Sweaty palms, beating heart and a heavy weight in the pit of your stomach.
For those of us with a nasty boss, making our way to work every day is not unlike the tale of the bullied school kid and the impending doom of schoolyard snarks, pushes and shoves.
Indeed, that soul-destroying feeling isn’t isolated to the playground.
Instead, schoolyard bullies are sometimes replaced with horrible bosses and so we experience that same toxic treatment in our professional lives.
Yep. Even adults can’t play nicely in the sandpit.
Confrontation, blame, disrespect, manipulation, sabotage, verbal or emotional abuse.
Criticism, micromanagement, mood swings, humiliation, intimidation or unreasonable demands.
The handy work of nasty bosses —or office jerks — is found in plenty of organisations.
And though pop culture has made light of bad managers in many hilarious television shows, movies, books and comic strips, the truth is, these ‘leaders’ are no laughing matter when you have to spend at least 40 hours a week with them.
Even if you get paid to do it.
Negative leadership undoubtedly results in lower employee or team morale, emotional distress and a long list of other debilitating side effects, including:
Lack of confidence.
Poor work performance.
Jeopardised career growth.
Impacted home life and relationships.
And finally, mirrored behaviour.
That’s right — many people begin learning new, negative behaviours if they are exposed for it for too long without taking action.
Often, people are promoted to ‘boss status’ because they excel in a particular job. But that doesn’t mean they have the skills to be an effective leader or are up to the task of taking charge.
Sometimes, they’re so committed to their own professional success, they’ll take down anyone in their path in order to ‘make it’.
They might be grappling with their own limiting fears, stressors, lack of self-worth, a strained marriage — or they could even dealing with a bad boss of their own.
They could just be a downright, bad-to-the-bone jerk.
Whatever the case, these issues do not excuse the bad behaviour that impacts the happiness of their team members — but it might explain it.
Your boss might be unable to lead people well, but unfortunately, the reality is that too many companies retain nasty bosses as long they continue to meet sales targets, achieve their KPIs or have valuable relationships with clients and other key decision makers.
In some situations, all it takes is for someone to acknowledge their poor behaviour, and they’ll take it down a notch.
Bad Boss might wear a badge that says ‘CEO’ or ‘Founder’, which means your only real chance of escaping the torment is upping and leaving your position for good.
Whatever the case, the only effective and appropriate response is to change how you respond to your boss’s actions.
Indeed, the worst thing you can do is allow yourself to be a victim, do nothing and hope the problem will resolve itself. Being solution-oriented and proactive — not passive — in your challenge is key.
It’s worth it — essential, even— to make a change, because how we spend our days (and we spend a lot of them at work) is in fact, how we spend our life. And no job, regardless of the size of your salary or how long it took you to climb the corporate ladder is worth compromising your health or self-esteem.
Here’s how you can take action to change the environment:
Always be graceful, diplomatic and respectful. Don’t react with an emotionally-charged counter punch.
Are you doing everything right, to the best of your ability? You can manage a nasty boss more effectively by working on yourself first. Do an honest analysis of your actions and behaviour, your strengths and where you can improve. Seek their clarification or feedback. Try your best to focus solely on your work and see if that changes their treatment of you.
Document your boss’s bad behaviour in a private journal, at home. Write without judgement or emotion. Simply document the facts and how it affected your work. Identify patterns. You may want to refer back to these records if things get really serious.
You might be feeling disillusioned and resentful about your work life, but don’t lose sight of your career, objectives, goals and purpose. Holding onto these aspirations might be the very thing that opens you up to a new opportunity — a different role, far from the clutches of your current boss. Furthermore, don’t allow their negative or demeaning treatment of you influence your own level of self-worth.
Find some mindful ways to let off steam each day. Leave the stresses of your workspace behind and focus on yourself. Practice self-care, relax, exercise, vent to your friends and family. Walk away from your desk for a while. Breath.
We teach others how to treat us, so if you’re unhappy with how you’re being spoken to, schedule in a meeting with your boss to share your concerns, the impact it is having and how you would like things to change.
Make sure you won’t be disturbed and will have plenty of time to talk things through, calmly. Outline how their attitude and actions affect you and your work. Be specific: tell them exactly what they do, and the impact it has. Suggest positive changes and why they might work better for everyone. You might be surprised — your boss could turn out to be grateful for the constructive feedback and the opportunity to do better.
If you tried the above approach with no result, you may need to resort to more serious measures. Look into appropriate channels that might help your situation, without repercussion. The Human Resources department, which is supposed to act as an employee advocate, might be able to offer advice or further investigate the situation.
If you aren’t already, you might be a boss some day. Use this as an opportunity to learn how you won’t lead your own team. Commit to fostering a creative and encouraging environment. Know that the performance of a project or company can’t be driven by the boss alone. Success requires teamwork.
In an environment filled with so much negative energy, this is a hard practice to fathom. But reminding yourself daily of the things you do love about your job — be it making a difference in customer’s lives or those long Friday lunches — may just help you through the hard days. Celebrate your achievements with gusto. Reach out and connect with the colleagues that do uplift you.
Have you dealt with a nasty before? How did it impact you? Can you offer any other tips on how to take positive action? Let us know in the comments below!