Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to Work with a Bad Boss

At some point in our careers, we all face having to work for a bad boss.

Unfortunately, just because we think they're bad doesn't mean everyone else does. No matter how much they frustrate us, bad bosses don't always get called out and replacing them can be difficult. That means it's important to learn how to work for them.

Here are six types of bad bosses and tips for working with them:

The Unorganized Boss:This boss can't keep data and information flow straight, much less organize the people who come up with that data. This means you'll have to manage the flow--or at least the part of the flow that applies to you. Consider keeping e-mail strings, documenting notes from meetings, and being ready to take on extra administration responsibilities to help things move smoothly.

The Lying Boss: We assume leaders are honest by virtue of their role, but this isn't always true. A lying boss is frustrating and may put you in an awkward position. Always take the high road, reminding him what he said in previous conversations. For difficult situations, bring a colleague to the meeting so you aren't the only one hearing and substantiating what's said.

The Career-Ambitious Boss: Ambition isn't usually a negative, but it can go sour if your boss ends up taking all the credit when things are go well and pointing fingers when they don't. The best news if you work for this type of person is they won't be around long. If they're successful, they'll quickly move up and on. If they aren't, they'll go someplace else. In the meantime, the better you can make this boss look, the happier she'll be. And who knows, you might be a beneficiary of her promotion.

The Always-Late Boss: This boss is never on time for meetings, which wastes your time and can even make you look bad. This isn't likely to change, so learn to cope by setting work aside or bringing it with you so you'll always have something productive to do while you're waiting. If your boss is late for meetings with others, go ahead and have a mini-meeting before your boss arrives and try to cover the agenda items your boss doesn't need to be there for anyway.

The Last-Minute Boss: This boss just can't get around to assigning work until the last minute, usually the night before the project is due or on Friday afternoons before long weekends. Take control of this situation by constantly asking what's coming up and showing the initiative that demonstrates you want to get ahead. You might also want to be flexible during the times when you think a project might come your way.

The No-Bad-News Boss: On the surface, having a boss who's always positive looks like a good thing, but you need the bad news with the good if you want to improve. Plus, if you don't get any of the bad news, you can't put in context what is good. With this boss, it's important to ask them to share both good and bad news, and make those situations comfortable for them. Be sure to ask how you can improve and better support the business.

Unfortunately, this isn't an exhaustive list of bad boss behaviors; a boss can be difficult to work with beyond what we've described. But unless you're this boss's only direct report, know you're not alone. Look to other colleagues who report to this boss for emotional and career support. And who knows, with a little group support and intervention, the bad boss might become a good one.

Rusty Rueff, director and career expert for jobs and career website has been a CEO, led HR in global companies and is co-author of Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business.

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