It's possible to have a perfect work situation that's made unbearable by the person you report to. Sometimes a bad boss is mean; other times, he or she is incompetent; and of course, sometimes it's a little of both.
Having a bad boss can ruin an otherwise delightful job. It can happen in so many ways. Maybe your boss is a procrastinator whose slow responses make your days longer. Perhaps your supervisor likes to berate you publicly over minor things. Maybe your boss takes credit for your work.
Whatever it is, there is often a remedy that does not force you to leave a job you like. Fixing the situation requires action -- and being a bit bold -- but in most cases, you can make things better.
What should you do?
First, you need to evaluate your situation. Do you work at a five-person company where the boss is the owner? In a very small company, you may have little recourse.
In most cases, however, you should diplomatically and discreetly take action. Set up a meeting with human resources, or your boss's boss. Don't go into the meeting prepared to just lay out a list of complaints. Instead, detail how much you like the company and want to stay, and then share the issues you have with your boss.
Be specific and don't be petty. "My boss is mean to me" is hard for someone to take action on. Detailing scenarios where your boss belittled you in public -- even if he or she is just a jerk, not crossing any official lines -- makes it easier for HR or your boss's boss to do something.
You should also go in with ideas about a remedy. If your hope is for a transfer, lay out other areas of the company where you could fit in. Be willing to learn new skills and offer a reasonable timetable. "In six months, I'd like to be working in a department not supervised by So-and-So" is a reasonable request, while "I'm quitting if that person is still my boss" may not be.
Maybe you don't want a transfer, and just want a specific behavior to stop. If your boss, for example, never gives you feedback needed to complete your work -- and that causes you to miss deadlines, or have to work late nights or weekends -- ask for a strategy to address that.
Know where the line is
There are some situations which escalate beyond simply not liking your boss or his or her working style. If you feel your boss is harassing you, putting you in danger, or doing something else that crosses a line, you should report it immediately.
When it's a grayer area, or just that your boss is not good at supervising people, more discretion is required. But you don't have to just take it. Be professional, but be vocal.
There won't be a positive outcome in all cases. In some, you run a risk of your boss finding out, and that creating further tension.
In many cases, however, HR or your boss's boss will listen and work with you to solve the problem. It's certainly better to try than to simply quit, or trudge along in misery.
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