How Do I Deal with a Horrible Boss?

Dear Karen:
I like my job, but work for a manager I'll call Tim. Tim is rude, takes credit for all of my projects with senior management, and is borderline abusive. It's getting to the point that I'm not sure I can take any more. What should I do?

Finding a job you like can sometimes be difficult enough in itself, but dealing with a bad manager is the pits - and unfortunately, all too common. 

My former employer was a great national brand, a company I was proud to be a part of. However, all of that was overshadowed by the boss I worked for. For the first 6 months of my time there, I thought things were amazing – she was supportive, helpful, and very kind. I came to learn afterward that all new employees received a 6 month grace period, after which time she let down her guard and became a bully, responding by gaslighting. What was once acceptable or expected would completely change, with zero communication of same. If asked for tips on how to better navigate such changing circumstances, she would change the subject and grow frustrated that the question was even asked. I would wake up every day, filled with dread, and had to force myself to get up and go to work. Finally, I decided that it was impacting my health and my happiness too much, and so I made the decision to move on. 

Since you do like your job, I would suggest sitting Tim down and openly - but professionally - discussing the issues you have, and inquire in what areas/ways you can improve. Depending on his response, you will learn/encounter the following: 

§  You will discover his opinion on your work performance, and receive helpful feedback to cement your position (whether it is positive or negative in nature). How is that, you ask? Here are the possible outcomes:
§  Tim will tell you you're already doing a great job.
§  If improvement is needed, you will do so, and determine if there is any change in Tim's behavior. 

Once you open this dialogue, it puts you in the position to tackle the conflict. If you need to improve, you do so - if you're doing a great job, fantastic. Now you need to determine if you're comfortable with addressing the issue with Tim directly. I always encourage an initial conversation with the party in question, because going over your manager's head - especially about their behavior and performance - is a touchy subject and one not likely to be well-received. There are two scenarios here:

Tim might learn something from you. It is quite possible that he has no idea how his behavior has been affecting you/your team members, and your conversation will spark the change long-desired by all. You'll be a hero to the team for inspiring such change. 

The other possible outcome is that Tim will not care how he acts or how it affects others. It may also include negative repercussions for you. As a manager, this would be an unfortunate possibility that he would act in that manner, but it is not unheard of. 

I encourage you to remember that because you broached the subject with Tim, you are in the driver's seat. Even if he continues to behave badly, you have now taken the appropriate steps and can escalate your concerns to HR and even senior management. After all, if Tim is always taking credit for those great ideas of yours, perhaps it's time senior management had a chance to hear them from the source - and all the other fantastic ideas you have brewing, as well. Requesting a quick 10-minute meeting is often something even the busiest of partners can manage. Your power lies in being a smart, valuable employee, and that is not something anyone - not even Tim - can take away from you. 

If, after all of your efforts, you find nothing has changed - be it Tim, or help from HR or senior management on your behalf - then you may want to consider if you really want to be in a professional environment that doesn't value your work ethic and especially your well-being. Life is too short to stay anywhere that doesn't make you happy. 

Good employees don't leave companies, they leave managers. 

In the meantime, here are some recommended tips for finding balance amidst the chaos:

§  Explore hobbies and interests outside of your job to bring you pleasure and dive into them. I actually think this experience encouraged me to delve deeper into setting goals for myself professionally as well as personally, as I saw where I did NOT want to be.
§  Write - it can be a really therapeutic experience to say whatever you think or feel. This can apply solely to your job, but can branch into other topics that you interest you, as well. Start each day by simply expressing your intentions; what do you want out of the day, the month, the year, your life?
§  Volunteer your time and serve people who truly need help – sometimes it really makes you remember how grateful you are.
§  Travel, often. I understand that this might not be a financially viable option for all, but I learned that if you are intent on something, you can make it happen. Utilize all the resources available to you – between all-inclusive deals from Groupon to traveling on a budget, you usually can make it work to your advantage if you do the research. After all, that’s what Google (and Pinterest) is for! Worried about time off of work? Again – be smart. Turn weekends into long weekends and road trips – it doesn't have to all be trips to Europe.  
§  Yoga, running, any exercise that gets your blood pumping. Exercise helps burn off the energy (frustration) and is essential to keep yourself feeling healthy physically when you may not feel as emotionally/mentally strong.
§  Reading - for fun, and for work. Keep learning, and research, research, research - come prepared to each encounter with your boss.
§  Spend as much time with friends and family as possible – their love and advice can really center you.

Good luck! 


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