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How to deal with a bad boss

A bad boss at work can cause intense anxiety

A bad boss at work can cause intense anxiety and can drive you to leave a job or organization that you otherwise like. Before you take this extreme step, it is good to check if there is a way of dealing with the situation. Given below is a five step process that could help you deal with such a situation.

Do an honest self evaluation

The first step for you would be to do an honest self evaluation to see if you are the cause or the major contributor to the bad relationship. Try to list all instances of friction between you and your boss and analyze what was the root cause. Some of these could be instances of your having delivered work with errors which your boss needed to point out. You may not consider those errors as being material but your boss may think otherwise. It could be other issues that appear minor to you such as small delays in meeting time lines or friction with other colleagues at work.

If you are truthful about this self analysis, you could come up with some simple strategies to better the situation. If the problem was with errors in your work, for example, the next time you deliver something, double and triple check the work. Say to your boss that you are aware that you have had errors in your work and that you have taken steps to double check and request a feedback if he finds this work error free.

Check with colleagues

If your self evaluation did not show up any logical causes, speak to some close colleagues to check if you are the only one on the team receiving the bad treatment. This should be low key to begin with. Say that you have been having some difficulties in living up to the boss’s expectations and that you were wondering if your work had deteriorated. Avoid over dramatizing your problems so that you get a factual response.

If some of your colleagues also report bad relationships with the boss, it gives you the comfort that the problems lie more with the boss than with you. In selecting the colleagues to ask, be careful and pick the ones who have a reputation for good work habits and avoid the habitual laggards.

Start keeping a record

If you have determined that the problem is not with you but with the boss, start keeping a record of the instances of his bad behavior. Write down time and place, the proximate cause, the explanation you attempted to give, his reaction etc. Make these records factual and avoid bringing in your emotions or anger into the written record. Do not seek confrontation events to add to the record. If in this period, the boss has had an occasion to compliment you on your work, record that too.

Once you have recorded multiple episodes over a reasonable length of time such as 4 weeks, analyse your record to see if you can see a pattern. Whether these episodes are more frequent on Mondays or are after staff meetings or pertain to particular areas of work. These could be pointers to the real reasons behind the boss’s behavior.

Seek a one on one meeting with the boss

Once you have a record of multiple instances of friction between you and your boss, seek a one on one meeting with your boss. Make the request for the meeting in the tone that you have been having some problems at work on which you need his counsel and guidance. Ask him to set the date and time of meeting and don’t push too hard if he is avoiding a meeting.

When a meeting does take place, start slow and easy and point out that over several weeks you have noticed that the boss has been unhappy with you and you were seeking to understand the reasons to see if you could improve the situation. If he is willing to talk, listen to his reasons. If he is unwilling to talk, hand him your list and ask to discuss each event. Keep a strong check on your anger and words at this meeting.

In most cases such a discussion should help clear the air and if the boss does point out some areas of improvement for you, you need to give those an honest try.

Seek a meeting with HR and the boss’s boss

If the one on one meeting with the boss does not lead to any improvement in your relationship, it is time to seriously consider a change of job. Before you go out and look for another job, it is useful to make one last try at staying on the job you have liked.

Seek a meeting with the Human Resources Manager responsible for your area of work and dispassionately explain your problems and the steps you have taken to improve the situation. Show him or her the written record. Ask the HR manager to set up a meeting for you with your boss’s boss to talk about the issue and say that you are seeking placement under another boss in the same company.

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