But sometimes leaving your job just isn't an option. How can you make your bad boss better? Since we all know you can't change someone else, that leaves one option: adjust the way you deal with your difficult boss. Try some of the following strategies to help make your situation a little more bearable, and, in the mean time, start looking for a new job:
Consider the source. If you know your boss is consistently critical and never credits you with positive accomplishments, recognize it probably has nothing to do with you. Assuming the criticism is intended as productive and isn't abusive, try to take what you can from this feedback and look for positive reinforcement elsewhere.
Seek allies. The best friends come from foxholes. If you're in a situation with a difficult boss, it's likely your colleagues will open the door to discuss your mutual situation. Avoid making every workday a gossip session about the boss, and don't huddle at the water cooler, whispering suspiciously. Remember – everything you say can, and will likely, be held against you should someone decide to share the conversation. That said, if you can make friends with others in your situation, it may help you feel better, and hopefully less stressed out, about your boss. If the boss treats everyone poorly, it's proof that it's not personal and not a real reflection of your abilities.
Identify mentors. It would be great if your boss could help you grow and shape your career, but if he or she is a jerk, it's up to you to find someone who is willing and able to advise and counsel you. How can you find a mentor? It's possible the best candidate for this role is outside your organization. Join professional associations and identify the leaders. Oftentimes, influential players in these groups earned their roles because they have the positive characteristics your boss lacks. Even better, many of these pros welcome opportunities to help develop new talent. Do your research and find some people who seem a good professional fit for you and offer to help on their committees. The more you volunteer, the more likely you are to connect with a mentor who cares about you and who can help you overcome the stress and damage from your bad boss.
Communicate. Don't avoid engaging with your boss; make every effort to keep communication lines open. Ask specific questions about how you can help accomplish your unit's goals and try to suggest ways you can help.
Keep an ear to the ground. Part of communicating well is knowing what's going on, and when. If your department is under a lot of scrutiny, it's probably not wise to ask for a lot of time off. If you boss just got chewed out by his or her boss, it's not a good time to go in for a heart-to-heart. It's tough to be empathetic with a difficult manager, but try to be involved enough to stay in the loop regarding what may be affecting your superiors' moods and respond appropriately, even if that means steering clear for a while. By the same token, keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to transfer or to apply for promotions. Even if your boss is not supportive, if you maintain a network in your organization, you could land a new job and leave your boss behind.
Don't allow yourself to be a victim of a bully. Unfortunately, it's all too common for employees to get stuck in situations where the boss is actually abusive. In this case, make a point to document situations, including exactly what the boss said or did and how you responded. Keep a log or a journal. Sometimes, another supervisor can help report a situation when an employee is bullied, or someone in Human Resources may be able to help. Before you move to report someone, however, be sure you've done your due diligence. Consider that you will be under scrutiny. Try to evaluate the situation from an unbiased, objective perspective. If your boss is generally well respected and a top performer and you are not, you probably aren't going to win any points by reporting the situation. In that case, it's important to be realistic and recognize your best choices are leaving or making a conscious effort to grin and bear it.
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