Never Let a Bad Boss Control Your Life and Limit Your Career
Power causes entitlement.
Bad bosses ignore the negative influence of power.
“My boss picks his nose.”
Yes! One reader shared the story of watching her boss pick his nose.
Powerful people tend to be rude. They smack when they eat. Food falls out of their mouth. They take the last cookie rather than sharing it.
Dr. Dacher Keitner assigned a random person to be the ‘supervisor’. Even though the position was random, they engaged in rude behaviors. (The Power Paradox)
Bonus video: Never take the last cookie!
- Send the little guy to do the dirty work.
- Don’t look up when you enter their office.
- Deflect difficult situations on the person who brought them up.
- Tolerate bullying behaviors from high performers.
- Interrupt while others talk. Once they get the floor, they don’t stop talking.
Never let someone you don’t like control your life and limit your career.
Two rules for success when you have a bad boss:
Rule #1: Your boss’s boss won’t correct the situation. This is true if your bad boss has longevity and he was hired by his current boss. When these two things are true, don’t expect things to change. Adopt other strategies to improve your life.
Rule #2: Bring your best self to work. Be pleasant, helpful, productive, kind, positive, and energetic. Adopt positive behaviors because it’s who you are.
Never let a bad boss make you a bad employee.
I gave a frustrated coaching client this feedback. “Your best self comes out when you talk about work, projects, and vision. But when you talk about your bad boss, your worst self comes out.”
“Which self do you want others to see?”
What rules might you suggest for people who have a bad boss?
Power tip: If you have power use it in service to others.
Great post. Be the leader you want your boss to be.
Thanks Karin. Exactly! But, it’s a real challenge to overcome the influence of a bad boss. My hats off to anyone who can do it.
I had a really, really bad boss. It truely made me fearful to apply for new positions (what if I got another Linda for a boss)! It has been years and it still raises my blood pressure when I think of it!
Thank you Dan!!
You’re welcome, T_
I like the post.
A question from the other side of the coin:
How many of the “bad behaviors” we see from bad bosses are our own constructs due to the Othello principle (the eye will see what the mind looks for)?
Once we label a boss as bad, it will be very tough for us not to see everything they do through that filter.
Thanks Nick. I’ve seen what you mention. Bosses who have been labeled work to improve their behaviors but the people around them continue to find fault.
This is great, but rule #2 is only going to get you so far because, these characteristics aren’t going to be recognized by a bad boss, as they are the antithesis of rule #2. You’ll likely have to make a transition to move on and then only if the “bad boss” is willing to provide a good reference instead of telling someone not to hire you. It’s a bad position to be in.
Thanks Yanelle. Yes, rule #2 doesn’t make a bad boss better. I’m glad you brought up the option of making a move. As you indicate, a good relationship with a bad boss may be important to making a successful move.
I’m a big proponent of servant leadership and this post speaks to that. A bad boss who is not interested in serving those lower on the org chart will exhibit these types of behaviors. Power & Money make a person more of who they really are, so I try to always put my best foot forward and help others before myself.
Great post, Dan. Thank you for being reliably awesome.
Thanks Eric. Your kind words are much appreciated. As you indicate, servant-leadership addresses many of the issues bad bosses cause.
One strategy is to use your influence with their boss and others, i.e.,co-workers to move around the bad boss. Because, as stated if they have longevity, they’ll be around a while with no change in sight.
Thanks Yanelle. Great suggestion. Work around when you can’t leave and the situation isn’t likely to change.
Dan – what does this say about your boss’s boss? Does this assign itself to a culture of bad basses?
Thanks Terri. This post is just an acknowledgement of how things can play out. It’s not an endorsement. Bad bosses won’t put themselves on the line for low level people.
Yes, when the boss’s boss won’t step up, it indicates a culture that encourages negative qualities and behaviors. We get what we tolerate.
WOW! You get what you tolerate! AWESOME. I will change one thing said earlier.
Be the boss you wish you could have had.
This is such a good post! I was also thinking, as I read this, that this happens outside of the workplace, too. In relation to our personal goals, and how we sometimes don’t even know it, but we let distractions get in the way of our efforts to reach those goals. So glad I read this today. Thank you.
Thanks Rolling. Sad but true. It’s easy to get distracted from a positive path forward. No one wins when that happens. For some reason we slip into behaviors that result in self-sabotage.
