Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

10 Ways to Work Around a Bad Boss

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Sure, it would be great if all bosses were amazing, but the truth is that some are better than others. They often got to their position without training or much experience, leaving them without the skills and talent to optimally manage people.

These are not necessarily bad people or even awful bosses, they are simply inadequate in some areas, whereas they may excel in others. The challenge lies with the employee who is ultimately trying to meet or exceed expectations. Here are some tips that will help you help yourself with your boss. These practices should allow you to shine while keeping your boss from disrupting the flow of the team.

1. Proactively Communicate

If you find yourself constantly waiting for your boss to give you instructions, gain control of the situation. Take the reins and actively manage the information you need and what needs to be done. Make sure you create checkpoints so the boss doesn’t panic. Don’t nag. Set a reasonable schedule to cover critical points and keep discussions tight and efficient.

2. Do What You Say You Will Do

If you’re having trouble meeting the goals that you said you would, your boss will be more focused on your inadequacy then her own work. Manage expectations, and discuss how reasonable or unreasonable a target might be. Then consistently meet whatever goals on which you mutually agree. Don’t over-commit so you can consistently meet or exceed expectations.

3. Be Transparent

Trust is critical for allowing your boss to give you the space to perform autonomously. When something goes wrong, don’t try to cover it up and wait until the last minute. Tell the truth right away with no excuses or frills, just the facts and a sincere apology if it was your fault. Avoid the fall-out of a boss who’s not only having to deal with a mess up, but also an employee who is hiding important information.

4. Figure Out What Makes Your Boss Tick

If you don’t understand your boss as a person, you will struggle in meeting expectations. Many companies use personality tests like Kolbe, Myers Briggs, or DISC. Mutually share results with your boss so you both have a sense of how to work best together. Discuss your boss’ goals and objectives so you can support him in his journey. Find out what critical issues are facing the company right now so you are aligned on priorities. Show your boss that you are concerned with more than just your own advancement.

5. Be Clear About What Makes You Tick

If you don’t have a solid understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be at the mercy of how others perceive you. Use the same profiling tests to understand your own patterns and capabilities. Communicate openly with your boss about what works best for you when being managed. She may not always get it right, but at least you’ll reduce the guesswork.

6. Anticipate and Over-prepare for Meetings

Any boss gets frustrated when a meeting is set in advance on a topic and no one at the meeting has readied the appropriate information. If you know a discussion is coming, do your homework and then some. Think about what detail you would want if you were the boss. Have the information organized for easy reference so everyone can understand it and make good use of it.

7. Provide Solutions, Not Complaints

So many people look to the boss to solve problems and make the hard decisions. Decision making by oneself takes its toll. If the boss has to think of the creative solutions as well, that just adds to the loneliness at the top. Use your own creativity and that of your co-workers to present your boss with well thought out solutions to any problem. Every challenge is a great opportunity for you to show that you have the creativity and talent to move up the ladder as well.

8. Back Yourself Up With Data

Lots of people come to the boss with great ideas only to feel shot down when nothing happens. Sure it’s possible the boss isn’t listening, but it’s also possible you didn’t really do the research. Provide data to support your opinions and proposed strategic goals. Everyone loves a good anecdote, but few executives will stick their neck out on just the basis of an interesting story. Be well informed and make sure your boss is well informed as well.

9. Make Your Boss Look Good

Your boss has plenty of people who are scrutinizing her performance regularly. Even entrepreneurs have to answer to investors and family members. With permission, engage with those involved and help your boss look productive and efficient in their eyes. As long as you’re not grandstanding, your boss should appreciate the support and have a more open and relaxed approach. You’ll also build credibility as your boss sees her peers rely upon you and is more likely to do the same.

10. Bring Some Humor to the Day

Not all parts of the workday are fun regardless of position, but people live in their work environments and want to enjoy what they do as well as who they do it with. Be pleasant and cooperative. When things get tough, find ways to lighten up the mood for you and your boss. People bond over humorous stories and appropriate jokes. Have a few ready to share when the mood calls for a lift.

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