07 August, 2010

Dealing With a Bad Boss

By Shefali Anand
Do you hate your boss? Like really, REALLY hate him?
Everyone dislikes their boss at some point. But if it’s a perpetual state of affairs, that’s a serious problem. It could make your working day hell and potentially affect your overall job performance.

Studies have shown that discord between an employee and manager is one of the major reasons why people leave jobs. But running away from your job should only be a last resort since you could easily find another bad boss at your next job.

Bad bosses come in many flavors, and here are some ways in which you can deal with them. Warning: Many involve a degree of self-control and discipline that you probably won’t feel if you detest your supervisor but are worth giving a shot.

1. Is it just you or everyone else too?
“It’s very easy to misunderstand the boss,” says Ramesh Vaswani, executive vice chairman of computer accessory-maker Intex Technologies (India) Ltd. Mr. Vaswani says employees should appreciate that there is a reason why the person is your boss. So instead of taking the boss’s antagonistic attitude personally, try to understand the reason for the bad behavior. If necessary, do your own rigorous self-assessment.

Are you not doing your work up to the required standards? Change that. Does your personality not match with your boss’s? Overcome your personal feelings and focus on your professional relationship with the boss.

However, if the boss is perceived as bad for your peers as well–it really isn’t you, it’s him!–try some of the steps mentioned below.

2. Try on the boss’s shoes.
A bad manager is not necessarily a bad person. Often, the problem is that managers don’t have any training or skills to manage people. Or they may be insecure, or they might just be under pressure from their bosses to deliver tough targets.

Understanding your boss’s perspective can enable you to figure out steps to tackle the situation. For instance, do what it takes to help the boss achieve his or her goals; you will be appreciated more. “That empathy towards trying to understand your manager…has helped people,” says Sanjay Pandit, managing director of recruiting firm Manpower Services India. This is especially the case for employees in functions like sales and marketing and finance, adds Mr. Pandit.

3. Is your boss inefficient?
If your boss is not doing his job well, and is not interested in improving either, that could reflect badly on your team’s results and on you. Try taking some more responsibility, even if means doing tasks that don’t fall strictly under your job profile. If your work can help raise your team’s delivery rate, you’ll benefit ultimately. Think of this as an opportunity to get more experience than you normally could if you were working under a boss who micro-manages. When possible, you could informally bring up your achievements before other superiors or human-resource managers.

4. You do the work, boss takes the credit.
One way to get around this is to try to become more visible to higher-ups in the organization. Stand up and be seen in “team meetings, where the boss’s boss is also attending or people from other functions are also attending,” says Mr. Pandit.

You could also keep a detailed log of your accomplishments, major tasks or projects completed and how that compares with many of your peers. This could come in handy at performance review time to show either to your boss who won’t acknowledge your achievements or someone higher up in case you need to defend your performance.

Silent performers could end up suffering in this case, says Mr. Pandit.

5. Working for a bully.
Does your boss yell, curse, or humiliate you in front of your peers?

If it’s a one-off case, then forget about it. But if it happens often, experts advise taking up the matter with the boss’s supervisors or the company’s human resources team. “This is…non-acceptable behavior,” says Rajendra Ghag, executive vice president of human resources and administration at HDFC Standard Life Insurance Co. Ltd. A company with the right culture will take action against the manager immediately.

Whatever you do, do not yell back or get into a shouting match with your boss. It will not help resolve anything. Remember, your behavior is being seen by your peers and others in the organization, and you don’t want to come across as too aggressive or vengeful. If you need to vent, take it outside, or home, or anywhere but your boss’s office.

6. Speak up, politely.
Experts say that often managers don’t even realize that they are perceived as bad managers. “There are many blind spots all of us have,” says Ms. Ghag.

Consider communicating your problem to your manager, professionally and with a positive spin. For instance, if you are upset that you don’t get enough feedback or are under-appreciated, approach the boss and say: “I loved doing this project but it would really help me if you could suggest ways that I can improve and do this better.” Or, if you are given too short a time to complete a project, say that you could do a better job if you had more time to do other things like X and Y. The key is to make your point without hostility.

7. Use your company’s feedback system.
You can also try communicating with the boss indirectly through the company’s feedback system. That could include everything from boxes where you can write anonymous letters to a “360 degree feedback” system in which a manager is rated based on comments from various people, including his peers and subordinates. Or, you can go directly to the human-resource managers with your specific grievances.

“Every company will have some avenue” for feedback, says Vikram Bhalla, partner and director at the Boston Consulting Group. He adds, however, that the effectiveness of this step depends largely on how much emphasis the company places on its culture versus achieving sales and growth targets.

8. Stick it out.
You have tried your best to resolve the problems with your boss, but it hasn’t helped. But you are working for a dream company and would like to have a long-term career there. Seriously think about just sticking it out, however unpalatable that might sound. Remember that bosses also rotate so you won’t have to bear your current boss forever. Or your job function could change where you don’t have to deal with this person all the time.

9. Time to move on.
Then there are times when nothing seems to work and you can’t take it any more. It may be time to accept that if the relationship with your boss is too destructive for your peace of mind and career prospects. Look for another job, either within the company but in another department, or with another organization. Many companies conduct exit interviews where you may finally get a chance to elaborate extensively on your frustrations, even if it means you then walk out the door.
Read, Learn and Flourish!
For Your Success and Glory!