| Bad bosses and how to handle them
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Bad bosses and how to handle them

I had a terrific career as a program manager for a large municipal utility: Challenging projects, a dedicated staff, the resources I needed to succeed, and fantastic bosses who taught me about the organization and how to work and deal with people.

Not everyone is so lucky.

In my post-retirement role as a workforce development consultant, I travel around the United States meeting utility managers and employees, and was surprised to hear so many workplace horror stories about bosses.

Whether or not such stories are true or exaggerated, it’s obvious that there is a poor perception of many supervisors. Since perception is often reality – and bosses are not going away – what can employees do to cope with managerial faults and frailties?

First, sit down and assess if, in fact, your boss is a bad boss. Objective thinking and analysis may lead you to conclude that, “He (or she) isn’t that bad -- just a bit different from me.” You may not want your boss as a friend, but remember, being your friend is not in the job description. The most effective teams are made up of individuals with different skill sets and personalities. So having a boss who is different from you, isn’t always a bad thing.

After that, if you still think there are serious issues, realize some of them may be out of your control. In this case, just sit back, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and let them go.

If you have problems with your boss that can be rectified, the next step is frank and honest communication. Before you put anything in writing or schedule a meeting, make sure you understand and can articulate what’s bothering you, its impact on the organization and your work environment, and a possible solution. Whether you raise the issue in a meeting or email, stay professional. Never get personal. Sarcasm and blaming others almost always make the situation worse. Ask your boss to tell you his understanding of the issue and what can be done to improve it. The idea that rank has its privileges does not belong in this communication matrix. You must both feel free to talk openly.

Once the communication door is opened, be sure it stays that way. Regularly scheduled meetings are critical. “Hey, have you got a minute?” while passing in the hall doesn’t qualify as communicating.

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to ask for help. Human Resources Departments, Employee Assistance Programs, peers, and other managers you trust, can identify new ways to solve a problem. But remember, this is not an opportunity for back-stabbing or whining. These people can give advice, and only advice.

Finally, if none of these strategies work, sit down quietly,  and objectively determine if this job and organization are right for you. Organizations and people have their own strengths, weaknesses and personalities. You and your boss, or you and your organization, may not be a good fit. But there is an opening with your name on it.

If the fit isn’t there, then the final step is simple: Move on. Working for the right boss in an organization that meets your needs is rewarding and satisfying. Everyone should experience it.

Following these simple steps may help you realize that the issues you have with your boss can be fixed. If you realize that you and your boss aren’t a productive working team, then use the job as a positive resume builder. The next opportunity is around the corner.
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