3 Bad Bosses Everyone Has at Some Point in Their Career
By Anne Holub
It's only a matter of time before you get a bad boss. You might have your dream job with your ideal employer, but a bad manager can make you zoom for the door. When that relationship starts to break down, it can lead to dissension, not only between you and your boss, but among your whole team. Instead of fearing that breakdown and chaos, here are ways to combat the bad bosses that are inevitable in your career. (Sorry.)
1. The Micromanager
A boss who leans over your shoulder is a bit of a cliché, but the metaphor is real in the workplace. When your boss can't let you alone to handle a project, or doesn't trust you to run a meeting, even when you've ostensibly been "put in charge" of either, then that's not a great sign. There can be ways out of this infuriating situation, however, and they all involve upping your communication game.
- Talk to your boss and see how they prefer to communicate and manage projects. Maybe if you can keep them up-to-date on your activities, they'll back off. On the other hand, they might be reacting to past experiences with someone in your position who dropped the ball. Or maybe it's a standard operating procedure for new hires and it will change in time. It pays to know, in any case.
- Put out there that you want your goals and objectives (short- and long-term) for your position. See if there is a consensus between you two that different methodologies could be used to get to those goals.
- Talk timetables. See if you can agree on what information can be passed between you two during regular updates and if they want in-person meetings or emails.
2. The Ghost Boss
When your manager takes the opposite role, they may be so indifferent to you or the rest of their staff, that you feel like you have no boss at all. So you're left adrift, with no career direction, no one to go to bat for you when times are tough, and no long-term advocate when it comes to advancement within the company.
What you don't want to do is go raise a stink to your boss' boss, or to other co-workers (even though they might be feeling the sting as well). There are likely already things going on behind the scenes that involve your boss and what you need to focus on is your own career.
- You can't necessarily get your boss to magically start caring or paying attention to you, and that's a real shame, but in the meantime you can look elsewhere for leadership. Try seeking out a mentor for advice and you might be able to circumvent this situation.
- Don't stop working as hard as you can. Sooner or later, chances are that your boss could be on their way out. Maybe they've checked out of their job because they know something is afoot. If you show how smart and capable you are, you might just find yourself in a new position before too long.
- If you feel like change isn't coming, then you might have to make some tracks yourself and start looking for a new gig.
3. The Schoolyard Bully
You'd think that once you're out of middle school, you could avoid bullies in your life, but they definitely exist in the workplace. They might be crude, abusive, subtle, or any number of types of jerk that can make your life miserable. This happens so often (sadly) that there are any number of studies and experts weighing in on how to deal with the situation:
- There are lots of people who have a LOT of things to say about how to deal with bullies, and much of it involves not confronting, not cowering, and not going to HR. At the same time, there's completely conflicting advice that says to talk to your boss, and to HR to help resolve the situation. A lot depends on the situation you're in.
- Almost every source on the topic says to document the abuse, so keeping a work journal is a really great idea. You might see a pattern emerge with the bullying (maybe it's a reaction from a bad interaction they have with a superior, for example). More importantly, you'll be covering your own tail if things get weird.
- You might just have to get yourself out of that bad situation. If the bullying just doesn't let up, you might be facing personal physical effects that can be really bad for you (high blood pressure, sleeplessness, etc.). Finding a new place to work might be the best thing you can do for yourself.