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6 types of bad bosses and how to deal with them

Should you look for a new job, or is there a way to build a productive working relationship?

6 types of bad bosses and how to deal with them
[Photo: mgkaya/iStock]

If you’re one of the many people who feel you work for a tough or unlikeable boss, you are not alone. According to a recent 15Five report, one-third of all employees would be relieved to hear that their managers were leaving the company. And managers would be the first to admit they aren’t perfect. According to the same report, 75% of managers would like more training in how to be a good boss.

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Suppose you do have a supervisor who isn’t to your liking. Should you take off for greener pastures? Given the overcrowded job market, you may be better off pausing to size up the situation. Here are six ways to look at why you might be turned off by your boss, and what you can do about it:

1. YOUR BOSS ISN’T FRIENDLY

If you’re feeling your boss doesn’t like you, it may be that you are looking for something that’s hard to find in this new virtual space. The warm fuzzies we normally get from contact with people just aren’t there in the digital world. We crave what’s lacking: the human touch. We seek support and kindness from our bosses.

But this may be too much to ask from a manager who is struggling with her own overloaded schedule that involves childcare and management responsibilities. Your boss just might be among the 58% of U.S. workers suffering from COVID-19-induced burnout.

So try to find it in your heart to forgive your boss for lapses in warmth. Do what you can to make life easier for your manager. Doing this will make you a better, stronger person and will serve you well in life.

2. YOUR BOSS LACKS LEADERSHIP

Not every boss is a great leader. If you have an “old school” boss who is into command and control, you may get frustrated.

I recently spoke to an executive who has such a boss, and he vented to me about the travails of working for an authoritarian figure. “I receive calls on the weekend berating me for talking to middle management about the company and its goals,” he told me. “My boss says, ‘Those are my people, they report to me, so don’t be talking to them.’ A number of senior people left the company,” he said, “because they were starting to lose their confidence. They couldn’t take the belittling from senior management.”

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If your boss is an abusive leader, it’s probably time to head for the door. No one should have to put up with a management style that undermines you and your confidence. But don’t let your boss dictate your departure date. Start applying for jobs, and when you have one, leave your bad boss behind.

3. YOUR BOSS ISN’T RESPECTFUL

We all crave respect, particularly these days when the pandemic has given us reason to doubt ourselves. We may not feel as centered as we once did.

Bosses today would be wise to be respectful toward everyone on their teams and beyond. But if you work for a toxic boss who has little regard for your contribution, finds fault with your work, and devalues your comments in meetings, it is likely time to look for another job. That’s because, according to a Gallup poll, if you work for a boss who does not focus on your strengths, you’re less likely to be engaged.

If you find yourself being repeatedly undermined by a boss who focuses on what’s wrong with your work, rather than what’s right, go in search of another one, one who knows how to respect people.

4. YOUR BOSS IS SEXIST, RACIST, OR HOMOPHOBIC

There is absolutely no excuse for a boss to be less than accepting of all genders, races, and sexual orientations.

If you’re unlucky enough to have a boss who treats you in one of these discriminatory ways, speak to him or her, explain why such behavior is unacceptable and hurtful, and convey what you expect to change. If you feel that doing so would result in an awkward and abusive conversation, go to HR, and dust off your résumé. No one should have to endure such behavior.

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5. YOUR BOSS IS DISRUPTING YOUR CAREER

Another reason you may be pissed off at your boss is that you think he is standing in the way of your career goals. Perhaps he promised you a promotion and you never got it. Or worse still, he demoted you because the position you held was eliminated.

It’s an easy thing to blame your boss when your career is not moving forward. But it may not be his fault. The pandemic has created tough choices for managers who have to downsize organizations.

Don’t rush to the exit with bad feelings and no promise of a job. If you feel anxious to move ahead in your career, make the most of the present situation, and demonstrate your dedication. But you can also do that while quietly applying for other positions that will move your career forward more quickly.

6. YOUR BOSS IS TOUGHER THAN NAILS

If a boss is hard on you because she has exacting standards, you may feel like running. But think again. It just might be best to stay and learn from this tough boss.

In my first job, I worked for a senior vice president who was super tough on me. In fact, he was so tough in the interview that I was sure I hadn’t gotten the job. I was wrong—he hired me (while I was eight months’ pregnant) and paid me much more than I had asked for. But he also worked me to the bone—and exacted the highest standards from me.

While his demands were excessive, he taught me more than I ever learned from any other boss. And throughout my career, I have appreciated his high standards. My advice: Don’t rush to leave a demanding boss. They might end up being the best mentor you’ll ever have.

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