. Another thing to consider is that your boss may simply not know how to be a boss. Many bosses rose to their position because of their outstanding job performance, only to flounder as managers. This can easily result in an overwhelmed boss who cannot effectively assert leadership or even credibility among his employees, who in turn start feeling helpless, resentful and demotivated. If this is the case, communicating your thoughts and needs may make your – and your boss’s – workdays better.

Then there’s the flipside. Some bosses are just simply, naturally or intentionally mean. They take the term ‘superior’ very literally and see bullying, intimidation and condescension as a means to keep their employees in line. This is particularly true in the cases of people who learned heavy-handedness from a former supervisor whom they view as successful. Cowed employees mean controlled employees, and to those who don’t know better, this translates to an efficient, tightly-run operation. Not all bad bosses are necessarily mean, however. Some simply disregard their employees’ best interests. Examples of this are supervisors who don’t stand up for their employees because they are hesitant to contradict or impose upon the management, or bosses who are so complacent that they refuse to entertain the notion of change – even positive ones. While you can try to address these problems by having a dialogue with your boss, he or she is probably already well aware of your dissatisfaction. Be ready to be objective and keep your emotions under tight rein.

Preparing to Move Forward, On or Out

Regardless of which type of boss you may have, having a bad boss is never good news. Below are some DOs and DON’Ts from career guru and advice columnist Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D. that you can follow to change your work situation for the better:

  • Don't expect your boss to change — or at least change overnight.
  • Don't simply try and block out all the bad behavior; doing so will impact your physical and mental well-being.
  • Don't think you are alone in having a bad boss; many of us have to deal with a bad boss at one time or another in our careers.
  • Don't sacrifice your health or self-esteem by staying in the job for the sake of a job.
  • Do evaluate your performance on the job and consider ways to improve your behavior, but don’t blame yourself for a bad boss.
  • Do find an outlet to vent your frustrations and anger, but don’t do it with co-workers.
  • Do watch for opportunities to transfer to another department within the company
  • Do use your network to keep abreast of better opportunities outside the company. And do have your resume up-to-date and ready to send out.
  • Do consider documenting all the bad behavior of your boss.
  • Do continue to document all your accomplishments.
  • Do consider quitting your job – even if you don’t have a new job lined up – if continuing to work for your bad boss is likely to permanently damage your career.
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