Real talk time: Have you ever had a bad boss? I’ll never forget the worst boss I ever had.
I was working a part-time job at a local high-tech company while I was in college. When I got the job, I was given a very brief description of what I was supposed to do from a supervisor and that was it. I never met my boss, never received any feedback, and had to basically figure everything out for myself.
At one point, one of the tech guys came over to me and said we were out of supplies in the supply closet. I didn’t even know that we had a supply closet – and I certainly didn’t know that it was my job to stock it.
After a few months of things going on this way, I received a message to meet with my boss. I walked into his office area and his back was to me. He didn’t say anything for a few minutes, so I stood there waiting. Then, he turned around in his chair and said, verbatim, “Nobody likes you. Fix it or you’re fired. That’s all.”
It was seriously like a scene from a movie. My mouth fell open and I started to ask for more specifics on what I could do better or differently and he turned his back to me again and said, “You can go.”
A few weeks later, my mom had a stroke. I flew to Texas to be with her and while I was there, he terminated my contract via email. I can’t say I was sad about it.
So, when my good friend and major boss babe offered to write a post for the blog on what to do when you have a bad boss, I was 100% all in. She’s a serious mover and shaker, so I knew she was going to bring it and that’s exactly what she did. Let’s see what Erica recommends when you have a bad boss.
Your Options When You Have a Bad Boss:
Your boss is supposed to manage and lead you, right? Well, that’s not always how it plays out. If you are struggling in your relationship with your supervisor, you are not alone. Unfortunately, poor management is common.
But, while you can’t change their behavior – you are always in control of your own. You’re not powerless and you do have options.
So, when you encounter this challenge, it’s time to ask yourself: what are my options? Usually, you have three options to consider:
- Leaving your job (which is usually a whole process)
- Staying at your job and/or considering other options there
- Reporting your boss if you’re experiencing bullying or discrimination (and seeing if that either makes it better or results in needing to leave your job anyway)
Let’s look at how you can decide what is right for you, your career and your family.
Making a Decision:
This may sound trite, but go back to basics. Write out the pros and cons so you can see them on paper. Here are some things to think about:
- What would make you want to stay at your job?
- What benefits are there in leaving?
- Crunch the numbers. Do a complete financial analysis evaluating your income, savings, and debts. Can you afford to change jobs or be out of work for a season?
- What job options do you have? Do you have any other job leads? Are jobs available in your industry online? Are there other companies you’d be interested in working with? Can you leverage your career experience to move into a different job?
- Are there other managers you would rather work with at your current company? Could you transfer to another department or team?
- Is this boss there for the long haul? In some industries, management changes frequently. Is there any possibility you can wait them out and make the best of it until there’s a shift in leadership?
- How is work stress impacting other areas of your life? Mental health is important and must be a factor in your decision.
- If you feel like you’re making this decision primarily for financial reasons, check out these get out of debt tips.
Now that you’ve done a major deep dive, consider reaching out to a trusted mentor or a friend who you trust and has a career you admire. See what their advice would be in your situation.
And, if you’re feeling stuck and like you don’t have any options, remember these words by Chris Grosser (Senior Sales Consultant for Tesla), “Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.”
Also, if you’re needing an extra big dose of motivation, check out this post with 47 girl power quotes to fire you up!
Let’s look at what you should consider if you are leaning towards leaving your job. You may end up needing to leave your job, even if it wasn’t your initial first choice, if you do decide to report their behavior and nothing changes (or it gets worse).
Preparing To Leave Your Job:
Before you leave your job, here are some steps you’ll want to take:
- Formulate your plan before leaving and keep these details private from anyone at work
- Create your online portfolio or prep your resume as you begin to look for other jobs
- Spruce up your LinkedIn and consider updating your headshots to best reflect the current you
- Consider which professional references you could use
- Start applying for jobs and reaching out to recruiters
- Prepare a succinct, positive response to interview questions on why you are looking to make a switch
- Check out this post with 40 questions to ask in an interview to help you get the job
- Prioritize your mental health. Applying for jobs and interviewing can be arduous. Take care of yourself. Consider starting a gratitude journal or mindfulness practice.
Always try to go from one job to the next without a gap in employment. If possible, wait until you have a new job offer in writing before you notify your current employer.
Sometimes the process of finding a new job takes months, so hang in there and know it won’t be an overnight change. Stay focused on where you want to be in five to ten years from now and know that a few months of waiting and applying is worth it.
If you’re not finding what you’re looking for – don’t forget to look at your network. If your friend works for a company you like, connect with that friend and let them know you are looking for a new job. Sometimes companies give bonuses to employees who recommend family and friends as potential hires. Also, it is not uncommon to call a former mentor or supervisor you have a good relationship with to give them the heads up that you’re searching for your next role and ask them to pass on any opportunities. People want to help you and sometimes that comes in the way of a simple email introduction.
When it’s time to go, give notice respectfully. Then, begin to share the news and your personal contact information with anyone you’d like to stay in touch with. The news will mean a lot coming from you as opposed to a corporate email.
Sometimes, you’ll be surprised to see how that bad boss behaves when it’s time for you to leave. One job I left, I had rarely heard anything but negative feedback and odd behavior from my boss for years. When it came time to leave, she suddenly started telling me all of the ways she appreciated me and my work and giving me constant compliments. She even offered to write a positive reference letter. So, you never really know what’s going on with that boss and what is actually in their head. Some people are just not well-suited to leadership positions, even if they are in them.
