Tech & Work

Dealing with the boss from down below

An adversarial relationship with your boss can be frustrating, but what can you do? Follow these steps to ease your pain.


You are not wild about your boss, and you don’t know what to do. In fact, you hate your boss. You hate your boss so much that it has entered your mind that drop-kicking your boss in the chops, getting fired, and going to jail would not be an unacceptable career move! While assault might seem a gratifying solution, it’s unproductive in the long run. Before you start practicing on the heavy bag, you should explore more realistic alternatives and determine which one best suits your style and needs.

The fact of the matter is that you have three choices: quitting, confrontation, or dealing with it. Let’s take each to its logical conclusion.

You can always quit
While quitting is probably the easiest solution, it can be pretty self-destructive. For one thing, quitting makes you unemployed. No job equals no money. And, worse, a history of quitting jobs early and often can be a red flag to prospective employers. Imagine an interview like the one presented in Table A.
Table A

Interviewer

Why did you leave XYZ Industries after only a month?

You

My boss was a psycho.

Interviewer

Okay, well that can happen…. What about your next job at ABC  Conglomerate—Why did you leave there after six weeks?

You

My boss was a meathead.

Interviewer

What about your last job—Why are you leaving it?

You

My boss was such a witch. She probably ate live babies.                     

Interviewer

I see (hits the red SECURITY button).

Interview scenario

The point is that you don’t want to quit any job unless you have to. Every time you quit a job, you chisel away at your credibility with future employers. Resignation is a powerful tool: Use it sparingly. Some day, you may really need it. If you simply have to get out of there, seek a transfer within your company first, if such a thing is possible. Just make sure you never say anything negative about your boss in an interview. Never.

Confront your boss
While not always appealing, this certainly can be an effective way to handle boss trouble. I’ve done this myself, and when it works, you will leave with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and a fresh outlook towards your job. Set up a meeting with your boss in a neutral location—conference room, lunch, anywhere outside the office. Then, you need to determine exactly what it is you hate and why.

You’d better be able to articulate it. Remember this: Nearly all conflict in the workplace stems from poor communication and poorly defined expectations. With that in mind, explain to your boss that you are not happy with the current situation, and, without placing blame, explain how you feel about what he or she says and does. Prepare yourself ahead of time for a defensive and possibly aggressive reaction, and then, when it comes, don’t let it shift your focus. Odds are there is some mutual frustration at work. Give your boss the opportunity to air some feelings too. Ask questions like “Do I give you what you ask for on the job?” The idea is to first clear the air and then work to clearly define each other’s expectations.

Work towards effective ways to express frustration. Suggest ways that your boss can communicate with you that won’t tee you off. Ask for ways that you can give your boss what is needed and reduce frustration. If that doesn’t work, at least try to agree that it just won’t work out. If your boss knows that you made a good-faith effort to fix the problem, he or she will probably do whatever possible to help you get employed elsewhere. If you really don’t want to quit, you can try to go over his or her head, but that is a risky move that will likely lead to some serious bad blood. I don’t usually recommend it. Sometimes, it is best to cut your losses.

Deal with it
Decide how much your boss affects your overall work experience. If you really like the other aspects of your job, can you compartmentalize your feelings about your boss and stay positive about the rest? Try changing your own attitude, and insist to yourself that you are not going to let a lousy boss ruin an otherwise great job. It sounds simple, and people do it every day. Examine your overall priorities, focus on what is important, and don’t worry about what you can’t control.

Attitude is everything.

Make your decision
Hopefully, you now realize that attitude and communication are the two most effective tools you have to build or destroy a great relationship with your boss. So stick with those tools on your workplace tool belt and leave the dropkicks at home. Choose an approach to deal with your situation and stick with it.

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