Who hasn’t experienced the terrible effect that a horrible boss can have on a work environment? There’s the boss who’s just a bully; the one who gets you to do all the work and then takes all the credit for your effort; and even the one who never seems to listen to anything you say - no matter how good the idea is. Is there something you can do about them?
Well, unfortunately you can’t help getting a bad boss, but there are ways to improve your situation. First off, if your boss is abusive in any way then you should make a complaint through your internal complaints handling process. No job is worth being abused and so you should seek help immediately. For all other horrible bosses the following tips can help:
I can’t stress this enough - communicate with your employer. Be open and clear about what you’re trying to say. Bad situations at work can often be avoided by simply communicating with your boss. In many cases it’s the lack of communication or the lack of effective communication that is the root cause of many situations.
I regularly report to superiors that are in completely different time zones to me. It’s important to make sure that they are aware of the work I’m doing and any issues that I’m having. Just as it is a boss’ job to supervise and delegate, it is also their job to offer guidance and assist where you help. Regular, constructive communication with your boss is imperative to building a quality professional relationship and making life at work easier. Although electronic communications are convenient, nothing can replace face to face conversation.
Clarify the vague one-liner
Ever had the boss who sends you an email and you have no idea what he’s on about even after reading over it several times? It’s a just a vague one-liner or doesn’t really explain what they want you to do. Don’t get frustrated, just understand that your boss is probably quite busy or possibly doesn’t understand the problem at all himself.
Ask for clarification, find out what other information he hasn’t given you. They may have thought you already aware of a project or some other piece of important information that your comprehension hinged upon. But be careful, asking questions in email can be taken the wrong way. Your boss may think you are questioning their intelligence. As we said before, clarification in person or over the phone can help.
Understand where your boss is coming from
Your boss is busy and they are almost certainly busy with many things of which you are probably not aware. Their job is to allocate you work and make sure that you’re capacity to get your job done is not affected by issues from upper management. They may even have their own horrible boss they have to deal with.
If you can understand where they are coming from and what problems they are facing themselves, then you’ll be better placed to deal with them. More importantly, if your boss can see that you understand the challenges they face then they will be more likely to confide in you and build that working relationship you need with them.
What to do if it just isn't working
Sometimes you’ll follow all these tips but you’ll find that your boss will still be unreasonable to work with. In those cases you have to find a way that you can work with them and if not - well, maybe then it’s time to dust off that resume. (You did read my article on getting a new job right?)
I once had a consultant on our team that I just couldn’t work with. He and I just had a clashing personalities and it was always a struggle. Eventually I spoke to my manager and after some concerted effort we were able to finally work out a way that he and I could still be productive but minimise any chance of conflict. I had noticed that he had a tendency to push my buttons when we were on the phone together, but when another person joined the conversation he was nothing but nice. So the solution we eventually settled on was to ensure that whenever I rang him I had a colleague listen in. It wasn’t ideal, but sometimes finding a compromise can benefit everyone involved. It certainly meant that my team was able to continue working to the best of our abilities and not be tied down with workplace issues.
Horrible bosses can happen from time to time, but as we’ve seen there are many ways to ameliorate the situation and enhance communication across the workplace.