Everyone can relate to bad bosses, which can be the major impetus
for fleeing from your position.
You love your job, but it’s the boss you can do without.
Katherine Crowley, a Harvard-trained psychotherapist, and Kathi
Elster, a management consultant, understand your pain and they have a
20 years, they've combined their complementary expertise to develop ways for
dealing with difficult people and challenging conditions at work, which are now
featured in their new book, WORKING FOR YOU ISN'T WORKING FOR ME: The Ultimate
Guide to Managing Your Boss.
Here's a preview.
1) Did you have a bad boss experience that led you on this
mission to help others cope?
Elster: I have had many bad boss experiences. The one that stands
out is my alcoholic boss who started drinking at noon everyday. If you didn’t
get your answers before noon you had to wait till the next day. And if you were one of the lucky ones
(only kidding about the lucky) who got called into his office when he returned
from drinking, you would be held hostage and end up listening to his stories
for the rest of the day.
I learned quickly that I could get what I needed from him if I
protected him and made him look good.
In other words, I learned quickly to give him credit for my work and in
return he promoted me every year. Most people were not willing to make this
work for them.
Crowley: My most challenging boss experience was a very bright
boss who was totally checked out.
I rarely saw her, and she gave me very little direction, so I was always
managing myself. I headed up her foundation, and oversaw the work of many
volunteers. I had to take charge
and speak on her behalf much of the time.
While it was a very lonely experience, I did learn how to manage
up by creating written logs of everything I did, and staging meetings to keep
2) Most people assume they have no control over a bad boss,
especially in this economy. How do you stand up to a bully — someone who is
often yelling and is full of criticism — without fear of losing your job?
Elster: We would like our readers to understand that
your boss may have control over your paycheck but he/she does not have control
over your emotions. It’s not the
best economy for telling off your boss, but you can take their bad behavior
less personally. We suggest when faced with this kind of bad boss that you
restore your energy daily – exercise and eat right, repair your emotional state
– fight the tendency to isolate and spend time with people who support you, and
rebuild your confidence by making a list every night with your successes no
matter how small they may be.
Crowley: One of the most important things you can do
when dealing with a bully or any other kind of bad boss involves finding other
venues to build your network and showcase your talents. Participate in your industry’s annual
conference, join a task force that’s tackling an interesting problem, or
contribute your skills to a charity event. Finding places to build
relationships and showcase your talents can lead to future work opportunities.
And whenever we do something that creates options, the oppression of a bad boss
3) How do you know the difference between what feels like
constant unwarranted criticism with very real criticism over your performance?
Crowley: This is a great question, because many bosses
who hold high standards may be critical of your performance at times, but a
chronic critic can never be satisfied.
You know you’re dealing with constant unwarranted criticism when you
notice that, even after you make every correction your boss requests, he or she
still finds flaws in everything you do.
Internally, you start have the feeling that you can never win, and your
confidence deteriorates to the point that you question whether you have any
talent at all. It’s very debilitating.
Elster: When faced with a chronic critic boss the lines of useful
criticism will get blurred. This is a time to get professional help; a mentor
can be helpful, maybe a past boss who knows you well, or possibly a co-worker
who is supportive.
4) What about the boss who is nervous about his or her own job –
and allows that nervousness to impact their management style? How do you handle
Crowley: The current economic climate is extremely
stressful for most bosses. Not only do they have to produce more results with
fewer resources, but they also have to prove their value and the value of their
staff (i.e. YOU).
Under stress, people usually resort to their habitual coping
behaviors. One boss may become
withdrawn and sullen while another boss may exhibit angry outbursts. Your job
is to do your best not to let these stress reactions get under your skin.
Elster: The way to handle this uncomfortable situation
is to back off and see the person (and their pain) as nothing you need to
internalize. It’s not about
you. The more compassionate you
are the better your boss will feel.
Some people will want to act out in return or shut out the boss, these
strategies only make you look small.
5) Is there any risk of backlash when trying to put a boss in
his or her place? How do you avoid that?
Elster: Typically when we think
we are putting our boss in his or her place we are doing something else: bad
mouthing the boss, confronting the boss, shutting the boss out, avoiding the
boss, or even wishing for his or her demise. None of these strategies work, and you run the risk of
looking immature and being reprimanded for acting out at work. To avoid these behaviors, pay attention
to your own reaction when you feel the urge to put your boss in his or her
place. Ask yourself: What is happening here? What is their part? What is my
part? What are my options? There
is always a better way.
Crowley: Frankly, there are few instances where it’s
appropriate to put a boss in his or her place. The one exception may be if you work for someone who is
verbally abusive or whose conduct you find ethically abhorrent. Even in those
cases, your best recourse is to remove yourself physically when the boss begins
to act out, document the behavior, and report it to the appropriate
authorities. Whatever backlash occurs from taking these steps will be better
than working under unacceptable conditions.
learn more about the book and its authors, visit www.workingforyouisntworkingforme.com.