If you’re considering staying at the job and making adjustments, here are some things you’ll want to consider:
If You’d Like To Stay at Your Job:
If you plan to stay at your job, set aside time for soul-searching, planning, and strategizing. Write out a plan so you can stay true to your values, goals, and ethical standards. It may feel like a bit much, but over time -we tend to lose ourselves in the mess if we aren’t intentional and clear about our standards.
Also, look for natural opportunities to shift roles, departments, or teams. Let your executives know you are open to a transition should the right one open up. Some companies have a process to request a transfer, so consult your HR handbook or employee guidelines. Pursue further training in addition to continuing in your role, so you will be qualified for a promotion or change in careers when the time is right.
In the meantime, try to give the benefit of the doubt to your boss. Recognize that there are elements of the situation that you do not know about. Assume there’s always a part of the picture you cannot see, especially with those who lead and guide you. It is good to stay humble and tentative in your judgments.
Also, watch your own behavior – because that is always in your control. Bad bosses can contribute to employee frustration. Frustrated employees can fall into the trap of displaying negative behaviors at work. This can look like taking longer breaks than allowed, errors in critical tasks, lack of motivation, and a poor attitude.
So, if you decide to stay in a job where you work for a toxic manager, you’ll need to watch your behavior and attitudes to make sure you aren’t tempted to become a sub-par team member, a gossip, or a bitter coworker. Don’t compromise your work ethic or your reputation because of toxic management. Don’t wait for professional development opportunities, create them. This is the perfect time for a little self-leadership. Own your career and your future. Work toward your goals daily and find ways to move forward, no matter what others think or do. Grow your confidence and make sure its roots run deep and wide.
Reframe efficiency. With a toxic supervisor efficiency may need to go out the window (I know some of you are not okay with this), and that is okay. Accept it and adapt to the pace and the process expected of you. Document your work and over-communicate in writing when possible to make sure you are fulfilling expectations, keeping up with the pace your manager sets, and clarify the direction you receive, so everyone is on the same page.
Yes, you would do things differently if you were in charge, but you aren’t, so you’ll need to bend a bit to the process your manager has set in place.
If You Need to Report Your Boss:
Depending on what you’re experiencing, it may be time to address unfair treatment and report your boss for bullying and harassment.
First, understand what bullying is. Those who work for abusive bosses tend to be more stressed at work and struggle to stay motivated, but it can be tough to pinpoint exactly what the true issues are.
So, how will you recognize and address unfair treatment if you encounter it? Make sure you keep talking to your community of trusted friends (outside the workplace) and remain open to hearing the truth. They’ll help you decide if you are being bullied. Also, consider reaching out to your HR department or looking into your employee handbook for how your company defines bullying.
Second, understand what workplace discrimination is. It is never okay for your supervisor to communicate with hostile verbal or nonverbal behaviors including physical contact or sexual advances. If this happens, document the situation, notify management and consult with a lawyer. Abusive supervisors negatively impact employees by creating work stress, decreasing organizational commitment levels, and justice in the workplace.
It is up to the leaders of the organization to create psychological safety for employees at work and to address and eliminate bullying, harassment, and other inappropriate actions.
If the leaders of the company are told about the abuse and do not take action to fix it, then it is time to leave.
Regardless of what happens, don’t blame yourself. This is most likely just a reflection of the other person’s personal issues that are just being projected on to you. If what you’ve experienced is causing anxiety, anger, insomnia or any other mental or physical health issues, don’t be afraid to pursue counseling as a way to work through how these experiences have effected you.
Regardless Of What You Decide:
Focus on what you can control. Figure out what you can control and where you can thrive. Chances are you can still make a big difference through your work. Show appreciation to a teammate, help a coworker with a big deadline, be a trusted and responsible peer at work, lead out on a big project to impact the bottom line. Continue to make a difference, and your positivity and determination will not go unnoticed.
Expect to encounter annoying people. You will encounter people who annoy you in the workplace, in social situations, and your extended family, it is just a part of life. No matter how you feel about someone, prioritize professionalism, and eliminate the temptation to ridicule or retaliate.
Be kind to everyone and focus on people’s strengths as opposed to the aspects of their personality that drive you crazy. Show compassion and if you can win them over as friends, learn from their quirks, and express value to and for them, you will be better for it.
As you work through this decision and figure out what is best for you, make sure you set aside time to reflect as you go. Look at all your options and talk to trusted people in your life to make the right decision for you and your family.
So much of our professional journey involves self-reflection and sharpening our resilience. It can be so disappointing to walk away from a job you’ve invested in, but sometimes these experiences lead us to find something even better.
If you find yourself suddenly unemployed – and we’ve all been there – here are a few career posts that might give you some ideas on what to do:
- Freelance writing jobs
- 3 high-paying delivery companies for fast cash
- 10 ways to make money fast
- 3 cashback apps that will get you money on things you have to buy
Stay strong. Stay focused.
You’ve got this!
Erica spends her days with her husband Eddy, raising two kids, strategizing marketing solutions for software companies, advising clients through her consulting business at Candor Virtual Marketing, and running her household like a boss. But really, she’s just like you and me, downing the coffee, taking the day one breath at a time, and looking to help others any chance she gets. Learn more about Erica Garcia Thomas at ericagarciathomas.com