A terrible boss doesn’t just impact the way you work in the office — they affect your entire life.
According to a survey commissioned by Lynn Taylor Consulting, a whopping 19.2 hours are wasted each week worrying about what a boss says or does — 13 of which occur during workweek, and 6.2 over the weekend.
“A bad boss will likely jeopardize your career growth and impact your personal life,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job.” “A good manager will help you thrive and bring out the best in you. While it’s rarely top of mind, you can empower yourself with a terrible boss, especially if you watch for red flags.”
It’s important to identify these signs early on, before you get too involved, especially if you spot them during the job interview. This way, you can decide if it’s something you actually want to deal with (or you can figure out if you’ll need to start looking for a new job).
Using the book “Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots” by Vicky Oliver and an interview with Lynn Taylor, we’ve compiled 21 signs your boss will eventually crush all happiness you’re clinging to — and steps you can take along the way.
Vivian Giang contributed to an earlier version of this article.
You put in your hours and get permission for a long weekend off, but your boss doesn't hesitate to call you during your off hours. To deal with this kind of boss, Oliver says you need to set your boundaries early.
''Separation anxiety' can kick in if you have a power-hungry boss, and you inadvertently chip away at that power,' adds Taylor. 'You're best served to instill a sense of comfort with a terrible boss who's demanding, much as you would with a 'terrible two' toddler -- whether you plan to take a day off, leave early, arrive late, or take vacation.' If you're going to be gone, give ample warning and let them know that things are under control, with appropriate detail.
Is your boss so pushy and overbearing that you find yourself unable to accomplish anything efficiently? This may be a perpetual problem, so get ready for it early.
If they want a play-by-play of every meeting, email, and call, then take detailed notes of every business interaction and send them to your boss, suggests Oliver. Your boss will think that they're on top of things and will leave you alone.
'By over-communicating with a micro-manager or needy boss, you'll diffuse their desire to constantly check in, while you build all-important trust at the same time,' says Taylor.
Stubborn bosses are as pervasive as the company water cooler. 'But there's a fine line between appearing insubordinate and arguing your case,' says Taylor. If there's something in it for your boss, you have the best chance of changing behaviour.
'Avoid the temptation to fight the same battles repeatedly. Change your argument to find compromise, and document your case if you're passionate about your perspective. Just don't win the battle and lose the war.'
One of the most unnerving, tell-tale signs of a terrible boss is one who rarely lets you know where you (or they) stand. 'Most employees would rather get direct criticism from their manager than face a seemingly pleasant, but backstabbing boss,' Taylor explains.
If they're simply not attentive, that's also a problem. 'When your boss has the attention span of a fly, it not only saps your motivation; you feel like you're spinning your wheels,' she says. 'Try observing how others get the manager's attention.'
When your manager spreads rumours or gossips about the staff, it's disheartening and awkward -- and entirely unprofessional. 'Your terrible boss may try to drag you in, but you're better off diplomatically staying out of the fray,' says Taylor. 'Otherwise, you may find yourself inadvertently alienating others if word spreads further.'
Try segues that bring current projects back into focus: 'Hmm, I hadn't heard that. But while I have your attention, I'd like to mention some good news about the XYZ account.'
Does this sound familiar? In the morning, they tell you one thing. After lunch, it's a different story.
'Pick the (suggestion) that benefits you most and pursue that direction,' Oliver advises. 'Kick the habit of being dependent on him in the first place. Never ask for permission. Instead, simply inform him of your intentions. If he has a problem with any of your decisions, he'll let you know.'
Taylor says fickle bosses are challenging, because they can trigger never-ending false starts. 'And that can affect the initiatives you give to your team, causing a colossal productivity and morale drain.' It's often better to wait before going full bore on a whim from this kind of boss, she says. 'Also, you can be the voice of reason by asking non-threatening, thoughtful questions about the newest idea or flavour of the day. That can give a terrible boss pause, and foster a more strategic approach next time you're given an 'urgent' project.'
There are few things more aggravating at work than being kept stagnant with the same routine responsibilities over a long period of time, especially after you've voiced interest in expanding your level of contribution.
'If you feel your sentiments are going unheard, you may still proactively demonstrate your more strategic skills on a current project and propose them to your boss; contribute new ideas to your boss' pet project; get more specific with how your background and credentials could specifically be better tapped for XYZ initiatives; or, with your manager's permission, offer to volunteer on a related department's project where your skills set applies, building on your existing credentials,' says Taylor.
'It's 8:30 a.m. and your inbox is crashing the corporate server due to your boss' excessive requests and inquiries,' says Taylor. 'You could work 24/7 and still find your boss dissatisfied.'
Your manager must realise that you have limited time in a day, and can't do all things (well) at once. If you don't speak up, your boss will keep pushing.
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