Dealing with Jerk-Bosses
Everyone has a jerk-boss, sooner or later.
Don’t worry if your boss is a jerk to everyone; worry if he singles you out.
If the boss is a jerk to everyone, you have three options:
- Change him. (Good luck)
- Live with it.
- Change jobs.
If you choose option #1, be prepared for option #3!
If the boss is a jerk to you, but not to everyone:
- Is she playing favorites?
- Is he threatened?
- Is it you?
If your boss is playing favorites or threatened – change her, live with it, or change jobs.
Is it you:
If there’s a chance the trouble with your boss is you, assume it’s you! Grab the bull by the horns and ask yourself some tough questions.
- Are you overestimating your value and performance? It’s more likely you are than you aren’t.
- Is it blind-spots? Everyone has them. Are you overestimating your positive traits and minimizing negatives? The only way to spot blind-spots is through the eyes of others.
- Is it personal? Have you offended them? Seek forgiveness.
- Are you aligned with organizational goals? Do you fully embrace the direction of your organization or are you rowing in your own direction? If you’re too good to help others, you’re the ass! Shut up and grab an oar.
- Are you a whiner? Gratitude solves whining. When was the last time you said, “Thank you.”
Never let a jerk-boss be your excuse for poor performance.
But, what if they take credit for your work, like jerk-bosses do? Do your best for you.
But, what if they don’t appreciate you? Never let a jerk-boss be your excuse to be a jerk.
But, what if they are threatened? Scaling back hurts everyone, especially you. Continue performing and lavish credit on everyone.
What are the best ways to deal with jerk-bosses?
How do people cause their own troubles with the boss?
Great topic. I’ve had a jerk boss very recently – but he was a jerk to everyone. It was frustrating, because it did bring down morale and productivity. We’ve fixed the problem and things have improved tremendously.
Two pieces of advice to anyone dealing with this: don’t procrastinate and stay positive!
Thanks for the great posts, please keep up the good work!
Great additions Chris. I especially appreciate “stay positive.” Congratulations for moving through a jerk-boss! Best success to you.
If you don’t mind me sharing a link to my site, some of the best advice I’ve ever read was in a guest post from Michael Holmes:
You are dead on in that essentially if he is a jerk to everyone you can:
Live with it.
But I would elaborate on #2 there.
#1 is pretty much off the table. And #3 is going scorched earth. If you have another job lined up that seems to be better, go for it, but I would attempt the live with it option first.
I would follow Michael’s advice and absolutely go all out, not just to please the boss, but as a way of proving to yourself that you can fight through adversity.
Thanks for adding value and extending the conversation.
Sometimes it’s style and circumstance. I had one experience where my first impression was that the guy was an absolute jerk… was ready to take option 1…. we laugh about that now 10 years later, he became a remarkable mentor and friend.
Great add Karin. It’s so true. I can think of people that it took time to “appreciate.” You make me think about the power of focusing on the good and giving things time.
Dan, very relevant topic. I am lucky to say that i have not had too many jerky bosses. However, you dont need very many (1) to make your work like and to a large part your life-life more difficult than it should be. Unfortunately I allowed this persons behavior to affect me way more than they should have. As any good organization does, we reorged after 18 months. My relationship changed. On this side of that relationship however I do realize that I have learned a lot of lessons from that time – both personally and professionally. Unfortunately bad leaders will always be present – politics and charisma are just a tradeable currency. Some advice from a somewhat scarred veteran.
Your personal values and your close relationships will be more important than ever when you are yoked to a jerky boss. Dont let the bad karhma erode either of these treasures. There is a river (one of many) that runs through every life and it is fear and negativity. You must do everything you can to stay away from that rivers edge in your life. The sound will drown out everything else and the bank is unstable. Lingering only increases your chances of being swept up in its currents.
Signed , a Survivor.
You keep writing stuff this week that directly relates to my life. It’s uncanny! There is a lot of truth to this post. I was just saying in a staff meeting recently where some morale-lowering issues were being discussed that we are responsible for the attitude we bring to the workplace. The workplace/boss can’t “make” things different without changes in our perspective. That can impact a lot.
That said, I do think there are times when the “jerk boss” situation can be remedied by a combination of changes on the employee’s part and changes on the boss’s part (if they are open to feedback, which is a big IF). I think this is another situation where 360 evaluations are HUGE.
I also think we as employees don’t understand the various pressures that our bosses face, and that sometimes their “jerky” reactions are not due to them being jerks but due to their sensitivity to forces and concerns that we are not aware of (that’s why I wrote this: http://biggreenpen.com/2011/01/17/how-being-a-supervisor-made-me-a-different-subordinate/)
Lastly (and this is super-basic but I do think it is relevant). My arguably “jerkiest” boss was a female (although in retrospect I see her very differently/more favorably). I am not sure the behaviors she exhibited that were seen as “jerk-y” or the “b” adjective commonly associated with strong women would have been perceived the same if she had been a man. Just sayin’.
A really good topic that exists at almost all the workplace but people love to bear with it, rather than change it. I would add some suggestions- check the remaining tenure of your boss with you. There are organizations where tenure is transferable. If this the case, you need to check how long he can be your boss. This will give you idea about how long can you bear with his behavior. You should know the culture of top management, whether they like such behavior or not.If they like it, then suggested measure no three hold true, if you are ambitious person. You can live with it, if complacent in nature. The even deeper issue is that why the boss is jerking? There could be many possibilities- he might get promotion by doing this, he is incompetent and by doing so, he can keep distance with other and alternatively prevent him by not exposing his weaknesses to others. There could be possibility that there are some people who are very close to him because of many reason ( selfish motive, wrong intention, or anything similar). Each problem has different solution and sometimes problems are interconnected and even single solution could be enough.
If your boss is incompetent, try to help him out. Make his comfortable and win his trust. If he has hidden intention that is against organization, try to get evidence and expose him. If he is jealous of your success you can do two things- organize discussion and ask politely his issues with you. If he has some ingrained or stereotype assumption about you, then you have to work harder. You need to perform, communicate across superiors and acknowledge the contribution of your boss, whether he has actually contributed or not.
Nonetheless, in most of the case of boss jerking, the issue is with the trends, following custom so that boss can reflect good image in the eyes of his superior. This is such a deep issue that needs lot of discourse, context analysis and behavioral study.
I have two experiences from this here in Norway where I am living currently.
1. At IBM in 2006 – well, my fault almost all the way. But I take with me how important the physical presence of a leader is. If a boss is not present how can he or she expect communication to work for the better? I ended up leaving the company.
2. At Statnett SF – well, I do not appreciate leaders who put their legs on the table and then claim a high salary. I decided to leave. No more Statnett and frustration. Find it unbelievable? Well it is the whole truth!
Here are my 2 cents. If you decide to leave you also decide not to battle what you do not appreciate. In case 2 this person will still be claiming a high salary by doing as little as possible.
Does it require a lot of energy to get him switched? Too much if you ask me.
What goes around comes around… eventually.
Think long-term and self-respect and your decisions will work for you.
One option would be to hand this jerk boss a copy of “The No Asshole Rule” by Robert Sutton.
Of course if you do this, you will probably want to be ready to go with Dan’s option 3 also.