We’ve all been there before.
You work hard to get a good job with opportunities for advancement and a decent paycheck. The work is good and rewarding. The organization is progressive and successful. There’s only one problem.
Your boss is a real handful.
Your boss could be absent-minded and sloppy. Perhaps your boss is a control freak who micromanages everything you do. Or, your boss might be a volatile and abusive character that is a constant source of stress.
Regardless of the specifics, it’s likely that we’re all going to go through a time in our lives when we’re being led by someone who is bad at leading. The bigger concern is—what do you do about it?
Most of my work with leaders is advising them about how to be better at their jobs. However, it’s hard not to gain some insight into the scenarios facing those people who are being led. This has helped me learn the following four fundamental truths about suffering through bad leadership:
- Make the hard decision. Decide early on—is there any reason to continue working for this boss? If you’re being verbally attacked or abused, or if you’ve become a constant target for contempt and derision, it’s better to move on. Some relationships cannot be fixed.
- Assume that you don’t know everything about your boss. Have you stopped to think that you don’t really know what kind of stress your boss faces in his or her job? Most of us are quick to judge leaders for bad leadership. However, we should always remember that leadership is tough, and sometimes people we think of as “bad leaders” are really good leaders who are being held down by bad organizations, or even worse leaders further up the food chain. Try to be empathetic before you are judgmental.
- Understand the difference between “bad” boss and “overwhelmed” boss. Further to the point above, the boss who is failing you could be someone that is being asked to do too much with too little. Remember that part of our job is to support our leaders, and try to find ways of supporting them and helping them succeed. Do this, and you will be among the first people to share in the success that your boss achieves.
- Be honest about how your boss’ leadership style is affecting you. When given the opportunity, it’s okay to share your feelings with your boss. Good leaders will take the feedback and learn from it. If you share your feelings and your boss blows you off, or it makes your relationship awkward, then you should probably go back and read point one above, asking yourself bluntly whether it’s time to move on.
We all have high expectations for what our leaders can do for us. But the relationship cuts both ways. We have to try and gain insight into what it means to lead so that we can manage our expectations. We also need to be supportive and, at times, honest with bosses. We can help them to be better leaders if we realize that our careers are connected, and rise and fall together.