I Hate My Frigging Boss
I once worked in a packaged goods firm where the man I reported to, a married-with-children V.P. of marketing, was sleeping with our ad agency's equally married account executive. No big deal, right? Except that he would sometimes interrupt important meetings with me to call his illicit sweetie. ''Heh heh heh...Mark and I were just discussing our brand strategy...I can't wait to debrief you tonight,'' he'd prattle suggestively.
Seems to me it made him feel powerful holding me hostage like that. In any event, he would only approve my projects after some such display of his manhood. I myself was married with young kids at the time, and in greater debt than much of the Third World. So I chose to put up with his bull.
Of course, not all bad bosses deliberately torture their staff. Sometimes they're so self-absorbed that they haven't a clue of the damage they cause. Like the manager in that TV show The Office. Other times they're just behaving like spoiled, selfish brats. Think Dilbert's boss here. Then again, it could just be that they're going through a difficult period.
The Things Bad Bosses Do Whatever the reasons for bosses' bad tempers, some of the things they do can grate like the latest Paris Hilton newsflash. For example, bad bosses can:
- Steal your best ideas without giving you credit.
- Blame you for their mistakes.
- Measure you mainly on how early you show up and how late you leave.
- Go postal on you in front of others.
- Show blatant favouritism.
- Blab to you about the most boring detail of their personal life, then when it comes to hearing about your gravest work concerns, it's like they've blasted the volume on their iPod earphones.
How We Generally Respond What do most of us do when we're abused by our bosses? Most often we nothing at all--just as I did when my boss was dumping on me. I sat there with my tail between my legs and thanked goodness I had a salary coming in. The best I was able to do in response was allow a bitter rage to start festering within me. Not a particularly healthy reaction, but it did keep me from opening up my mouth and saying something that'd get me fired.
Other common reactions people have include losing it in private with their bosses, scuttling around with scarcely concealed contempt for them, gossiping in ways they hope will undermine their bosses' authority, and resorting to acts of displaced aggression--such as going home and kicking an innocent bystander (hide your puppies and fiancés when doing this, trust me).
Making Things Better Tempting as it might be to hogtie your boss and strap them naked to a garage door opener as Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda did in their 1980 movie 9 to 5, you're probably better off adopting one of the following approaches.
Sticking To The Facts Anytime you encounter a rough spot, it's a good idea to pull back from emotions and analyze factually. What exactly was it that set you off? How did the other person's behaviour or words make you feel? ''If you talk about the consequence, it will help make them realize why the behaviour is inappropriate,'' says Jocelyn Bérard managing director of DDI Canada, a human resource consultancy in Toronto. She adds that ''Your performance review is an excellent time to provide such feedback, as you should already be talking about how things could be improved at the company.''
Checking to See That You Aren't The Problem Ever known people who complain that no matter where they are or who they're with, it's always ''the other person'' who's at fault? Could be that the fault lies not in the stars, but within ourselves? If this is true in your case, here's how to cope with the following:
- Lack of assertiveness. Consider a course in assertiveness, which could help you speak up.
- Trouble with co-workers. Consider courses to improve people skills.
- Problem with authority. Find a job with minimal supervision or start your own business.
Then again, you might speak to your boss directly as long as he's not a Donald Trump wannabe who rejoices in uttering ''You're fired!'' at the drop of a hat. According to Rosner, ''Wait till your boss is in a good mood. Give specific examples rather than 'you always' statements. Listen to what he says (he may give you hints about how to prove your reliability so he doesn't feel the need to micromanage).'' And if things don't go your way, be ready to walk away from the brouhaha. Next time you make your approach, consider bringing the folks who side with you along.
Following Up Properly After all is said and done, you simply want to make sure that things improve at work. If conditions have taken a positive turn, so much the better. If not, ''[d]etermine whether a follow-up discussion will have any impact,'' says human resource specialist Susan M. Heathfield, whose advice can be found on About.com. ''Decide if you want to continue to confront the difficult person by yourself. Become a peacemaker. (Decide how badly you want to make peace with the other person and how much you want your current job. Determine whether you have experienced a pattern of support from your boss.)''
The Escalator Clause None of the above suggestions working? A bad boss left unchecked can wreak havoc on morale and performance--not to mention your career. Could be you'll need to discuss your circumstances with your HR department. Or go over your boss's head to look for support. Transferring to another department might be a possibility. Quitting could be too, though it should typically be considered only as a last resort.
As for biting your tongue, sometimes it really is the better way to get by. Keep in mind that change is constant in the agency world. No one lasts forever in any given position. If you can hold out long enough, you might just get a chance to burst into a chorus of ''ding, dong, the witch is dead'' as your boss is escorted to the elevators, never to darken your day again.
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