While recently watching the summer blockbuster Horrible Bosses, I began to wonder why I, and the cinema full of people, found the tales of bullying, sexual discrimination and law breaking in the workplace so hilarious. The story of three friends seeking revenge on slave-driving, egotistical bosses who regularly manipulate, humiliate and undermine them provides some very funny dark comic moments. However I soon realised that the audience were able to identify closely with the protagonists, leaving them thankful for the real life managers they have!
Mean managers have always been portrayed in popular culture from characters such as Scrooge, to David Brent (cringingly bad, but more through incompetence than nastiness) and Basil Fawlty. While complaining about supervisors and co-workers is a favourite pastime for many employees!
Horrible bosses however are not only fictitious but a reality for some people. And they’re not so funny when they’re in the office down the hall! So when your manager is malicious, cruel, or just plain old incompetent, how do you cope?
Here are my top tips:
Talk to your employer
Open communication in the work place is vital. You need to talk to your superior and clearly explain what you need from them in terms of direction, feedback and support. Be polite and focus on your needs rather than telling them (or implying) they are bad at what they do (which is counterproductive and won’t help you meet your goals).
Document your work
Keep track of your accomplishments and of compliments you get from co-workers or clients and record the significance of these. You can demonstrate these achievements and make your manager aware of your successes. In turn if things do turn sour you have evidence to showcase your abilities and achievements to potential employers.
While some of the things your supervisor does may make you unhappy, it might not be what they intended. Until proven otherwise, assume that they mean well and are simply unaware of the effects of their actions.
Do it sooner rather than later
If you have a bad relationship with your boss it’s essential that you do something about it as soon as possible. If not, it can have a drastic effect on morale. It can be tempting to wait; thinking that it might get better on its own, or that your manager might be promoted, transferred or leave the business. This may not ever happen and the problem could escalate or you will grow increasingly unhappy. Don’t wait, act on it sooner rather than later.
Don’t be a victim
Don’t become the victim indefinitely. If you have truly tried to make the relationship work, raise your grievance with higher management. If that complaint falls on deaf ears it might be time to move on! If you do part ways with your manager, remember not to burn your bridges. You might be tempted to “unload,” given that you have nothing left to lose but you should fight that temptation and try to be gracious. Besides, you never know if you might run into that boss again later in your career.