Boss From Hell

In this tough economy, more of us are - at least for now - locked into our jobs, for better or worse. And what can be worse that having a bad boss? Our boss is the single greatest determinant of happiness at work and the person who most affects our ability to balance work and life. A bad boss can make you sick, and likely you will take frustrations home and anyone living with you will suffer, too.

If you haven't heard, the recession has exacerbated the bad boss problem because a drop in head count has thrown underqualified bosses into the job and at the same time more bosses are worried about their futures. Studies show bosses who feel insecure or who are in over their heads are more likely to bully their subordinates.

So how do you survive a criticiser, a yeller or power-hungry boss without having a mental breakdown? And how do you speak up to the boss to get the accommodations you need or some of the work taken off your plate at a time when job security is a real concern?

Here are some tips on how to cope with a bad boss, or improve a relationship in these difficult economic times:

• Confront the situation. Most of us, unsure of the best way to handle a difficult boss and fearful of losing our jobs, avoid contact or stay silent during meetings. Bob Nelson, author and motivational expert, suggests employees do the opposite. Instead of avoiding your boss, ask to meet with him or her and talk about a problem in a positive way to come up with a solution together.

• Compliment the boss. Is there anything he or she does worthy of a thank you?

• Counteract overload. When the head count has been cut and the boss piles work on you, resentment may strain your relationship. Doug Arms, chief talent officer of Ajilon Professional Staffing, suggests that instead of taking on work and complaining to whoever will listen, calmly show the boss what you already are working on now and ask him to tell you what's most important to get done.

• Don't take the bait. Counteract your desire to cringe, huff or smirk when the boss is condescending or rude. Author Aubrey Daniels says the better approach is no reaction. He suggests perfecting a blank stare, devoid of any tense body language. "Not reacting is doing something. It's decreasing the behaviour as it relates to you."

• Create your own positive environment. When you can't stop thinking about your boss' mixed messages, micro-managing and condescending tone of voice, refocus. Instead of complaining and make disparaging remarks about the boss, create a positive environment by turning to peers for positive reinforcement.

• Get your needs met. We all have our horror stories about the boss who called us while we were in labour or refused to let us leave early to take a sick elderly parent to the doctor. But there are ways to get what you want, even in these unstable times.

• Think twice about going above the boss. When interactions between you and the boss are strained and you view your boss with disgust, taking your complaints to the next level is risky, even in good economic times. Experts advise against it unless your boss is doing something illegal or immoral.
(AAP Image/Alan Porritt)

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