Advice Guru Liz Pryor: Handling a Horrible Boss

Here's what to do about that nightmare of a boss.

July 25, 2011 -- The relationships we have with the people with whom we work are an integral part of our daily lives. Some of us spend more time with co-workers than we do at home with our own family members.

Hundreds of people have written to me seeking advice on how to handle, improve and endure working under a horrible boss.

Often, by the time their letter gets to me, the situation is so debilitating that the letter's author has already contemplated leaving his or her job altogether. But the reality of the economy today forces many to try and figure out a way to stay.

Life can come to feel close to impossible when every day is met with the likes of an over-controlling, seething, ogre-of-a-person who happens to have a license to tell you what to do all day long.

How many times have we heard along the way that there are terrible, bullying, awful, annoying and controlling people in this world, and that we have to find a way to learn to deal with them?

Kids are told this every year when they get a bad teacher. "One day you're going to have a bad boss and you need the skills to know how to handle it."

Yes, that's true, and it doesn't seem to budge the reality of how debilitating and awful the days feel while our lives are drowning by being around these terrible people.

What can we really do when our salary cannot be jeopardized, and our daily lives are inundated with these ruthless tyrants? Your boss may be a cold-blooded, inept, small-minded and lying jerk, but you need your salary.

The suggestion would be to change your stance, to change how you deal with this boss and then to turn it into something that you can at least live with.

Don't engage in a fantasy about how you might torture this person.

The more they smear, cheat or undermine you, the more you can decide to nod and smile their way. Don't let it in; it's a state of mind that if you commit to, it will work.

Measure your reality, and decide that your unruly boss is not worth losing your job, your salary and your mind over. It is just not.

In most cases, a boss that is this bad is already on the line somewhere above you for something. If this person steals your work or takes credit for your efforts, they will most likely not be able to get away with it forever.

Rather than talking behind their backs, try to form alliances with other leaders in the company. Make your efforts and productivity known to those around you. Put your focus on your work, not on your malice, and it will pay off.

Starting a journal and documenting all of your boss's behavior can prove to be incredibly useful. Save your burning hatred for that time when you write every wretched thing they said and did that day. Something about keeping a documented and dated list of bad behavior can make you feel empowered.

Whatever you have to do to distract your venom from the people who provoke you, do it. Envisioning a bubble around you whenever they're near, ignoring their temper or smiling when you feel like screaming are all valuable, daily tools.

At the end of the day, a bad boss, gnarly co-worker, or bad clique of women at work are not worth damaging your health and psychological well-being.

The last thing you want to choose to do in these situations is nothing.

Doing nothing is a guarantee that you will gain nothing. So, commit to something, whether you simply decide to start smiling and nodding, or you begin planning an exit strategy.

Creating some sort of change in yourself is the only thing over which you really have control.

Whatever you do, make sure you do something. Life is short, so make up your mind now to act.