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How to Manage a Horrible Manager

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

As most professionals know, whom you work with can have a huge impact on your overall job satisfaction. We’ve heard many candidates say that while their previous job situation was tough, they wouldn’t have lasted as long in their old position if they hadn’t enjoyed working with previous leaders and teammates. But what happens when you land in a job you love, but you have a horrible manager?

Unfortunately, horrible managers come in many forms. Your manager might be a bad performer, or simply have terrible communication skills. No matter the reason, learning how to contend with this scenario is important for employment survival, so we’ve pulled together four tips for you to consider.

1. Limit Your Reactions as Much as Possible

In a situation like this, you do need to accept the dynamic: your boss does have an impact on your job, and in some ways, your career. That’s why limiting your reactions is very important—even if it’s terribly difficult. The best way to exacerbate a strained employee-manager situation is to add fuel to the fire with emotional reactions. As they say, it’s important to pick your battles. If you let every frustrating thing your boss does get to you, and you react every time, then you’re going to be miserable—and place a target on your back.

2. Focus on the Aspects of Your Job That You Love

Once you make the conscious decision that you’re not going to allow your horrible boss to permeate every aspect of your work life, it’s much easier to focus on the aspects of your job that you enjoy. While this takes mental toughness, we’ve talked to many candidates who just decide to be their own boss in their own mind, which helped them get through tough periods. This could include diving deeper into projects, or focusing on teammate relationships that offer support and guidance.

3. Find a Leader You Respect to Follow

One of the biggest frustrations of a horrible boss is that it also leaves you without a mentor. Since you’re not getting the level of leadership you desire from your immediate boss, sometimes you can find it elsewhere within your company. This allows you to have a say in your development, as well as a sounding board to discuss some of your frustrations, but be cognizant not to bad-mouth your manager behind their back. A good mentor will help you work through problems since they’ve been in your shoes before.

4. If All Else Fails, Have a Conversation

If you reach a point where confrontation is unavoidable, do so confidently but tactfully. Often, a conversation can lead to understanding, and your relationship with your boss can be salvaged. However, remember that a conversation is a two-way street; while you might need to let your concerns be known, it’s important to listen to the other side, too.

With a Bad Boss, It’s Always Important to Keep Your Cool

One important caveat: when we’re talking about issues with a bad boss, we’re not talking about more serious offenses like sexual harassment or abusive behavior. In those cases, you’ll need to get HR involved. But if personality conflicts or management style are issues, then following the four steps above will be helpful. When it comes to having a horrible manager, you have to take the high road. Sometimes it won’t be easy, but doing so will help you ensure that you don’t make a bad situation much, much worse.

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