We don’t want to rehash the plot from the movie horrible bosses here but we do want to go over some survival tips when faced with a horrible boss.
There are many behaviors that make a Boss Horrible: (this list is incomplete, feel free to add)
- obnoxious personal behavior
- lack of information
- no respect for your privacy
- no respect for deadlines
- clueless about the business
- claiming all the credit
- demanding ridiculous hours
- changing priorities on an hourly basis
Please note that we try to focus on Horrible behavior, chances are that the boss is a great parent, grandparent or friend but you are just confronted with that horrible behavior.
It is also important to look at the behavior from the bosses’ perspective. It is very well possible that the boss not aware is of the behavior, or not aware is that the behavior is experienced as horrible. Even if the boss knows that this behavior occurs and also that it is viewed as horrible by some or all department members, it may not be something that can be changed. Some behaviors are caused by directions from Head Quarters or there are other circumstances that forces the behavior to happen but cannot be changed, at least not by the boss (changing priorities as the business changes fast, lack of information). Finally if the boss is aware and knows it is horrible and can change it, then the question is does the boss want to change the behavior? Sometimes behavior that is horrible to one person is actually helping the one who displays the behavior and they may just not want to change (claiming all the credit, demanding ridiculous hours).
In every situation there are at least two parties and the other party is you. When confronted with a situation where you are bothered by a horrible boss, you need to ask yourself if this behavior is something that only you experience or is it generally known behavior and recognized by others in the department. When the others agree with you that the horrible behavior occurs, does it also affect them or is the behavior only targeted at you? Maybe you are the only target, in which case you will have more difficulty dealing with it. When more people are involved it becomes easier to develop a plan of action. You can talk to each other, confront the boss as a group, talk to a higher up official, talk to a Human Resources department etc.
The options that you have with a horrible boss are mostly limited to either quit your job, deal with the behavior by developing a coping mechanism for it or fight the battle and try to change the behavior.
Quitting may be a good option if the job market is friendly and when you are not too invested in the position. You always need to balance invested time versus anticipated outcomes. This balance is certainly important when you decide to cope and find ways to avoid the behavior or mitigate it with other circumstances. Having a horrible boss can seriously depress you every day that you come to work and the situation may become so dreadful that you will have difficulty thinking through all your options.
To give you some help in thinking through the issues, we have developed a Horrible Boss system. It is a work in progress; give it a try and let us know if it helps and if you have recommendations.