Bad boss alert.
You arrive just in time to grab coffee before a meeting, and the boss stops you in the hallway. There's another work issue to discuss, another complaint. The boss is not just hard to work with. It's become such a problem that you dread coming into the office.
What do you do?
For starters, it's important to take a step back and realize that you can't really control how the boss acts, that he or she is not aware of sound leadership concepts like listening to employees and giving positive feedback. This is a boss who has never attended a management class, but that's not your fault. Somehow, this person rose to a position of influence in the organization, but it wasn't like you had any say in the matter.
What's the solution? In most cases, it starts with your own attitude. The boss might be overly critical and difficult, but you can still maintain your integrity. Here's how.
Step One: Refocus
The most important step is to refocus...on your own abilities, your own need for improvement, and what you can offer the team. The boss isn't going to change but you can change. Your perspective is critical because those negative thoughts about the boss who is a jerk depend on constantly analyzing what the boss does and says. Focus on what you do and say, that's the part you can control. At least for now, before the issue escalates, make sure you focus on the work and your own abilities.
Step Two: Dare to confront
This step seems hard, but it doesn't have to be. The reason most of us don't confront the boss is due to a feeling that we're going to be stepped on or ridiculed. When the boss says something demeaning or hurtful, let him or her know. Don't make it a big deal, but state your feelings. Why is this important? It's not to help the boss. It's to help you. Stating how you feel and acknowledging when the boss has stepped out of line frees you up to do your job. It relieves you of a burden and even reduces the stress.
Step Three: Over-communicate
A bad boss will still yield to this workplace tactic: Over-communicating about a project, a plan, or a work problem. Make frequent updates, let the boss know what you are doing and why, share the specifics on a project. It defuses a bad boss. You're doing as much as you possibly can to move a project forward. When you over-communicate, it tends to create an atmosphere of collaboration, even if the boss is not doing anything to make that happen. You're setting a standard and everyone will notice.
Step Four: Ignore
The words "ignore" and "ignorant" have nothing in common, other than the same root word (being unaware). At work, it's OK to ignore things, especially when that "thing" is constantly badgering you to get your work done and why you linger in the break room. Again, you can't control his or her bad behavior. You can focus on your own productivity, though. And your coworkers. And the company itself. Ignoring a bad boss means you are not giving in to the temptation to dwell on the problem or let it cause stress.
Step Five: Report
Make sure you try all of the other steps before getting to this one. You've focused on what you can do to work harder. You've decided to confront the boss directly but without a lot of agitation. You are communicating as much as possible, and ignoring the jabs. What if there's still a problem? In my experience, you now have the right to go up to the next level of command. Explain what you've been doing to work through the situation and that it is finally out of control. If the boss is the founder or owner of the company, it might be time to find a different boss.