It's tough to have a bad boss. Some treat their people poorly, and some don't follow through on their promises or advocate for their people. Others can't solve problems, don't know how to manage conflict, and never set a good example. Whatever the flaw, it can cause a demoralizing, even infuriating reality for their team. It kills team spirit, dampens creativity, and might even hold you back from advancing in your own career. It creates a toxic environment that is at risk of spreading to other parts of the company, as well.
Your day-to-day work life doesn't have to stay like this. You may not be able to disappear your boss, but there are steps you can take to counteract their negative influence. Some options involve reducing the impact of bad management, while some elevate the positive influence of others. Whatever strategies you choose, don't sit and wallow in misery. Fight to make your work environment better and more productive, for you, your teammates, and the company as a whole.
Here are steps you can take to combat the energy of your terrible boss:
1. Talk to Your Peers
Get a pulse on what's happening in your office. This doesn't mean you should turn into an office gossip! It means you should have meaningful conversations with your colleagues on what they feel is going well and what could be improved. What do they notice about the dynamic between your boss and the team? Do they see other teams in the company that run similarly? How are they feeling about their own performance? Sometimes you need to understand the perspective of another to understand your own feelings.
2. Have a Blunt Conversation
Sometimes, you just have to nip it in the bud. Go straight to the source and have a direct conversation with your boss. Perhaps they've never been a manager before, and just need time to adjust. Perhaps they're having some personal crisis that is preventing them from focusing as they need. It's possible they could respond to your feedback in a very positive way, and express a genuine desire to improve. Of course, it's also possible that they stare at you blankly and don't get it at all, or that they are furious at your insubordination. Either way, you'll learn important information about how you should interact with your boss going forward - and whether it's worth sticking around for it.
3. Learn to Influence
A key aspect of business leadership is learning to manage both up and down. You can exert a lot of influence from the top, but that doesn't mean you're impotent if you're in the middle or at the bottom. Influence is just as able to travel up, if you know how to do it right. Consider reading books about how to influence those around you. Look to learn from the influential people around you. Try new tactics to shape the behavior of those above you. You might be surprised at what you find you're capable of changing!
4. Is It You?
Consider carefully your situation, and listen to what others have to say. Do most people tend to get along with your boss? Do they feel s/he isn't as bad as you think? Could it be that the real problem is... you? Take a good hard look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. If you were your boss, what would you think about you as an employee? It's ok to acknowledge your imperfections, and it's not too late to change things. With some shifts in attitude and action, you may find the boss you thought was terrible is actually just what you need.
5. Seek Career Development Elsewhere
If you've gone through all these steps with an open mind, and simply don't see a way forward, it may be time to take a more dramatic step. Whether it's an intransigent boss, an executive team that simply cannot see the problem, or an irreconcilable clash of personalities, you cannot remain in an office where you are so unhappy. Eventually, your work, your colleagues, and your company will suffer. Instead, go somewhere you can be yourself and thrive.