In my last article, I discussed reasons why your boss sucks. That article may give some insight on the why, but most people are interested in what (to do about it). So here are some strategies to cope with this situation…
1. Do Nothing
This is what most folks will do. They don’t do a damn thing about the situation, at least not directly. They will, however, complain, abstain, or bitch. People love to complain, as talk is cheap and misery loves company. People who do nothing tend to minimize their contact with the boss: abstain. I have heard of people who drink on the job, do light drugs, or try to work from home (if possible) to avoid their boss.
Why do it? Because a change is coming; you intend to quit or are about to be promoted or get a new position (so you’ll have a new boss).
2. Accept Your Boss
Your boss may be crappy because you have major differences of opinion with him. I have a good friend who suffers from ADHD and his boss is a tidy person. Sparks fly every week there. I told him that I believe he should accept his boss and as dumb as he thinks the guy is, the boss is still the boss. Your boss may be leftist, incompetent, or sometimes related to management. In those cases, it is better to accept him or her as is.
Why do it? Because you value your work over feelings, and because there is a minimal change you need to handle.
3. Change Yourself
As Gandhi put it, “you must be the change you want to see in the world.”
If you change your attitude and behavior, there is a good chance that the other person will do it too. Those who have taken the red pill know that a change in behavior can manifest in drastic change to one’s achievements. The same may be applied to changing your dynamic with the boss. If you do it, think carefully about the change, set goals, and look for feedback while being patient. If things take a turn for the worse, it is probably not your fault and you will need to look into one of the next strategies.
Why do it? Because it may be also your fault. By changing yourself, you change the dynamic, which may lead to a change in your relations with the boss.
4. Change Your Thoughts And Feelings
Sometimes you react on a limbic basis to people. Disgust and hatred are powerful emotions. If that is the case, you need to ask three questions: what are the actions that hurt me? What did I feel when I was hurt? How can I change my thoughts so that I’ll be less hurt?
I like the Gorilla Mindset technique in which you have an internal conversation and talk to yourself as a good friend would. Doing that changes your mindset, which has a general effect on your behavior and how the other perceive you.
Why do it? Sometimes your boss just seems to suck. It is more about your reaction. Change the reaction (internally), and the problem may be solved.
5. Manage Your Boss
Managing your boss is figuring out what the boss needs and wants and then giving it to them, but without compromising your integrity. It’s very similar to cold reading, but you actually have enough time to get to know your boss. Find out his or her strengths and weaknesses, what drives them, and what the main interests of that person are. If the boss needs to look good, treat them with respect. By doing this you both benefit: the boss will have his way and you will make that person dependent on you.
Why do it? It creates a better work environment and is great win-win if done properly.
6. One-On-One Meeting
Talking and hopefully coming to terms is usually a good strategy. This will work if your boss can take criticism, is a problem solver, is not vindictive, cares about his/her employees (at least to some extent), has some integrity, and shows some listening skills.
If you choose this strategy, you cannot just wing it. You need to prepare for the meeting, set up the meeting, make it an effective one (by having goals), and follow up on it.
Why do it? If done right, it will make an actual difference. When two people sit down together and actually discuss their problems, it gets things done. Note that you need to make sure your boss is right for the strategy.
7. Lobby Your Boss
This is a technique I learned a decade ago in an influence class. It means that you go as a group (together or separately) to the boss and have that “one too many” conversation. The reason for this strategy is that the crowd may be more effective than one person. Also, some people will only go as a group since they don’t have enough inner strength and need the group as a crutch. The main problem here is coordination: getting everyone on the same page. Trust me when I say it is not easy.
Why do it? Same reasons as a one-on-one meeting, but with a stronger effect. Lobbying works best if you can agree as a group (and usually you become group leader).
8. Indirect Feedback
This means giving feedback in a way that the boss cannot identify who has given it. Let’s face it: we have some vindictive people as bosses, and you don’t want to be the target of their wrath. You can do it privately (i.e. printing a letter of complaint and slipping it onto his desk) or public (i.e. posting his picture with the title “Worst Boss of the Month”). This way the messenger doesn’t get killed.
Why do it? If you are creative (creativity is key) and can be very careful (don’t get caught). Note that if you are caught, you might suffer much greater than if you did a one-on-one meeting.
9. Move On
The above stated strategies were about staying. This and the following strategies are about termination of the relationship. The idea is to find a different boss in your organization and go work for him. You may do it directly or indirectly, but make sure that your boss will not be in the dark and make sure not to bad mouth him or her (even if they deserve it).
Why do it? Because you want to stay in the organization, but cannot work with your current boss.
10. Go Over The Boss’s Head
Maybe your boss is crappy, but his supervisor isn’t. Your boss’ boss usually likes to know what is going on, and you are giving him or her feedback. Also, unlike when we were kids, it’s not snitching or ratting. In order to use this strategy, you need to carefully choose that person (same as the criteria for the one-on-one meeting) and its measure of influence. You may also need to present evidence or think of going as a group.
Why do it? The big boss can solve it quicker. You must be very careful, because this strategy can backfire and hurt you bad.
11. Stand Up To Your Boss
I want to remind you the case of the Challenger shuttle disaster. I have read Richard Feynmann’s book on the subject. This is a classic case of standing up to your boss and making him accountable. By exposing the NASA culture, the committee was able to change the way the organization works. This is a high risk/high reward strategy because you might damage your reputation and risk your workplace. On the other hand, when it works, your situation will surely change.
Why it do? When your boss is doing illegal stuff, actually hurting people or may risk life. Be prepared to face the consequences.
12. Fire Your Boss
“Take this job and shove it.”
This feels so good. Telling someone to go fuck himself or herself and move on is a dream for a lot of people. If you have Fuck You money and have started to feel out the market or even signed a contract with the next employer, go ahead. I highly recommend not losing your temper. Even if you want to put everything on the table, do it in a stoic manner. Give feedback, but with some respect and with no badmouthing. You don’t want to leave a scorched earth behind, as it may damage your reputation.
Why do it? Self-respect, stress relief, and because it’s such a great feeling.
Read More: 8 Reasons You Have A Crappy Boss