CAD Management: Dealing with a Horrible Boss

Christine Porath, author of The Cost of Bad Behavior, postulates that people usually try to get even with their bad bosses.  She states that 94 percent of people get even with managers or colleagues that exhibit bad behavior, but they choose a less violent route than evidenced in movies such as Horrible Bosses, The Devil Wears Prada, and 9 to 5.  She reports that only about 1 percent of employees react by physically attacking the instigator, but 17 percent have resorted to yelling, and 6 percent reported they have verbally threatened the offender.

Porath discovered, in her survey of about 1,000 employees and managers from a cross section of industries, that bad behavior (not necessarily pointed at bosses) resulted in the following:

• 48 percent intentionally decreased work effort.
• 47 percent  intentionally decreased time at work.
• 38 percent intentionally decreased work quality.
• 80 percent lost work time worrying about a negative incident.
• 63 percent lost time avoiding the offender.
• 66 percent said their performance declined.
• 78 percent said their commitment to the organization declined.
• 12 percent said they exited the organization as a result of uncivil treatment.

So how do you react when your boss intimidates, bullies, disrespects, frustrates, takes credit that you deserve, blames you for failures that is his, or overworks you?

What would you do to alleviate the problem of dealing with a boss who just does not play fair or treat you right?

These are tough questions that are answered in several ways as shown above. It is hard to continue to provide 100 percent or beyond when there are negative incentives to give so much.  It is hard to do your best when someone acts as if it is unacceptable.  What are you to do? 

Here are some ideas, some of which I’ve tried. Some have helped and others have made no change.  It depends on your situation and the personalities involved.

Just Talk to Them

Maybe you could just mention to your boss that he has been unfair, uncomplimentary, or overbearing.  It can be touchy to try, and if you fear for your stability and future employment don’t even go there.  But if you can talk and choose not to, then you may be missing the easiest route to repair.

You could start by talking about others instead of yourself. Mention to the boss that he was kind of harsh with “that person” or that your boss could be taken in a negative way by saying things in such a way.  Use phrases like “When you said this, it could make the employee feel like this.” This approach allows you to see the boss’s response and decide if they are open to discussion.  If your boss reacts well, then you may be able to come back and discuss your issues. If the boss reacts negatively to this approach, then you may get a gruff response if you bring up your issues.  Read your boss and see what he does and says in response.  Try it a couple of times over a few weeks, not just a one-shot attempt.

Bosses will most likely fall into one of three categories: 

A) they have no idea they are bad 
B) they know they are bad, but don’t know what to do about it 
C) they know they are bad and don’t  care

Assuming your boss falls into A or B, then you may be able to talk to them.  Avoid talking to those who might be a C.

When Talking Fails

If you cannot speak directly with your boss or if you have and nothing happens, then it may be time to take it up a level.  Talking to another person other than your direct supervisor can be a dangerous venture.  Unless your boss has created an obvious hostile environment or violated company policy, it can get dicey.  Only go over your boss’s head if you are ready to accept any consequence. You never know what might come of it.  I would suggest that you talk to HR before you go over your boss’s head.  Just venting to a third party can help.  They may advise you toward other efforts.

If you do go and talk to your boss’s boss or HR, give your conversation time to take effect.  If they were to talk with your boss about the issue, give your boss time to react.  It takes time to change behaviors.  You may also never know if others have talked to your boss.  It is not incumbent upon them to let you know what they have done on your behalf.

Change Your Attitude or Your Scenery

You could toughen up and just tolerate the situation.  I have seen many employees who have tolerated tough times and come out on the other side even more successful.  Bad bosses teach us lessons that we may never learn in a rosy environment.  If you can hold on longer, do it.  Never accept intolerant, hostile, or harassing environments that are protected by law, but see if you can get through another day, week, month, year, or more.  Your ability to get along with a boss that everyone knows is cranky will be noticed by others who hold the keys to your career future.

If your attempts to address the issues of an overbearing boss have no effect, consider a change of department.  Seek another position within your company. Try to get assigned to another team or project or department or division.  Many people swap jobs within an organization. 

If all else fails and you are not able to continue working in your current environment, then spruce up your resume and start looking for another job.  Maintain your devotion to the firm in the continuance of your best work efforts and start seeking opportunities elsewhere.  You should consider this if your boss has prevented or refused to give you promotions, limited your opportunities within the firm, or is overtly holding you back. 

There are no easy answers for dealing with a bad boss.  You can do something about it though—even if it means getting a thicker skin.

Appears in these Categories