How to Transform a Relationship with a Bad Boss
“Your boss may not be perfect but they are perfect for you.” Unknown
Imperfect situations are perfect places to grow.
Karin Hurt on you have the boss you need (0:29):
Playing dead, while waiting for a different boss, doesn’t work. Build strong relationships, now.
Karin Hurt, author of, “Overcoming an Imperfect Boss,” on bosses that drove me crazy (1:52):
“You have more power than you think.”
What not to be?
Be careful that you don’t become like the bad boss. Bad bosses often teach us who not to be.
Bad bosses are:
- Unproductive. They run update meetings rather than collaboration meetings.
- Demeaning. They treat people above them differently from people below them.
- Closed. They’re not open to feedback.
- Short-sighted. They don’t invest in development.
- Confused. They have unclear vision and cause rework.
- Wasteful. They waste people’s time.
- Disrespectful. Common courtesy goes a long way to solving tensions.
- Indulgent. They think They’re above others and take special treatment.
- Self-centered. Their career is Their ultimate concern.
Become a great boss or employee by becoming the opposite of an imperfect boss.
Most importantly, give space for humanity.
Karin on getting your head straight (1:03):
Your bad boss:
- Is dealing with pressures you don’t fully understand.
- Sometimes feels overwhelmed.
- Is trying to please a boss, too.
- Is working to balance work and family.
- Is doing the best he or she can.
- Could use your help.
(From: “Overcoming an Imperfect Boss.”)
“Man was made at the end of the week’s work, when God was tired.” Mark Twain
How can we build positive relationships with imperfect bosses?
Recommendation: If you want to improve your relationship with your boss, I suggest, “Overcoming an Imperfect Boss.”
Learn to respond not react, no matter what you do or call it that is the crux of the change!!
Great places to start!!
1. Happy Now
2. Vision for the Future
Thanks Scott. Responding comes from power. Reacting comes from weakness.
The last boss I had I no longer work for. Several reasons.
HOWEVER, I can say this. We don’t work together and we don’t hang out in person, yet we still communicate to this day. We both learned a lot from our years of working together. I still can’t do what he does the way he does it. He still can’t do what I did so well either! (grins)
He still occasionally throws out the invitation to work together again and although I decline, I appreciate it because I know that even if I didn’t feel it at the time, he learned to appreciate all I did after I was no longer there.
And even when I’m the one who drops of the communication planet, he’s been the one to consistently pick up the ball to reconnect since the day I quit.
I haven’t been able to complain about that. Faults and all…that is someone who cares even if we didn’t make a very effective team when working together.
We’ve learned to appreciate each other even if only after the fact.
Kapow!! Thanks for sharing your story, Karin.
It’s Samantha Dan! (grins)
You’re forgiven in advance!
Doh!! Thanks for your forgiveness. 🙂
Samantha, What a beautiful story. I love the bosses that linger in our lives. Sounds like you established an important connection.
It turned out to be a more comfortable story then it used to be, that’s for sure! haha
I began working for him after my husband passed away and so I left the healthcare industry and entered the software industry! Totally green. Huge learning curve all the way around so constantly learning new things the entire time I worked with/for him. Plus, I had never worked for an entrepreneur before so it was very different then working in a corporate setting or in orgs like the military and heath care settings.
Oddly enough, while I spent most of our years working together from home as a widow with two grieving children, by an unfortunate strange ‘coincidence’, the mother of his children died, leaving him in a similar boat as myself with children to raise in addition to juggling business. He no longer had someone tending to the kids most of the time while he worked etc.
So that was probably a major factor in our ability to work through some VERY tough circumstances that we faced in our years together. He had a taste of what I was experiencing and didn’t understand for years (just had no experience to draw from so he could empathize). Then boom! He was faced with the same situation.
Very bizarre actually!
And because of my OWN experience, I can’t HELP but be empathetic to his situation in life. Major dynamic change when only one parent is in the picture due to death and/or literal abandonment, etc.
So when it comes to establishing an important connection, LIFE has a way of providing opportunities for that to happen sometimes…with the very people we have the most challenging time dealing with. We just never really KNOW how things will go…how things will turn out…
Keeping as open a heart and mind as possible is important..although it isn’t likely possible for ANY of us 100% of the time. Especially during powerful triggers. And so even my boss (above) and I had to really depend on time and circumstances to enable us to be able to communicate without a hardened heart. Now we can without any residual ‘bitterness’ when at one time, there was plenty of it.
