As author Rick Tate so aptly put it, “People Leave Managers…Not Organizations!” As someone who has left quite a few jobs, I can attest to this statement.
So how do you recognize you have a bad boss? In other words, how do you know it’s him or her and not you? I asked Robert Sutton, author of “GOOD BOSS, BAD BOSS: How to Be the Best…and Learn from The Worst” this question in a recent interview. According to Sutton, a bad boss:
- Doesn’t listen to what you say – sometimes pretends, but you know he or she is faking it. Or to put it another way, is all transmission and no reception.
- Is a master of “mistakes were made, but not by me” – does he or she ever talk about failures, errors, and setbacks and accept responsibility? Or is boss the master of blaming others (including you) when things go wrong?
- Doesn’t have your back – never seems to lift a finger to protect you from dumb rules, vindictive executives or customers, let alone to take the heat for you when you make a well-intentioned mistake.
- Seems to enjoy humiliating and embarrassing you – especially by teasing you in a mean-spirited way.
- NEVER apologizes when he or she does something that upsets or hurts you.
- Would never go out of his or her way to make it easier for you to mesh the challenges in your personal life with your job.
- Has no respect for your time or that of your peers. Starts meetings late, keeps you late, changes priorities constantly.
- Makes no effort to help you succeed at your job and keep developing skills.
- Lacks confidence in the decisions he or she makes.
- Is completely out of touch with what it feels like to work for him or her.
Now that you know the signs, Sutton gives some direction about what can you do about a bad boss:
- If you have the chance, get out as fast as you can.
- If you believe your boss will listen to you, have a private conversation about things the boss could do to make you more successful and happier. Beware, however, because lousy bosses sometimes take such conversations the wrong way and then try to exact revenge.
- Organize a group of fellow victims, carefully document the boss’s incompetence, and go to his or her superior and see if you can get your boss some coaching – or if things are really bad, get him or her canned. (I had a great example of this from a nonprofit executive. They could not get their nasty and incompetent CEO to change. So the CEO’s senior team bought copies of “The No Asshole Rule” for the board and met with them sans CEO – and told them that if they didn’t can the CEO, they would all quit. The board fired the CEO that day.)
- Take a learning attitude. If you have a really bad boss, play a little game with yourself and start thinking and listing all the ways that – when you are a boss – you will succeed by doing the exact opposite of what the loser who leads you does.
- Fight back in little ways to make you feel as if you are not helpless – like the radio producer who get fed up with her boss stealing her food off her desk and exacted revenge by making candies out of ExLax and putting them her desk…as usual, he walked over and ate them without asking. She waited about 20 minutes and then told him what was in them.
- If you can’t quit and fighting back, at least for now, is too dangerous, learn the fine art of emotional detachment. Don’t let that incompetent jerk you work for “touch your soul.” Go through the motions, be the ideal employee, don’t lose your cool when the boss makes life hell for you and your co-workers. Think of the day you will escape, but in the meantime, work on simply not caring about the creep and his or her rotten antics.
For more career advice, visit my blog at HeatherHuhman.com.