Photo Credit: Nieve44/Luz via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Nieve44/Luz via Compfight cc

Bar none, the most common reason people cite for wanting to change jobs is having a bad boss.  Here are two examples of “bad boss types,” the damage they do, and how the coaching process can help.

A bad boss can be one that micromanages your work, never trusting you to figure out how to achieve the goals of your job and instead telling you how to handle every single step of the process and requiring you to report on every step you take.

This is the boss who can’t let go of their need to feel useful, competent, superior, and in control.  It’s a boss who is probably ruled by fear – fear of being less than perfect, fear of you showing them up, fear of losing their job.  While it may be hard to believe,  both arrogance and need for control usually have their roots in fear.  Arrogance – the “I can do it better than you, so I will” – is based in the fear that maybe I’m not really the best.

Unfortunately, most of these bad bosses are both unaware of these root causes and unwilling to admit that there is anything wrong with their management style.  They truly believe they are doing what is best for the company and don’t understand or accept your frustration.  A common attitude is “If you have a problem with my style, then you can leave.”  And so people leave.

Coaching  helps these people start to believe that there are other kinds of bosses out there and learn how to find a better fit through the interview process.  Sometimes, micromanaging bosses have undermined the person’s self-confidence, because if you are always micromanaged, you learn not to take credit for anything you’ve done and you stop believing you have a worthwhile approach to work challenges.  Through coaching, people start to realize that they actually have had an impact and that they do have a distinctive, effective way to manage their work.

How do you survive this kind of boss while you are searching for a new job?

  • First, commit to finding a new job and take action toward it.  I’ve observed that the decision to find a new job and taking action toward that goal has the effect of reducing the stress of a micromanaging boss.  You aren’t trapped anymore, there is an escape.  So having hope of escape helps make the intolerable a little more tolerable for a short time.
  • You also can adjust your expectations and change your approach.  Adjusting to this kind of boss then requires accepting who they are right now, and accepting that they can’t be changed.  Not by you, not by anyone outside themselves.  My experience is that my frustration is directly proportional to my expectation that someone should be different from who they are.  Once I accept that the person is who they are, and that I don’t like it nor do I have to like it, I am freer of frustration.  I can say to myself “oh, of course I’m frustrated. I’m being micromanaged.  I hate being micromanaged.  That’s why I’m looking for a new job!”
  • Acceptance also means that you understand that your boss is predictable.  Instead of thinking “oh, this time s/he’ll delegate,” you say “when’s the next check-in?” You start to say to your boss, “here’s where I am. I’m thinking of handling the next step this way.  What do you think?”  By going toward your boss and working with his/her micromanaging style, you are a little less a victim and more empowered, in a way.  The key is managing yourself and your expectations, and working with the situation as it is instead of how you want it to be.  Always remembering that you are taking steps to leave.

A bad boss can be one who constantly criticizes your work or your approach to your work or your attitude or your relationship to colleagues.  This is the boss who rarely catches you doing something right yet is very quick to tell you what you’ve done wrong or inadequately.  Rarely if ever does this boss suggest how you could do something differently, and then let you learn how to do it better.  Mistakes are intolerable to this boss and you are berated for making them.  This kind of boss is incredibly damaging to one’s self-esteem.  It’s very difficult to think highly of your skills and abilities when you are not complimented or praised or even simply acknowledged as having accomplished something.

This is the boss who is either deeply insecure or just plain mean.  Deeply insecure people need to share the misery by bringing other people down.  They may be envious of your abilities or self-confidence, and so work to undermine it.  This gives them a measure of control over you, and ensures that you will stay right where you are.  Because even though this boss criticizes you, they really need your abilities and skills.

By the time people get to me, they are so demoralized that something in their spirit has rebelled enough to propel them to search for a new job.  The coaching process helps them recover their confidence by leading them to own and acknowledge their accomplishments, their abilities and their impact.

How do you survive this kind of boss while you are searching for a new job?

  • Start by acknowledging yourself for what you do.  Celebrate every single step you take in a project or process, no matter how small it is and no matter how silly you think it is.  Celebrating our successes is a time-honored method of improving one’s outlook.  You can give to yourself what you are not getting from your boss.
  • I also suggest looking for acknowledgement from friends and loved ones.  If you don’t have those kind of people around you who just volunteer acknowledgement, ask them for it.  Notice who DOES acknowledge you.  Go toward them.  Spend more time with people who think you’re awesome.  A coach can help with that; I do something called “phone applause” when a client does something great or small – people now ask for it!
  • A last, counter-intuitive tactic is to acknowledge your boss’s accomplishments.  Not in a suck-up kind of way, but sincerely.  Also, acknowledge your co-workers.  See what happens.  I had a client who completely changed the tenor of the office by doing this – acknowledging people, complimenting them, arranging fun events.  The culture of the department went from toxic to enjoyable.  I’m not saying you will have those results, but I bet you’ll feel better when you start being generous instead of resentful and beaten-down.

One client told me a story about how she navigated a very challenging year or so,  coming to a place of relative peace by adapting herself to her situation. She realized that she didn’t have to leave her job immediately because she couldn’t stand working for someone.  She showed that it IS possible to adjust and then shift the dynamic through her own adjustment to the person/situation.  Acceptance of reality was the cornerstone of changing her approach and attitude, and eventually her job.