Disclaimer – I am not writing this out of personal need. My boss is terrific! However, on multiple occasions I have encountered people who have or have had “lemon” bosses. They did not have the luxury of taking the easy way out and quitting, but they were looking for advice. Since Workforce Solutions is about helping people “find a job, keep a job, or get a better job”, today’s blog is dedicated to those who need to keep that job, but must deal with some rotten fruit.
Inspect the Fruit
To begin with, determine if you really do have a bad boss. That might sound funny, but sometimes the problem is not the person, it is systemic. Does your supervisor have other options in actions or behaviors or are they just following company policy? Perhaps they have been going through a rough patch? Aside from yelling, cursing, or other obvious signs that the produce is wilting, Ten Habits of Incompetent Managers gives a good overview of how to spot a lemon.
Change the Recipe
You know the old saying, “What do you do if life (in this case work) hands you a lemon? Make lemonade.”
Let’s look at how to make some lemonade. There are many articles on the topic of working with / for challenging supervisors. There are even blogs with up to ten steps on how to deal with a bad boss. So, I will synthesize several and keep my list to three.
1) Supply Superior Service
Don’t let your work give cause for complaint. Admittedly, it is easier to work for someone who values what you do, but that is not your present reality. Work up to the standards you expect out of yourself. In fact, be a step ahead of what the boss wants.
Some articles suggest attempting to manage from under. They reason that the rest of the department will follow you and upper management will notice and reward you. Because this takes great finesse without causing other problems, I encourage you to be wise about doing it.
2) Pacify their Peeves
Determine what motivates your manager and what just pushes their buttons. Learn their triggers, and be sure to avoid them! Determine their particular problem spots, and when possible be the answer or solution to the problem. You could become the hero.
What are the manager’s interests? Sometimes those interests can be effectively used to distract them so you can accomplish your job. For example, let’s say that your boss loves the latest technology, research it and drop something in their lap about it. They are liable to rabbit chase on it all day, leaving you to peacefully complete your tasks.
3) Cover your Corners
You must resign yourself to the fact that the lemon may never change, so continued meetings with them initiated by you to discuss problems are fruitless. In the same breath, you need to remember that HR is not there as your friend or therapist; having multiple sessions with them will only make you look like a disgruntled employee. You should make sure to document everything though in case HR or even EEOC need to get involved at some point.
In the meantime, do not bad mouth your boss. I cannot say this enough! Even if other workers are trash-talking your manager, graciously change the subject or bow out of the conversation.
Early in my career “we” had decided to talk with upper management about a bad boss. The meeting was called and everyone (including the supervisor) was assembled. Do you know where this is going? It was in this meeting where I learned if you are going to take a stand, you may just be standing alone, and that is exactly what happened. Eventually, I was proven correct, but at the time it was a shock to this young person to have no support system.
Though you may feel like you are stuck in your situation, prepare your resume anyway. In fact, look first for ways to enhance your current job. If you begin looking at other positions (not on company time) you may find ways to target current responsibilities. In other words, plan an exit strategy.
There is not an easy way to handle your lemon of a boss, but it is my hope that this is just a seasonal fruit and you will soon have sweeter produce to work with. In the meantime, enjoy some lemonade. 🙂
Cheryl Sandifer is a Regional Facilitator with Workforce Solutions. In that role she has been able to apply her knowledge and experience as both an educator and social worker to conduct job search skills seminars throughout the Houston-Galveston area. She has had opportunity to work with those ranging from entry-level to C-level to help them find a job, keep a job, or get a better job.