A supervisor who routinely acts unprofessionally can make life miserable for a conscientious employee. In a survey of 1,000 adults earlier this year, 17% of respondents said that a boss taking credit for their work was the primary reason they left a job, according to human resources firm Bamboo HR. And fully 44% cited a bad boss as the rationale for leaving at least one job.
After stealing credit for your work, here are the next four unacceptable behaviors per the survey, the full set of which Bamboo HR refers to as the "Bad Boss Index." Do any of these by chance describe your own boss?
- Doesn't appear to trust or empower you
- Doesn't appear to care if you're overworked
- Doesn't appear to advocate for you when it comes to monetary compensation
- Hires and/or promotes the wrong people
If you're working for someone who exhibits these and/or other unprofessional behaviors, don't let it become a long-term detriment to your career. Below are five brief pointers that can help you cope and make key decisions about working under a less-than-desirable supervisor.
Focus on objectives and goals
Sticking firmly to your job objectives and goals is a way to stay focused on what you're after all being compensated to achieve. One of the insidious ways a bad supervisor affects your performance is through a cumulative effect of sapping morale. Don't slack off your work requirements, whether routine or strategic, and try to stay centered. In most every work structure, whether a business, nonprofit, or academic institution, you work to fulfill the objectives of the organization -- not simply to report to a supervisor. Remembering this is not only gratifying; it can help you rise above your supervisor's deficiencies in real time.
Be frank with your boss
At some point after realizing that you have a bad boss, and that things may not change soon, you'll have to work up the courage to confront your supervisor over his or her unfair behaviors. This is a time to be specific, and avoid letting emotion rule the day. Write out your grievances beforehand, and request a meeting in which you can review these methodically.
Now, depending on your boss's demeanor, this may come across to you as very ill-informed advice. But look at it this way. Without clearing the air on why your boss's actions are keeping you from performing your job, things aren't likely to change. And once you've plainly communicated the relevant issues, you've given your boss a chance to improve. If nothing changes, you've acted ethically before taking your grievances to your boss's supervisor (if this is an option) or deciding to move on.
Maintain your sense of self
Even in the most harmonious of work environments, it's critical to seek balance between your career and the few things that are even more important: your health, family, friends, and life goals. Stay especially attuned to what you want to achieve outside your career when you're not at work. This has the beneficial effect of wiping away the toxic energy that wells up at work. Of course, as we'll discuss below, you can't stay in a nonoptimal situation forever, so treat time outside of work as a way to recharge as you seek a long-term solution to your quandary.
The strangest piece of advice I have to impart is that it's important to try to empathize with your bad boss. Whether it's professional incompetence, neglect, or a simple meanness of spirit, your supervisor probably has some deficiencies -- job-related and/or personal -- that show up in his or her behavior. If you're at least able to see these for what they are or understand them, it can take the edge off your manager's actions as you ponder how to improve your situation. And in some cases, manifesting empathy can improve your relationship. I can't say that this will happen, but the act of trying to understand what drives your bad boss's behavior may bring you greater perspective and peace of mind.
Turn things around, or move on
Ultimately, when you're working under a bad boss, you'll arrive at the point at which it's time to take action. Being frank with your boss as we discussed above is often a first step toward liberation. If you can't change a poor supervisor's behavior, you may have recourse to his or her managers. If you don't, or if your concerns are passed over, avoid remaining in a situation that will deplete your career ambition. Switching jobs is a natural part of career evolution, and you should begin plotting a move as soon as it's clear that you won't be able to make coming into work a positive experience again. As the Bad Boss survey results imply, sometimes the best way to deal with a bad boss, is to leave a bad boss.