Interesting post. I’ve been dealing with a bad boss who was hired by her boss 8 months ago and the boss above the hiring boss thinks the bad boss is just great from a board relationship they had at another organization. Although we currently have no bullies except the bad boss the other 4 behaviors are all exhibited….and she has used 10 year old data (with no recession re calculation – I work for a fundraising organization) to prove the team should have done and should be better despite increasing revenues every year but one). While I do focus on good that our org does and do my best to keep positive it is has gotten to the point that I have decided (sadly) that I just need to move on.
Thanks Keith. You validate the idea that people leave managers not organizations. Perhaps it’s too easy to minimize the negative impact of bad bosses. After all, no one is bad at everything.
Bosses motivated by Personal Power tend to fall prey to a full on entitlement mentality. In other words, they act as if acceptable societal behavioral norms do not apply to them and they expect subordinates to simply comply and accept their abhorrent behavior. The rules do not apply to them.
As Yanelle mentioned, it may be time to move on especially if the boss is going to be in place for some time.
As far as the boss’ boss tolerating the behavior, keep in mind bosses like this tend to not reveal their unacceptable behavior to their boss and often suck up to their boss. Pay attention to your boss when he/she is around his/her boss. Watch how they interact in front of each other and their staff. A lot can be learned by just paying attention to their behavior with each other.
Thanks Jim. I’m thinking of you today. It’s overcast and rainy here today. 🙂
One way to check ourselves on the power problem is to see if we expect things from others that we don’t expect from ourselves.
You’ve brought up one reason poor performers manage to survive. They’re good at politics. They know who butter up.
By the way, if someone knows how to treat one person well, they certainly know how to treat others well.
Agree Dan, but remember the boss is nice to his/her boss out of sheer survival whereas being nice to his/her employees is optional in their mind.
Dan, thanks. This is inside out leadership – learning to lead yourself first no matter what the situation. I choose to be a certain kind of person no matter what the provocation might be to act otherwise. Self-control. This is what allows us to love our neighbor [boss] as ourselves.
Thanks Pete. You nailed something really important. Choose to be the person that makes you proud. Just ask yourself, “Is this something I’d be proud if mom saw me doing it?” Or, “Is this something that makes me proud?”
A bad boss as describe signals the death call of a division. Too many stories to tell here but every story ended the same. Upper management has the higher responsibility and should have the insight as to how those under the care of the bad boss is faring out, unless upper management is there but on permanent vacation. Good, hard working and faithful employees are hard to come by, a bad boss is not worth the loss of productivity and advancement.
Thanks Ron. A bad boss – who doesn’t work to improve – isn’t worth it. (I just thought I would add that little caveat. It hasn’t been mentioned yet.
I just did a quick search on the cost of bad bosses. If more leaders understood the problem of turnover, intentional slowdowns, and disengagement, they wouldn’t tolerate bad bosses.
Try to guide the Boss to see things differently, worth a try.
Perhaps have a one on one conversation with your views and see what they say, ” Sometimes they need blinder adjustment”!
If they are at the highest level of hierarchy an no one has the power to oust them, time to move on.
An interesting post since a bad boss can certainly break your career if no corrective steps are taken quickly!
The best solution is to leave the organization rather than grudging, trying to complain or adjusting to the unhealthy environment. The bad boss has an ego, position power and apathy towards those who differ to his ideas and oppose, are slow in results and don’t gel with his style of working.
One may feel loosing the self-identity, respect and happiness at work.
Bad bosses can have a major and lasting impact on employee sense of wellbeing, and unhealthy office dynamics have far-reaching effects on employee careers, promotions, etc. Employees often receive evaluations from bosses annually or semi-annually — it might be worth considering having evaluations go both ways, where bosses receive (preferably anonymous) evaluations from employees. This way they get feedback on their management style, opportunites that are offered, etc. This may not work in all environments or fields, but some type of feedback system, even if it is facilitated by a nonbiased 3rd party, might encourage everyone involved to improve.
May sound insane but…have a wee pep talk to yourself, gain focus and control, some things to talk about would be how good you are, no not stooping to their level, are they just being plain rude and ignorant, do I need them as much as they need me.
“Never let someone you don’t like control your life and limit your career.” – great quote !!
I love this,it has really inspire me,I quit my job because of a bad boss,I wish I knew this before,talk about your vision,project and work instead of a bad boss.Thank you!