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How to handle a horrible boss!

The relationship you have with your manager can truly make or break a job. The majority of us spend most of our week at work. So it’s great when you get on with your colleagues and even better when you have a good relationship with the boss.

Let’s make a clear distinction here – there is a big difference between a poor relationship and a horrible boss. A relationship is a two way process – in which both parties need to take responsibility for building and maintaining that relationship. All parties need to invest time and effort in understanding each other’s agenda and objectives to ensure that working relationship is mutually beneficial. A horrible boss on the other hand is someone acting or behaving inappropriately or displaying unacceptable behaviour.


What is unacceptable behaviour?

So what constitutes unacceptable behaviour in the workplace? Some unacceptable behaviour’s at work could be classified as bullying. The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development) offer a definition of bullying in the workplace. “Bullying at work involves repeated negative actions and practices that are directed at one or more workers. The behaviours are unwelcome to the victim and undertaken in circumstances where the victim has difficulty in defending themselves.”

So what does this unacceptable behaviour look like and how does it manifest itself? There are of course varying degrees of poor and unacceptable behaviour at work i.e. bullying. It may start with subtle negative comments or withholding important information in order to complete tasks and perform adequately in your role or removing responsibilities altogether. It may progress to insults to undermine your credibility or humiliate you. You could find yourself excluded from social events, training opportunities or even promotion. In extreme cases of bullying in the workplace victims could find themselves experiencing physical or sexual harassment and in these cases it would only have to happen once rather than repeated over a period of time to be taken seriously.

Keep a record

If you suspect that you have a horrible boss (a bully) and it’s not just a poor relationship then it’s wise and sensible to start keeping a record. Keep a track of dates, times and what happened – just brief notes at this stage will be sufficient. Try not to make this a chore or a big task otherwise you’ll be distracted from your job and could be facing bigger problems at work for underperforming. Keeping a note of events early on could be a safeguard for you if the situation later on becomes unbearable.

It’s unfortunate if you get to this point at work having to take notes – but it may well be invaluable if the poor treatment continues or steadily gets worse. It’s very difficult for HR to fully investigate on vague details or if you just cannot remember events. If you have dates, times and evidence then it certainly helps. Keeping notes can also help you put things into perspective or help you evaluate the situation from a distance – rather than while you’re in the thick of it and viewing the situation from an emotional point of view. Try (as much as possible) to look at the situation objectively and evaluate your part in the event – did you go into a meeting open minded or had you already decided how the meeting would go?

Keep focused on objectives

As mentioned above it’s great if you get along with your colleagues and boss – however, the workplace is different to your own social circle and you don’t often get to select your colleagues or to a certain extent choose your manager (I’m sure there are people who would disagree and claim that everyone has the decision at interview stage to decline or accept a job based on their opinion of their future manager – however, an hour isn’t a long time to gage whether you can work with that person or not and bear in mind everyone is on their best behaviour!)

Taking it back to basics – you have a role to play in the organisation and according to your job description you have certain daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks, projects, and objectives to meet during that journey. So focus on the tasks at hand and focus your time, attention and effort on understanding how to meet and exceed these targets. Ensure you fully understand your manager’s expectations of your performance – after all they do have an influence over your career and future appraisals. Being friends with your manager is secondary or even a bonus to doing a good job.

Keep an open dialogue

Communication is a massive topic and most people would agree how very important communication is to everything we do every day. Communication in the fullest definition covers verbal, non-verbal, written ability and listening skills. You’ll hear many people say it’s important however, how many of those people take communicating for granted? I know this because candidates find answering the communication question specifically very difficult. Just as difficult is explaining how they build relationships – because most of the time it just happens doesn’t it!? How many of us listen to respond rather than listen to understand? I’m guilty of this little one. I’m waiting for a break in the conversation to share my story – even if that person hasn’t finished their story! That’s not listening to understand.

Spend some time communicating (listening) and understanding your manager’s expectations and their management style. Everyone likes someone to show interest in them – ask questions, find out about them and how you can meet and exceed their expectations. As mentioned above we tend to take building relationships for granted - we either "click" with someone or we don't! At work we need to put a little more effort into building and maintaining those important key relationships and keeping an open and honest dialogue. It's not easy to ask for feedback from our manager’s - it's not easy to hear critical appraisal of our work but it can be useful and healthy to put these things on the table for discussion and not let the little things fester. Letting things fester isn't good for either party and could most definitely lead to either voluntary or non voluntary termination of a contract.

Thanks for reading and if this hasn’t helped – that’s okay we have loads of information to support your exit strategy!

photo by: maco

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