If you haven’t had one of these consider yourself lucky. Most people have had at least one in their lives. “These” are bosses that can make our life a living hell. I’m not talking about a boss who is disorganized, incompetent or not around, but still a decent person. That is another story. What I am talking about is a boss with a bad case of nastiness. Narcissistic, bullying, arrogant, backstabbing and taking credit for our work are some of the characteristics of this individual. What do you do if you find that your boss has some or all of these characteristics?
Work on your escape plan
The first thing to do is come up with an escape plan. You need to get out before you have all of your emotional energy sucked out of you. Consider what you need to do not only to keep your sanity, but develop your skills and use your current job to get to the next level. This calls for some strategic thinking. You will have to find ways to work around your boss and cope with his or her behavior until you are out of there. Let’s face it, you are in a disadvantaged position. Going to human resources or beyond your boss is usually not a good idea. Some of these people are chameleons, being nasty to you on one hand, but sweet as sugar to those above them. It will be easier for those above them and human resources to side with your boss, and that is usually what happens. If they were smart and cunning enough to get into their position, they are usually crafty enough to remain there.
Look for allies and support from other areas
Don’t go around complaining about your boss to anyone at work. It will waste your energy and could make the situation worse. Help out your colleagues whenever you can and build a supportive workplace environment. Find opportunities to work in areas outside of your own and build relationships with others who are on his or her level. An advantage would be if you are able to find someone who is at your boss’s level or above that will give you a positive reference. Not only are you looking for a future reference, but building good working relationships with coworkers will help diffuse some of the negative energy you will have to deal with coming from your boss.
Find ways to influence and manage their behavior
Do some intelligence gathering on your boss. Pay close attention to not only what they say, but how they say it. What impresses or influences them? Who and what do they admire? What are their favorite ways of getting things done? What are their belief systems? What do they value in life? Find ways to use this knowledge to your advantage. If they admire someone in the organization, subtly slip in a positive reference to that person when an opportunity arises. If they strongly believe in family values, slip in references to the strong family values you were raised with. Most of what influences us works on a subconscious level. What you are trying to do is have them perceive you as an ally, as someone they have something in common with. The important detail here is subtlety. You don’t want to be so obvious that your boss will see through it or your coworkers will consider you a sycophant.
Don’t cower, but don’t get into a power struggle
Realize that if you find yourself in a power struggle, you will lose. But to keep your dignity intact you have to work up the courage to let your boss know that what he or she does, bothers you. Some individuals only respect people that have the courage to stand up to them, and your boss may be one of these. Never confront when you are emotionally charged and your anger is bubbling over. Wait until you are calm and collected. In an interaction, the person who is able to keep their emotions under control, comes out looking the best. Do not attack and accuse them of actions, rather speak about the impact of their actions on you, make “I” statements. For example, let them know that when they yelled at you in the staff meeting, you felt attacked and embarrassed in front of your coworkers. In any situation, remember that it is the person who is able to manage their emotions best that comes out looking the best.
Give your best and manage your emotions
It is not easy to do your best and keep your emotions in check when you might be criticized and your work not valued. Think of yourself as working for yourself, instead of your boss or the organization. Any skills that you learn will create you to be a more valued person to your new employer or yourself, should you decide that self-employment is for you. Use your present job to develop yourself, not only your skills but your coping mechanisms. Surviving, and even thriving, through a nasty boss experience will heighten your appreciation of a good boss. More important than anyone else recognizing your strengths and abilities, is that you recognize them. Giving your best, regardless of those around you, will increase your sense of self-worth and self-confidence. That is really your ultimate goal.