That said, THEN there’s the situations with people that turn negative that completely shock me. Wouldn’t have predicted the behaviors of etc. There’s simply no way of knowing what we really don’t know in life…until it happens.
So for what it’s worth. Keep the heart open. We may HAVE to leave a bad boss and bad working conditions. Yet there may come a day where it’s not ‘bad’ anymore. Something good can come out of it. Even if only in retrospect.
I really needed to hear this today! When I read the list of 10 points of a bad boss, mine fits perfectly with each one! Then when I read the list of 6 points that make him human again, it helps put things in perspective. If I don’t do something to change my thoughts and feelings on the relationship, no one else will. My plan for today on is to take this info and work on the relationship and learn from it. And I’ll probably read this every morning as a reminder of why I’m doing this! Thank you so much!
I’m sorry to hear your dealing with a challenging boss, but so happy to hear you’re feeling empowered to invest in improving the relationship. You can download the first chapter to my book in the link Dan shared at the bottom of the post. I do believe there’s more in that which can help you.
There are bad bosses who cannot be cured, because of a clash of value systems. I once accepted a job as an EVP and General Manager, being hired by the President. Together, we effected a significant turnaround of a struggling manufacturing firm. The President’s father, who was sole owner and retired, decided to come back into the company and proceeded to turn it upside down – just because he could. He told people regularly, “you failed”, countermanded directions, stirred the pot, saw key employees leave. His son became depressive, nearly suicidal. I could not understand the man’s motives, nor could he understand me. He enjoyed the money the firm was making under my leadership, but not the way I was leading. One day, I discovered he had engaged the firm in an unethical response to a bid, so prepared to confront him. The same day, I received a call from another employer, and accepted a job shortly afterwards. When I tendered my resignation, the owner accepted it. His final words of advice went something like this…”Marc, you will never get ahead by being kind and asking people for help. The best leader I’ve ever known was Adolf Hitler. He knew how to pit subordinates against each other, so the strongest survived. That was a natural filter to determine the fittest, and as long as they were competing they weren’t plotting against him. You need to learn to do this.”
I didn’t follow his advice, but it gave me a perception of why he was so different. He had grown up as a young teenager in Germany, had lost his own father early, and venerated Hitler. The problem was not Hitler, but loving the wrong things. This man loved himself, his power, and his position. He was a “self-made” man who had emigrated to Canada dirt poor, started a business with 4 other immigrants, and slowly acquired their shares. He cared not a whit for anything else than dominating.
Sadly, this did not turn out well for him. 3 years after I left, the company went bankrupt, and over 300 people lost their jobs.
Why this story? It IS possible to work with a poor boss to achieve common goals. Bosses at every level need help, and leading upwards as an active follower is good for them and the organization. However, when there is no values alignment, one should not stay. In my case, I wanted to serve God, provide for my family, and lead a successful enterprise. In his case, he wanted to dominate people, and used the company as a means of doing so. We were not adversaries, but our worldviews were incompatible.
Mark, What a horrible situation. i’m totally with you. Some situations should just not be tolerated. It also sounds like you learned a lot if that ridiculous circumstance. I’m so glad you shared your story.
I’ve had wonderful bosses and I’ve had terrible bosses. With terrible bosses, I think you have three choices: 1. Suffer without trying to change the circumstances; 2. Move on in hopes of finding better circumstances; 3. Try to find ways to make the current circumstances better (the “relationship” piece). I urge caution — but not avoidance — with #3. The idea of improving a relationship, implies very clearly that it needs to be a two-way street (same with the marriage analogy that Karin uses). If it’s all one-sided, then the effect can be even more negative (and maybe #2 needs serious consideration).
Thanks so much for extending the conversation. I’ve seen far to many people stop at option one , leaving what could become a game-changing relationship untapped of it’s full potential. That’s why I felt compelled to write the book… I believe in most circumstances it’s worth a concerted effort.
