How to Handle a Bad Boss
Q: I have worked at the same company for 12 years. I really like my job and all the people who I work with except for one: my new boss. He was brought in from the outside, and no one else in my department can stand him either. We're hoping he won't stick around long, but I don't want to count on that in this economy. I now dread going to work since his office is right next to mine, and he watches everything I do. Is it time for me to start looking for a new job?
A: While looking for another job may turn out to be your best option, don't start your search just yet. A job you really like and coworkers with whom you get along are benefits you don't want to lose in the current economy. What a disappointment if you leave your current job, only to find yourself in a new job with a whole new set of problems. So, try to resolve your issues first.
If you aren't happy with your boss, you'll want to determine why you feel that way and then investigate and understand the root causes, says Gaylan Nielson, CEO of The Work Itself Group and co-author of Fake Work: Why People are Working Harder but Accomplishing Less. Then, take the initiative with your boss and try to resolve the issues you have with him.
Start by making a list of the essentials you need in order to be effective and happy at your job. Next, set up a meeting with him. The meeting can serve as an opportunity to bridge the gap between your needs and those of your boss. Mr. Nielson suggests discussing the company, the group, and the team strategies and priorities along with your boss's priorities and how you can best support them.
"Finally, after you have asked several questions about how your boss perceives your work and others' work, ask him for permission to discuss your issues about how he is treating you and others," suggests Mr. Nielson, using "I feel" statements over judgments.
Many times, new bosses are completely unaware of the discomfort their styles are causing, says Lydia Anti, a personal development coach and author of Develop the Keys to Successful Living. "He might not even know he is making you feel so down and agitated because, for all you know, he believes that he is doing his job," she says. "If no one tells him, how will he know and change certain aspects of his people skills if that is the issue?"
The biggest mistake you can make is to sit around and wait for your boss to leave. "Waiting around and hoping that things might change is a career-wasting activity," says John Cioffi, management consultant and author of 6 Habits of Highly Successful Managers. "A collective and diplomatic discussion that gets everyone, including the boss, focused on goals is in the best interests of the staff, the boss, and the company."
Finally, remember there is a big difference between a boss who is abusive or crooked and one who is just learning the ropes and still an outsider, says Donald Hurzeler, author of The Way Up: How to Keep Your Career Moving in the Right Direction.
If it turns out that your boss is in the first category, then yes, it may be time to start looking for a new position elsewhere or at least speaking about the situation with a higher up. But if it turns out that your boss simply hasn't settled in yet and is still feeling his way around, you have an excellent opportunity here to advance your career.
"Bosses come in all shapes, sizes and with all kinds of backgrounds," says Mr. Hurzeler. "The way to succeed is to find a way to become important to that new boss. In doing so, the boss wins, you win and the company wins."
Write to Elizabeth Garone at firstname.lastname@example.org