By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Career Tips
Calling an ogre of a boss “difficult” is like labeling a tornado a bit of wind. In this era when job security is an oxymoron, chances are better than fair that you’ll wind up with a modern-day Simon Legree sometime in your professional career.
Start a management degree at American Public University.
(For those who are behind in their required reading, Simon Legree was a vicious slave overseer who whipped the slave Tom to death in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”)
Fortunately for all of us, those days are gone, along with flogging. But sometimes employees feel like they’d prefer an occasional whipping to the boss’s almost daily verbal tirades.
Finding the Right Supervisor Is Mostly a Matter of Chance
Just as it’s said you can’t pick your parents, you can’t always pick an ideal boss. Sometimes when starting a new job, you don’t have an inkling whether your supervisor will turn out to be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.
Fast Company offers the following six tips for dealing with your own personal Mr. Hyde.
1. Make sure you aren’t the one with the problem
Have you always thought your boss was an idiot no matter where you worked? Do your colleagues seem to think the boss is OK? Is there any chance you have unrealistic demands? Are you holding a grudge against the boss? Are you negative all the time about everybody?
Take a deep breath and really think about it. If you’re sure it’s not you, move on to step number 2.
2. Realize that your bad boss is human and imperfect
People who become bosses don’t always get the training or coaching they need to succeed. They, too, have demands, pressures, to-do lists and maybe even their own bad boss.
Observe your boss for a few days and try to notice how many things she does well versus things she does poorly. When she is doing something “bad,” try to think of the most forgiving reason why. Is it truly her fault, or could it be something out of her control? Be mindful in this way for a week, and if you still think you’re working for a jerk, move on to step 3.
3. Coach up
Don’t accept that the boss has all the power and all the responsibility. View your job and her job as a shared accountability. Muster the professional courage to ask for a meeting to talk about “your job” and performance.
In the meeting, explain what parts of your job are going well and are enriching, and how you think things could go better. For example: “One area that I still struggle with is month-end reporting. I’m trying my best but I think if I could get the XYZ report earlier, it would help me to produce a quality report in less time. Do you think I could get that document earlier?”
4. Focus on the positive
If your boss truly isn’t coachable and just isn’t improving, think about all the positive aspects of your job. Are you learning new things? Do you like your coworkers? Does the job give you flexibility to take care of your family or personal items? Are you paid well?
Hopefully, the good elements of your job outweigh the bad boss behavior. If the good doesn’t outweigh the bad, you have two choices: wait him or her out or quit.
5. Wait him or her out
If your situation is irreconcilable, can you wait for your boss to move on or move to a position that reports to someone else? In large or fast-growing companies, it’s not uncommon for employees to get a new boss every year or two.
If this is your environment, your strategy should be to grin and bear it and realize that this too shall pass. If, however, you are in a small business where the owner is the boss, a wait-it-out approach might not be possible. In this case, there is only one option left: to resign.
If all else fails – including the inability of HR to find an equitable solution – you have to quit. For the sake of your mental and physical health, and for the sake of your friends and family, you have to find a new job.
But when you’ve been working for a bad boss for some time, however, you probably aren’t in a good position to get a better job. That’s because great talent always has options and usually won’t work for a bad boss.
Be the CEO of Your Own Career
You have to be the CEO of your own career. In good times and in bad, you need to do what is necessary to give you career options.
As the saying goes, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Always be learning, networking, planning, looking and building your personal brand. (And of course, your resume.)
John Greenhouse, a partner at Rincon Venture Partners, perhaps summed up this situation best: “If you have a problem with your boss, you’re the one with the problem, not the boss. You can either attempt to resolve the issues or move on. Assuming your boss will accommodate you is an unrealistic, losing strategy.”