Most workers experience a bad boss at some point. Yours may be incompetent, mean, a micromanager, or even a nice person who is just overwhelmed.
It can actually be harder to deal with a bad boss who isn't a bad person; you're more likely to look the other way than you would if you truly dislike your supervisor. It's also less likely that a nice, but lousy boss will have attracted attention from human resources (HR) or bigger bosses, which does make your task harder.
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No matter what type of difficult boss you have, it's important to take action -- you don't have to suffer in silence. After you resist the most natural temptation, there are three steps to consider.
Don't be blunt
Scheduling a meeting to tell your boss "You're terrible" is unlikely to work. Nobody likes to be confronted and told they are awful, and doing that probably won't result in changed behavior. And while you might feel better in the short term having gotten things off your chest, you might actually hurt your standing in the longer run.
Once you've stamped out the urge to go ballistic, move on to these more constructive options:
1. Have a thoughtful conversation
If your boss is a raging jerk who does not care how other people feel, then you can skip this step. If, however, you have a caring supervisor who's not managing you well, schedule a meeting and bring up those concerns.
Be careful to frame your issues as being more about you: "I find I'm better at my job when I get regular feedback. Could we set a weekly appointment?" Don't be accusatory. Be collaborative and positive, and focus on finding mutually beneficial solutions.
2. Talk to human resources
When it's not worth talking with your boss, it's best to go to HR. Lay out your concerns in a professional way. Don't be vague. Give specific examples and be prepared to answer questions.
Make it clear if you think the working relationship is salvageable or if you feel harassed, abused, or in any sort of danger. Recognize that solutions could involve your boss finding out that you lodged a complaint and that a transfer could be a potential result.
3. Be willing to leave
Sometimes, no resolution is possible. That can be especially true if your bad boss is also the business' owner. In those cases, if you honestly feel that talking won't help, your best bet might be to find another job. That's not a cowardly if you explore the other reasonable options and deem them not viable.
Put yourself first
When you are in a bad situation, it's important to put your own needs first. You might stay in that situation because you need the paycheck or because you like the company and expect to eventually be able to move away from your boss.
In any case, put yourself first. Try to fix things if you believe that's possible, but don't suffer in silence. Management and HR might already know your boss has deficiencies and might be marveling that you aren't having any issues.
Speak up. Be your own strongest advocate and make sure you can go to work in a supportive environment working for competent, kind people. There are, of course, various degrees that apply to all of those conditions, but don't keep quiet if you find yourself working for a bad boss.
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