I started working when I was 15 years old. My first job was McDonald’s.  I liked the idea of earning extra money, and I didn’t mind the work.  But my boss was a perpetually angry man whose rants and insults drove many employees, including me to seek employment elsewhere. I mean, who could work for such a jerk?

Forty years I have worked in various jobs without a break.  Needless to say I have experienced every type of boss that exists (at least in my world)..  I have categorized some of them below.

The Over Nurturer:  This boss never quite trusts you enough to let you do your job, always jumping in and doing it for you so you are not overwhelmed.  They are very nice but undermine your ability to grow and develop.

The Tyeant:  this boss is only concerned with the power they wield over others.  They demand to be addressed by their title and expect total obedience from staff without question.  They will be kindly when you are in strict obedience, but beware!  If you ever disagree or question a decision they will cut you in half with their words and deeds.

The Laid back boss:  I once had a boss that told me their leadership  Style was procrastination. They were convinced that if they did nothing most situations would resolve themselves.  If you are a type A personality, a laissez faire boss will drive you crazy with their lack of urgency in response to your panic.

The Political Pleaser:   This boss is so afraid to risk disfavor with their own superiors that they are constantly trying to please them. This boss will  Pass down directives no matter how inappropriate or unattainable or ill timed  With no thought or question of its validity.  They send the message “just do it”  and “I’m just following orders”.  This leaves subordinates with low confidence in the actual ability of this boss to lead independantly.

The Reactionary Boss:   This boss goes into a panic whenever rough times come. Their anxiety is palpable and passed down to the entire staff. They come up with knee jerk reactions and solutions without looking at the big picture.  This can cause chaos and tension in the workplace, resulting in busy people heading in no apparent direction.

The Invisible Boss this person does not reply to emails or phone calls or Texts and is unavailable in crisis. They appear willing to help when you actually communicate with them, but with no follow up communication, things are not completed.

I could go on, but you get the idea.  And yes,  through the past 40 years of working, every time I had a bad boss, I complained about them and  thought of quitting. We have all thought of quitting from time to time when we felt things were unbearable.  The Secret is to tell yourself : “not today . I will go to sleep and wake up and quit tomorrow.” Somehow I never quit.  The only time I have left a job was for a better opportunity…not because of my boss at the time.  I didn’t let their negativity eat me alive.   In fact, I survived. In fact, I thrived.

Over time, I began to realize that each one of these leaders got to where they were because of a skill, a talent, or and expertise. It was difficult for me to see those strengths from my vantage point of defensiveness.  For my own growth and development, I decided that in order to survive a bad boss I had to do 2 things

1.  I had to learn what they wanted from me and how they wanted it and then learn to give it to them the way they wanted it

2.   I had to make a conscious decision to learn from them. To glean that which I could from their personality, leadership, and success.

The results were eye opening. Because, I learned that I could evolve by paying attention and taking something from each one of them.  The one thing you cannot deny is that your boss became boss for a reason.  They had some knowledge, skill or ability that made them shine.  I found that there were strengths in each type.

The Over nurtured was extremely supportive of my new ideas, and suggestions.

The Tyrant taught me that titles were not as important as teamwork and shared outcomes.

The Laid back boss taught me not to react every time a problematic situation came up, but to look at what was underlying and deal with that. The best lesson I learned was not to speak the first thought that came to my mind.

The political pleaser taught me how to navigate high profile situations without compromising my vision.

The reactionary boss taught me how to be prepared with thorough analysis of a situation and anticipate the questions so that I could calm the storm before it descended.

The invisible boss taught me to become more independent and competent in my own decisions.

Some of these bosses, I did not like and still do not.  But I ALWAYS respected their position.  However, as I began to view them in the light of their strengths and what I could learn from them, some of these bosses became dear friends after they retired.

The choice is yours.  Bemoan how unfair your boss is.  Allow their negativity to steal your joy, make you miserable and drive you away from a career you feel is your calling.

Or

Take back your power!  Don’t live in your personal feelings.  And learn how to survive that boss!

1.  In your mind, remove the personality trait that drives you crazy and assess where their strength lies.

2.  Ask yourself: what can I learn from them to help me grow as a leader.

3.  Find out out what they need and expect from you in relation to feedback style, response time and outcomes.

4.  Give it to them.

5. Don’t rely on whether or not you like them.  View them as a step to your own evolution.

6.  If they hurt your feelings or even make you cry (yes, I’ve been there too)  it’s ok to go to a place of sadness and self comfort. BUT DONT PACK YOUR BAGS AND STAY!  Ask yourself: what can I learn from this so it never happens again?

I am not a perfect boss.  Neither are you.  We are all growing and succeeding and failing every day in our journey.  A bad boss can be like constant friction on a piece of coal.  If you can survive it, you come out a diamond.

35 thoughts on “How to Survive a Bad Boss

  1. My best example of dealing with an impossible boss comes from my husband. Working as the only man for a woman who hated men, he was banned from going to meetings and given no work to do. While he kept looking for another job, he used that time(nearly two years) on the internet doing deep research which prepared him for his subsequent job and his life work. He really refused to let that time be wasted.

    Liked by 2 people

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