What If Your Boss Is the Problem

Great bosses are hard to come by. If you have one, quit taking him or her for granted! If you don’t and your boss is preventing you from doing your best, what can you do about it?

Bad Boss, Employee are carrying the leader

1. First, try to work things out with your boss

  • Try to resolve individual issues as they crop up rather than letting too many issues accumulate. You need to be able to deal in specifics, not generalities, and you need to be cool headed, not frustrated.
  • Recognize that you could be the one who is confused or off base because it is probably true. Even if your boss is really confusing, you are still the one who is confused! Be sure your language reflects that possibility.
  • Position your concerns in your boss’ or the organization’s best interests.
    • “So that I don’t waste your time, …”
    • “So that we can avoid mistakes, …”
    • “So that I can be more effective, I need …”
  • Instead of blaming anyone, stick to specific facts and the impact on you or the organization.
  • “Look, this is what happened and I feel like I am caught between a rock and a hard place.”  With this approach, you aren’t judging someone or whining, you are just stating facts and personal impact.
  • Approach every conversation prepared to learn from your boss and to collaborate to solve a problem.
  • Avoid future issues by asking clarifying questions about what needs to be done, why, how well, and by what process. Many, many problems stem from a lack of clear expectations.

2. If that fails and you feel like you can’t excel, go around your boss.

  • Go above your boss or to a colleague who seems to be managing the same issues more effectively than you are.
  • Follow all the same advice as in #1.
    • “I believe our priorities are … , but I am struggling because my boss said …. Maybe you could help me out here.”

3. Throughout all of these conversations, keep in mind that:

  • It isn’t a weakness to ask for help with a situation you don’t seem to be able to manage effectively. However, it is a weakness to cave, do nothing, and allow the situation to compromise your performance, morals, or happiness.
  • Your boss’ continued employment does not mean your boss’ supervisor or anyone else condones his behavior. Bad managers are kept in place for lots of reasons, all unfortunate, but that doesn’t mean people are oblivious to the problem even if they can’t say anything. In other words, you are not alone.
  • A bad situation is an opportunity to learn, but when you’ve had enough learning, it’s time to find an alternative. Life is too short to suffer at the hands of a difficult boss.
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