What to do when you have a bad boss…and when you hired the bad boss

Misery loves company. Everyone has a bad boss at one time or another but when it’s you, who cares about anyone else? The boss plays favorites, rarely communicates, never seems to get around to your annual review, and dumps his work on you, probably at the last minute.  But if others have survived, you can also. And though it may seem impossible, consider sticking with a bad boss, but with a new perspective in mind.

Move forward instead. A recent article from Korn Ferry suggests moving forward rather than simply running away from a bad situation. “Bailing out of your job because of your boss raises risk of jumping at the first thing to come along. That could put you in an even worse position: a job you don’t like and aren’t well suited for and working for another boss who might not be better.” You’ll never have a better reason to evaluate where you want to go in your career and actively take steps to make it happen.

Gain emotional intelligence. Learning to deal with a bad boss offers terrific opportunities to develop emotional self-control. Managing your reactions and emotions is an invaluable talent that will make you a better leader in the long run.

See the positive.  Bad bosses don’t last forever. Either he will move on or you will. While it’s tough, a bad boss can be an invaluable learning experience. “Ironically, people are more likely to learn about compassion and integrity from a bad boss than from a good one,” notes Korn Ferry.  “In the meantime, learn all you can, raise your visibility beyond your immediate team or department, and invest in your network.”


 Face the music.  If you’re noticing a department that has a sharp drop in productivity, a higher number of customer complaints, and once-solid employees jumping ship, read the signs and get to the bottom of it.  “People really don’t leave companies—they leave bosses,” says Korn Ferry. Conducting in-depth exit interviews with departing employees can garner a wealth of information. Compare notes with other exit interviews and be willing to accept the truth of what you find. Maybe it is just one “bad” manager or a reaction to larger, company-wide changes.

Communicate changes. Some people would rather run than face the unknowns of coming change in an organization. Combat that fear with good communication early on. Heather Huhman writes in a recent article, “…be specific about how [changes] will affect them on an individual level. Meet with concerned employees and explain what will be different…. The key here is to be open and honest, so they aren’t left to fill in the blanks with worst-case scenarios. Also, show them how these changes will be an improvement for them and the organization in the long-run.”

Evaluate management.  While organizational changes may cause employees to leave, more often their manager is the culprit. Act quickly to understand what employees aren’t getting from management and provide managers with specific feedback and training. If necessary, use an outside firm like Leadership Alliance to conduct interviews and offer unbiased feedback and recommendations with a Workplace Assessment. Lastly, follow up on your managers’ progress by continuing to collect feedback from the team.

Rebuild confidence. Get on the offensive and take steps to rebuild confidence that things are turning around. Huhman also writes, “Don’t gloss over issues that cause people to leave. Instead, openly address them and search for a solution. After all, loyal employees deserve both an explanation and reassurance. Let them know you have a clear plan….as well as a realistic timeline for those improvements.  When bumps in the road arise, don’t try to hide them. Employees would rather know there was a setback than be lied to. Because when the truth does come out, it will give them a new reason to leave.”

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