How to Handle a Bad Boss: Strategies for Managing Upwards

One of the main reasons that workers become unhappy at work is bad management. A bad boss can turn even a good working environment into an uncomfortable and unhappy workplace. They are in a position of power, you however are not powerless, BUT you do need to take responsibility to speak up in an attempt to change the situation.

An essential strategy is to Speak Up: Having a frank conversation with your boss about the problem in a calm, and professional manner can help you work towards resolving it. The way in which you approach the conversation will be dependent on your relationship. Yes, there are bosses who are inherently bad and misuse their position of power but there are also bosses who have lost their way and are behaving out of character, and there are bosses who are unaware of the impact of their behaviour. The key thing is to prepare, and to approach it from an objective standpoint. To do this you need to:

Put yourself in their shoes to understand how they see the world and the workplace, to help with this consider:
What they’re passionate about.
What keeps them up at night.
What challenges they’re facing.
What they’d love to do more of/less of on a daily basis.

Plan what you’re going to say:
Be clear on the points you want to get across, and the overall objective you want to achieve from the meeting.

Be prepared for obstacles/objections:
Arrange a time to talk, keep it brief and to the point. Some bosses want to know the agenda before the meeting, other don’t, work with their preferences.
Anticipate their reaction/argument/defence – having put yourself in their shoes and planning what you need to say, you’ll be fore-armed to deal with this.

The important thing is to speak up and give your boss a chance to respond. Speaking up rather than cowering in silence for fear of an awkward conversation takes courage, but you owe that to yourself and your boss. Having a genuine desire to work collaboratively to make things work better can open a door to a new level of respect and trust. A door that will remain permanently closed otherwise.

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Published by Carmel O' Reilly

I’m Carmel O’ Reilly, Founder of I’m the author Your WorkLife Your Way, blogger and podcaster on the subject of WorkLife. My work focuses on helping people to live their best WorkLives, by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful self-questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique story. My Mission is: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.”

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