5 Lessons I Learned From Working With A Bad Boss
Who exactly is a bad boss? Are they condescending? Narcissistic? Irresponsible? Though that definition varies from time to time and from person to person, it evokes almost the same feeling of anxiety and worthlessness in all of us. I have been there before. Plus, being someone who is now leading a team, I know what exactly it feels like to be on both ends of the spectrum. Trust me, we got this! Here are five of my tried-and-true life-saver tips and lessons I learned while working with a bad boss.
Lesson 1: Master your job scope.
Practically, the majority of the time we would be seeing our bosses in our lines of duties. This means if you own your job requirements, you own your workspace. Acknowledging what is expected of you when holding a certain position helps you with tracking your progress. Plus, it will also help you oversee the problem areas that can be eye candy to troublemaker bosses!
As we minimize the loopholes and problematic areas, it technically translates into us being picked upon less frequently. I once ran a management team with someone who aimed to get the team working for their own personal agenda. Fulfilling personal goals is not bad. However, it was really unjust for them to not be transparent with me and make me run the extra mile by holding me accountable to tick their checkboxes disguised as project tasks.
Lesson 2: Be upfront about tasks and work updates.
Another one of the lessons I learned from working with a bad boss is to make sure to analyse the agenda and pay full attention to the sections I need to take up in a board meeting. When offered to work on an impactful project, ensure the deadlines and objectives are clearly acquired in black and white before you step in. Keep yourself in the loop on the teams and tasks of your supervision.
The end goal? Your boss can’t afford to play the blame game with you without staining their reputation or performance further since you are doing your job well.
Lesson 3: Be attuned to their personal and professional attitudes.
Perception is key. It’s common to have someone liking your work when another clearly doesn’t. Our goal here is to reach out to our boss in the way we want them to see us. While working, be attentive to the words frequently used and avoided by your boss as they communicate. It will tell a lot about the mentality they are seeking to foster. Check how they keep themselves organised as well as their working styles to anticipate how exactly they would be approaching you from time to time.
Also, it would be greatly beneficial if you could keep track of their mood shifts on different occasions. All these little things are the ones that will be aiding you in persuading your boss to be on the same page as you the next time you clash with them at work. There was a time when I was a junior member of a close-knit team on the senior board. I had to put in a lot of work to develop a sense of inclusivity when I give opinions and to hop into the working culture. However, I observed that they really felt comfortable blowing off steam with people. So, I resorted to being more responsive whenever they did so among us. They now take my opinions much freely and considerately!
Lesson 4: Form and keep a healthy relationship with your team.
While we can feel entrapped working with a bad boss, the real sense of hopelessness and entrapment stems when there’s a lack of unity in the team. Bosses, like you, are also overseeing certain operations in the organisation. And if their team isn’t performing, it takes a toll on their performance as well. Like the roots of a tree, ensure that you bode well within your team of committees and colleagues. Be appreciative and alert about their presence and contributions and form a sense of kinship among yourselves to be supportive of another.
When you unanimously make productive requests and amendments to your boss’ visions and actions, it is harder for them to not oblige or consider.
Lesson 5: Learn to draw a line between our personal and professional lives.
Working with a bad boss can make this statement sound extremely challenging; yet if it’s not us, no one else will be able to do it for us. An unpleasant working experience doesn’t happen overnight. It is an accumulated process of unbalanced give and take positions at work. Admittedly, we might have all noticed the first time it started, and oftentimes, it all starts with their breach into our personal time. Make sure that you keep your boundaries intact from the early stages itself, as your responses to such situations gradually let your bosses know if they can psychologically push on you beyond means to get themselves an upper hand over you.
I know how it feels like to work with a pace-setting superior who finds it is okay to call you at odd hours to pass on tasks or updates. If I did not draw the line for my boundaries, they definitely won’t either. If you are a dedicated member of the team, setting your boundaries is not a violation of any kind. In fact, it makes your boss take you more seriously, and that was exactly what my boss learnt from me!
To encapsulate, teaming up with a bad boss can sometimes be inevitable. But that doesn’t mean we are completely doomed to carry the weight forever. Any organisation’s success lies in its teamwork, and any reputable organisation acknowledges this undeniable fact. We are all entitled to have a say as part of the team. Hopefully, these lessons learned from working with a bad boss can help you to be strategically and efficiently heard!