5 ways to deal with a bad boss

Sept. 14, 2012
If you work for a boss you don't like, don't despair. Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, reminds you of your options and carefully guides you through the steps to make things better!

Your boss stinks. (I know, this isn’t a politically correct thing to say, but some of the nonsense that goes on in the workplace isn’t politically correct either.) You’re not being treated with respect. But what are you supposed to do about it? You need this job more than they need you. Sure, they talk about how they want “teamwork” and how everyone is on the same page, but who’s being fooled? Are you treated with respect, or do you just get more responsibility thrown your way, and you know you can’t possibly accomplish all these tasks?

Every day you come home stressed from the dental practice, and you just want to escape. You might turn to food, shopping, alcohol, or Facebook to vent your frustrations. But is it working for you? I doubt it. You are medicating your feelings instead of figuring out how to make a challenging situation less stressful. What are your options?

First, you CAN confront your boss. Tell him or her what you REALLY think of his or her behavior. (Be warned, this may not go over real well.) But is your boss really going to care what you think of him or her? You can get nailed on insubordination or get a paper trail started to help you out the door. In other words, I think you should pass on this option. There is no way it will bode well for you.

Second, you CAN quit. You can always quit. But how easy is it to find another job in this economy? Remember, everyone is doing more with less. Plus, many employers are waiting to see election results so they’ll know if they’re adding employees to their payroll. So this is a gamble. Are you the gambling type? If not, pass on this option. Remember, finding a job when you have a job makes you a more desirable candidate.

Third, you CAN go back to school. Now this has some possibilities. Figure out where you want your career to go. If you aspire for more education, don’t jeopardize your job. Instead, pursue the path you need to get you there. If you can afford to go to school full time, go for it. If not, tread water and map out your plan. Then reach for your goals.

Fourth, you CAN change your attitude. (Easier said than done.) Why should you change your attitude when you aren’t the problem? The answer is, because this is the real world. When one approach isn’t working, you can keep knocking your head against the wall, or you can try a new strategy. Doing the same thing that doesn’t work over and over again isn’t going to get you different results.

For example, I worked with a receptionist who was a terror. She made my life a living nightmare. She just didn’t like me. (Imagine that!) I did my job, but she was hostile and condescending toward me in front of colleagues and patients. I tried to be as nice as possible and tried to make her job easier. My offers to help her didn’t make a bit of difference. Then, I started confronting her. “Laurie, you cannot talk that way to me in front of patients. It is disrespectful, and we need to work together.” All that did was accelerate her abuse. I tried ignoring her. That had better results because I wasn’t stressed out trying to please her.

So detachment is what you need to do. Do the job, but don’t let it get to you. Take the steam out of it. What happened to Laurie? She got fired. The person who was protecting her witnessed the abuse and fired her on the spot. Eventually, what goes around comes around, but who wants to wait that long?

Fifth, you MUST protect yourself. I’m a huge fan of paper trails. Document what was said, when, at what time, who was present, and what happened. This is how you prove that episodes like this occurred. This is what you can take to the boss of your boss, but only if you’re ready for fallout. There are no guarantees how things will land. Your colleagues may run the other direction and not become involved. Make sure to keep your notes in a safe place. You may need them for unemployment or if any action is taken against you.

So, what’s the answer? Part of the answer is to always address a problem when you’re cool, calm, and unemotional. Quite often we women become emotional, and tears come when we’re angry. This is very frustrating because we lose credibility when we cry on the job. (I hate to say that out loud, but face it, it’s true.) Deal with problems as they arise. When you’re not upset, ask your boss to meet with you. Ask him or her if there’s a problem, and then explain why you think there’s a problem. Tell your boss you want to work as a team player, but that you have concerns, and then address them.

Am I promising you a rosy outcome? No. Sorry. I can’t do that. I’m just reminding you that you need to develop the confidence to ask the right questions and to look out for yourself. You’re in a high-stress job. Health care can be a backstabbing environment, and some of the behaviors I’ve witnessed have been unbelievable. But this is reality. Change your reality. Know that you have options and that your back is not against the wall. You just need to have the guts to address the problems and figure out what your long-term goals are. Just remember — you always have choices.

Author bio

Lisa Newburger, LISW-S./aka Diana Directive, provides humorous ways to deal with difficult topics. Check out Diana’s webpage at www.discussdirectives.com.