Have you ever had a terrible boss? Of course--we all have. But what do you do about it? It may be tempting to quit, but that's not often practical. And besides, your next boss could be just as bad, or worse. (Unless your current boss is doing something illegal or harassing you or others. In that case, get out as soon as you can.)
Fortunately, there are some survival strategies that may not make working for a bad boss fun exactly, but can help you keep your sanity and may even help your career. That insight comes from the personal finance site GOBankingRates, which recently brought together information from a wide variety of sources on how to survive a bad boss.
You can find the full list here. These are some of the worst boss problems and best solutions:
1. Your boss is inexperienced.
This is probably the best type of problematic boss you can have because it's the one bad boss characteristic that will automatically fix itself over time, as your boss gets to know the company, the industry, and his or her job better. Still, while you're waiting for that to happen, working for a clueless boss can be frustrating in the extreme.
The solution: Help your boss without causing embarrassment. If your boss says something dumb in a meeting, don't say anything at the time, but ask to talk to your boss in private and then explain gently why that was the wrong thing to say. Make it clear that you understand your boss isn't stupid or incompetent, just unfamiliar with the particular situation or people involved. Offer to write up some notes or give your boss a personal briefing to help bring him or her up to speed. Whatever you do, keep in mind that your boss is still your boss, and that if your boss is smart, his or her inexperience won't last long.
2. Your boss is relentlessly negative.
I have to admit that I've been guilty of this as a boss myself. In some situations it may make sense to gently point it out, as one contractor did with me (to my eternal gratitude). You can also ask your boss's opinion of your work overall. You'll either get a more objective assessment, or you'll find out that your boss truly is unhappy with you, which is something you need to know.
Beyond that, GOBankingRates says, counter your boss's negativity with positivity. Don't let the focus on the negative bring you or your co-workers down, and keep reminding yourself and them about everything that's going right. Keep in mind that it's a normal instinct to focus on the negative and some of us give in to this instinct more than others.
3. What boss?
Some bosses hang back, hide in their offices, and offer little in the way of direction or guidance. This is another management sin I've been guilty of. In my case, a kind colleague pointed it out. But if you have an absent boss, there may be an even better strategy: Use it to your advantage.
If your boss appears to be uninvolved in the workings of your team, that's creating a power vacuum which might be a great opportunity to step in. Be careful not to overstep on anyone's toes, but let your natural leadership skills emerge. Maybe you have an idea about how to better organize the work flow, or pitch a new customer. Time to try those ideas out! Chances are, the reason your boss doesn't seem to be managing you very much is that he or she has too many responsibilities. By picking up some of that slack, you're helping both your boss and yourself.
4. Your boss is a micromanager.
At the other end of the spectrum are bosses who want to know what you're doing every minute, and instruct you in every little aspect of your job. Believe it or not, I've been guilty of this too. And I can tell you that a micromanaging boss is a boss with major trust issues, operating out of a deep fear that you and everyone else will let him or her down.
With that in mind, it may not help you to push back and complain about all the attention to detail. Instead, keep track of what your boss is concerned about and start anticipating those questions. If your boss is frantic about deadlines, do what you need to to finish your work ahead of schedule. If typos or errors send your boss over the edge, double proofread everything. Answer questions before your boss asks them and solve problems before he or she points them out. Eventually, your boss will realize that you are indeed trustworthy. And if your boss is anything like me, you'll have his or her support forever.
5. Your boss takes credit for everything.
This is a particularly awful and frustrating sort of boss to have. Experts quoted by GOBankingRates recommend putting up with it and waiting because sooner or later others will realize that your boss isn't doing all he or she claims.
Maybe, maybe not. But either way, don't confront your boss about taking credit for your work, or complain to others at the company that this is happening. Neither of which is likely to end well for you. At the same time, keep in mind that what benefits your boss also benefits you in most situations. Will taking credit for your hard work lead your boss to get a big promotion? He or she may take you along for the ride, or recommend you as a replacement. Unless your boss is also an idiot (which is always possible), your boss will recognize your value to his or her career.
Meantime, start planning your lateral move. See if you can "moonlight" for another boss or bosses in your company, who may be quicker to lend you the spotlight if your work shines--and may even hire you away from your current boss. Remember that it's important to stay on good terms with your current boss. And that no toxic boss situation lasts forever, even if it sometimes feels that way.