Career & Finance

How to Make the Most of a Bad Boss


You’ve worked in your same job for a while now, and for the most part, you’re happy. You enjoy the projects that cross your desk and you’ve had endless opportunities to refine a bunch of new skills. Your co-workers are great. Oh, and the flexible schedule your company offers doesn’t hurt either.

There’s just one big hangup you have about your current gig: You really don’t like your boss. Maybe she’s a quintessential micromanager. Perhaps he’s one of those people that’s just never happy or satisfied. Or, maybe they are in the office so infrequently you can hardly remember what your bosses look like.

Regardless of your specific circumstances, the point remains the same: You and your boss definitely aren’t the perfect pair.

So, what do you do now? Toss up your hands and start the search for a brand new position? Well, in some cases, yes—that’s the best option for you.

But, if you aren’t quite ready to bid adieu to that job you otherwise love, you’re going to need to do everything you can to make the best of a bad situation. Luckily, there are a few tactics and strategies you can use to make a bad boss that much better.

1. Give Yourself a Reality Check

First things first, it’s time to take a good hard look at the situation and give yourself a reality check. Is your boss really that terrible, or are you doing things that you already know will push him or her right over the edge? Or, perhaps you’re simply being too critical because he or she stepped in for a former boss you absolutely loved.

If you’re dealing with a boss who truly just seems to have it out for you—no matter how hard you work—then take a deep breath and remind yourself that he or she likely isn’t a terrible person. You just have different ways of working and communicating.

Building a better relationship with your boss is going to take effort from both sides.

Remember, building a better relationship with your boss is going to take effort from both sides. You can’t expect your manager to do all of the changing and improving. You’re going to have to meet him or her halfway, and reminding yourself that your boss isn’t a total monster is a good place to start.

2. Set Communication Ground Rules

Communication is key in the workplace—that much you already know. And, all too often, strained relationships with our superiors are the result of a breakdown of communication somewhere.

To try to get ahead of this problem, your best bet is to explicitly ask your boss about his or her communication preferences. Does he or she respond best to emails? Would your boss like to have a regularly scheduled meeting with you? Should you not even bother trying to speak to your boss before he or she’s had at least two cups of coffee?

Everybody’s different in the ways that they prefer to communicate. So, getting a solid understanding of your boss’ preferences will make things that much easier for both of you.

3. Document Everything

Let’s say you’re dealing with a terrible boss who’s always willing to throw you under the bus without warning. First of all, I’m sorry—that’s definitely not an ideal situation.

But, in these cases, a smart move is to document everything as best as you can. Communicate via email as much as possible (assuming that’s alright with your boss, per the step above) so that you automatically have documentation of your conversations. If you have an in-person meeting, jot down some notes immediately after or even send an email recapping the things that were talked about.

No, needing to be proactive and cover your bases isn’t exactly the most optimistic thought. But, you’re better off safe than sorry when you’re dealing with a boss you don’t trust.

4. Stay One Step Ahead

Alright, so you aren’t your boss’ biggest fan on any given day. So, chances are good that you dislike your boss even more when there’s an overwhelming amount of stress on his or her plate.

Even if you and your boss don’t necessarily mesh flawlessly, you still have an opportunity to be a really valuable asset. Try to stay a step ahead of what your boss will need, work around his or her weaknesses, and be there to step in and help out when needed.

Even if you and your boss don’t get along, you still have an opportunity to be an asset.

If you’re that helpful employee who only makes your boss look better? Well, he or she will have a hard time not liking you.

5. Enlist Help

You’ve already tried all of these steps, and your relationship with your boss still remains tense at best. Now what?

If things have gotten so bad that it’s only distracting you from your work and making everybody uncomfortable, it’s time to enlist the help of other superiors in your office. Bring your issues to them, and see if there’s anything that can be done (including moving you to a different team) to make things better for everybody.

Of course, you don’t want to look like you’re going over your boss’ head or behind his or her back, so ensure you’ve tried to have at least one conversation (a documented one, at that) directly with your boss about these same problems.

6. Learn From the Experience

The best way you can find the silver lining of having a bad boss? By using that experience to ensure you never have to deal with one again.

Pay close attention to those management traits that absolutely drive you crazy. Taking note of the approaches and habits that just don’t gel with you professionally will give you tons of helpful information you can use to avoid those same work situations in the future.

Not getting along with your boss can quickly transform your dream job into a total nightmare. But, luckily, there are a few different tactics you can implement to try to move your relationship from tense to at least amicable. Give these a try, and you’re sure to see some improvement!

Have you had to work with a bad boss? What did you do to make the most of your situation?