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Dealing with Bad Bosses -- It's a Jungle Out There

Bad managers
Harassing? Or
just plain crazy?

Where does that 500-pound gorilla sit? It might be right outside your office ... but you're not alone. Check out this survey on and how to cope with the horrible, no good, very bad manager...

Seriously? Did my boss just say that?

It's the question most workers have when dealing with arrogant, cocky managers who apparently often have no filter between their heads and their mouths.

According to one study, 90 percent of employees will work for a very bad boss at some point in their careers. Meanwhile, three out of every four people report the most stressful part of their day is dealing with their boss.

Get any group of workers together and most likely everyone (including you) will have their personal horror story about dealing with a bad boss or terrible manager.

So how do bad bosses happen?

Recognizing a bad boss

Maybe your bad boss has all the educational credentials necessary, but none of the social intelligence to lead a group of people. In some cases, bosses have already reached their level of incompetence and haven't got a clue. Then again, bad bosses may simply be the equivalent of schoolyard bullies. Sometimes, they are the office jerks who find a way to ingratiate themselves with an inept boss -- to eventually get promoted to a position of leadership.

when the bad boss is the elephant in the room
Problem? A bad boss is sometimes the elephant
in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge.

According to one survey of the top “dirty dozen” characteristics of bad bosses those with the most outrageous moral failings are probably the worst. Signs that bosses may be deeply flawed include taking credit for others' accomplishments while assigning blame to everyone else. Meanwhile, they will often strut around the office arrogantly bragging about their superiority.

At the lower end of the spectrum, a bad boss may simply be incompetent and sit quietly in their office, Dilbert-style, hoping nobody makes any demands on them. Others may lack leadership ability and have no clear vision of where their department should be headed.

In the best case scenario, your manager's boss can easily recognize a bad apple and take corrective measures -- either by sending them to outside management training (or re-training), or outright firing them. And yet -- and this is where the real problem begins -- most upper level managers rarely want to admit to making a mistake. They will usually turn a blind eye to making a bad hire.

Meanwhile, among employees the result is often a confused workplace in which the entire company leadership becomes suspect. At this point, it's important to remember to hold your head high and not descend into office gossip or backstabbing. As morale plunges to sub-zero it may seem that there is no clear escape from this toxic situation.

But there are ways to manage this jungle of a mess...

Fight or flight

If your boss is simply ineffectual, it may be possible to arrange a meeting to talk with them. Resist the urge to go on the attack, but approach the situation with genuine respect. Think through your concerns, or make a list if you have to -- and then lay it on the line. Depending on the response, you may have prepare yourself for the possibility of a major fallout, or you may just open a new door to a new level of collaboration.

sometimes there is safety in numbers
Stuck with a REALLY bad boss? There is safety in numbers.

Others prefer the "customer service approach" by treating the bad boss like a cantankerous client. Customer service professionals win by always remaining calm. Especially with bosses who are screamers, it's important to be professional by asking questions about their expectations, and how you can help. Be consistent and never let them rattle your cage. After a while, they will simply back down in frustration, or begin treating you like an ally who they can rely upon to get things done.

If you need help, prepare to discuss your problem boss with human resources. Of course, you might be viewed as a just another whiny, troublesome employee. So here, especially, is where your sterling reputation comes in handy. HR is more likely to listen attentively to someone who never complains and who has consistently exhibited professional behavior.

In some cases there are safety in numbers. One particular instance saw an entire department being browbeat, one by one, as they were terrorized by their new boss with a list of their shortcomings. Threats of firings came almost on a daily basis. The result? HR was overwhelmed with complaints. The tyrant was fired a month later.

If all else fails, start planning your escape back to civilization. Put yourself out there by letting everyone you know that you are on the hunt for a new job. Instead of complaining about why you're on the move, just say that you're looking for a better position.

As always, job networking is probably your best course of action. Hopefully, by now you have learned from your mistakes and will ask about your prospective new boss and the company's management style. If insider contacts aren't available, make it a top priority to find out as much as possible before you arrange for an interview. The last thing you want to do is trade in your current jungle encounter with one that's even worse.

More about dealing with bad bosses around the Web:

Dealing With a Bad Boss: Strategies for Coping

10 Brilliant Tips for Dealing With a Difficult Boss


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