The most difficult boss I ever struggled with, started out as a terrific boss. We already had a good working relationship (years long) before he hired me and we worked together collaboratively for about five years. But as his firm grew, it grew much too slowly and he became increasingly frustrated with his people. We had built an amazing team but more and more he began to alienate us. Two of us tag teamed trying to draw him out and reestablish strong relationships, but it never got better. At the end of eleven years, I simply had to leave. Oddly enough, although his initial reaction to my decision to leave was anything but congenial, we have continued to work together and the relationship has improved. It was a “divorce” that must have happened at the right time. I think it is working better now largely because it is absent that boss/employee relationship.
bimuse, Thanks for sharing your story. I’m curious, do you feel like you emerged as a stronger leader having been through that experience?
I would have to say yes, at least in some aspects. The experience certainly made me more sensitive to the needs of those around me. It also made me more acutely aware of the things that I can and cannot change. It was a complex situation and had much to do with what I call the Literal versus Conceptual paradigm. There were many needs that, in the end, I could not help to provide. In fact, the longer I stayed the more I think that I was making the situation worse. Perhaps that is also a leadership skill: recognizing when I have ceased to add value.
bimuse… thanks. I agree, sometimes it’s just time to walk away.. Reminds me of a Kenny Rogers song….”know when to fold-em… no when to run.” Thanks for sharing your important story and lessons
I’ve had great bosses and horrible bosses. And at times I can be a great boss and a horrible boss. And interestingly enough, most of what I have learned to do and not to do, came from those bad moments because it forced me to dig a little deeper, understand a little more and execute a little better. It’s the paradox of excellence – without a healthy dose of challenge how does one get better?
Ultimately, I started to change and improve when I took ownership of all those bad boss moments. Often, it was my own definition of them being a bad boss that made them a bad boss. Changing how I viewed them didn’t turn them great, but it did open me up to great learnings.
Alf, we’re all imperfect. Thanks for sharing a bit of your journey. I’m constantly learning from my own bad boss moments
The last boss and I did not get along. Sadly, he was in the Managing Board of the company…. the rest is a sorry tale!
Radiv, sorry to hear that. Any chance that story was ripe with learning?
Hi Karin, Thanks. Well, the story, yes. The company & Managing Board should learn, but they won’t. Corporations are not very good at introspection. He was my 5th boss in 5 years! From my side, yes. I went into a long phase of self-pity. After I dusted myself off, I realised that I now have the freedom to choose my path in life, and to break away from the conventional path that had brought me to my middle age! A lot of learning about myself. I have been known to be a good leader, but this phase will make me a better leader in the traditional corporate world (and outside), should I choose to return.
Transforming relationship with imperfect boss is the matter of challenge and risk. When someone want to transform it, he or she invites trouble, criticism and risk of loosing may opportunities. I still remember my days in industry where boss used to sit late and was just interested showing to superiors that he is only concerned about the job. When I newly posted to branch, I had tough times. My habit was to finish work in time and to take bus and train to reach to my home. Within few days of my positing when I used to finish work, I wanted to pack up, but branch head created an environment that he had lot of works. But actually there was no work but he had to impress superiors by sitting late. One day, after finishing my work, I told, I am leaving, then he surprisingly and angrily looked at me and asked- where are you going when other people are sitting in the branch. Then I politely requested that I had finished my work and if you have anything, let me know and I will do it. When I asked to allocate my role and responsibilities, he allocated all possible work, which was not possible to complete before 9 o, clock.
The moral of the story is that one need to carry risk of getting pounded in order to transform relationship with imperfect boss. But one powerful idea can he helpful in making positive relationships with imperfect boss is helping boss to overcome his fear. Secondly, appreciating the effort of boss publicly can be beneficial. Generally bosses are bad because of their incompetence and feeling of insecurity. They can be equipped with providing help, taking responsibility on behalf of them and making them comfortable.
They can be transformed when they do not feel threat from anyone.
Imperfect Boss…NO problem
Bad Boss…No Way
Dawned on me while reading this that while I’ve been forwarding them to you because of your boss issues I’ve got boss issues of my own. Go us.
Sent from my iPhone
I heard that Gallop did a poll on 1M workers a few years back and found that the top reason people leave jobs is because of a bad boss. I really appreciated the fact that you reminded everyone that their relationship with their boss is very important and absolutely worth taking the effort to develop, even when you think you have a bad boss. I found an app at pierapp.com that helps you solve bad boss problems. It personalizes an eBook based on profiles for you and your boss and tells you how to use neuroscience to have a better boss relationship. Very cool