It will come to pass, as it always has and forever will, that someday, in some place, you will find yourself at the mercy of a terrible problem.
Be fairly warned, this is a monster who can cripple your functionality, destroy your self-confidence and even wreck havoc with your personal relationships outside of the workplace.
Unfortunately, while this problem is unavoidable it can be managed and, in some cases, mitigated – but it cannot be cured. This is a terminal disease.
You see there is no antiviral remedy for the Bad Boss.
There is no chemotherapy for a malignant manager.
And no matter how much sleep and chicken noodle soup you get over the weekend, the professional malaise will continue on Monday. You’ll know you are in real trouble when the ticking sound from the 60 Minutes commercial-break clock fills you with dread and misery as a symbol of the impending workweek ahead.
You can, however, learn to recognize the signs of this illness early reduce the likelihood of a more severe situation with a little professional surgery.
Case in point, I once had a boss who was so malevolent and made my life so miserable, that each morning in the shower I would literally (yes, literally, not figuratively), heave until bile was the only thing being produced. It was a terrible situation and a career low-point. But, because we were fortunate enough to have an understanding spouse and good mentors, we got out of the situation, persevered and learned from it.
To borrow a distorted quote from Tolstoy via authors Katherine Crowley & Kathi Elster’s book, Working for You Isn’t Working for Me: “Good bosses are all alike. They are good mentors; they care about your happiness and advancement; their interests seem aligned with your own.”
In fact, we’ve found, after more than a decade in the professional arena, a Good Boss is directly correlated to a job you love (and inversely proportional to how badly you need a job). While bad days in the office will happen, a Good Boss can help encourage, praise and challenge you into a positive and productive day.
Remember, ultimately management is always about manipulation, but there effective and considerate ways to manipulate people and there are poor and ineffective ways to manipulate people. Personally, I’d rather be manipulated by praise, encouragement and challenges rather than fear, ridicule or embarrassment.
Bad Bosses, according to the authors, are like a hellishly twisted pint of Ben & Jerry’s, they come in all sorts of varieties; and not the tasty ones like Chunky Monkey or Chubby Hubby either, they come in Bitter Witch, Reckless Ridicule and Hate Maker (now with 12% more loathing).
The authors assert there is great diversity among Bad Bosses. There is the “checked out” boss, the “rule changer,” the “underminer,” and “the chronic critic.” There is also another variety of boss the authors don’t discuss, but should be on your radar, “the douche” – think the manager from the British version of The Office.
First of all, you should know, it’s almost impossible to beat a Bad Boss at their own game. You won’t be able to out-snark them and it’s unlikely to can trick them into quitting on their own.
Unfortunately, there is no way for you “turn them” into a Good Boss. This isn’t Star Wars; you aren’t Yoda and the Bad Boss doesn’t have any good left in them for you to ferret out (hopefully, they aren’t also your father).
As we mentioned before, there is no cure for any of these types of bosses, but there are ways to manage them:
- Ask yourself, is my boss really a Bad Boss or am I just ill suited for this type of work? It takes most of us a few attempts to figure out the “right” career.
- Work hard every day and continue to always try to do the best to your ability.
- Tactfully share your experiences with a colleague or another manager who might be able to offer you some insight or advice.
- Are there other teams or projects you might be able to work on? Is there an opportunity for you to avoid your Bad Bass but still keep your paycheck?
- Build your professional skills and make yourself more attractive to other employers. Use LinkedIn, polish your resume, find a career consultant, etc.
- Network with other professionals and get involved with organizations or consider working with a non-profit organization.
- Get physical exercise, spend time with a mentor, or contribute to a cause you really believe in.
- Write to us here at PDXSX, we’d be happy to give you some insight or advice that might apply to your specific situation.
But if you feel the situation has become a chronic illness, often manifested with a stomachache whenever your thoughts drift to work, it’s pretty obvious this relationship is causing more harm than it is worth. No amount of money is a worthwhile exchange for your health or soul.
Of course, since we don’t live in North Korea, as an employee, you always have the nuclear option: resign from your position and hit the bricks. Here is the classic format for a tactful resignation.
Just remember, when you land that next interview, this time, make sure to spend as much time interviewing your new potential boss, as they will spend interviewing you. Here are some questions to consider: clicky-clicky.