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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

Your Bad Boss Might Be Your Fault (Let Me Explain)

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When it comes to liking your job, the way you feel about your manager could be the deciding factor. In fact, according to a recent employee engagement survey, 50% of people who quit identify their boss as the reason they left.

This rings true for me. I’ve experienced both good and mediocre supervisors, as well as a few who made me want to rip my hair out. One created such misery that I was constantly devising my exit strategy.

But before you turn yours into a scapegoat for all that goes wrong in your life, hear this: Blaming everything on her may be more comfortable, but the real problem could actually be you. Yes—you.

You’re Assuming She Can Read Your Mind

Two years ago, my company’s senior vice president and I were discussing a rough patch my team was going through. Because we had a good rapport (most likely because he supplied our office with the very best snacks), he had no problem being straightforward.

“Look,” he said, “I can’t read your mind. I have no idea what you’re thinking. If you want something, you need to just say it.”

I’ve repeated this advice to myself and others many times since then because it’s so spot on.

Not only is your boss not a psychic (most likely), but she also isn’t sitting around all day attempting to decode your every move. Yes, part of her role is managing you, but she has other responsibilities, too.

If you need help, ask. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tell her. (This article lays out how to have that conversation.) If you’re disappointed she didn’t give you a promotion, discuss what you need to do to get one. Don’t wait for her to come to you about everything. You’ll just end up feeling frustrated and disgruntled. And nobody wants that.

You’re Not Keeping Her in the Loop

Shortly after starting a new position, my supervisor and I had an uncomfortable conversation. Another department’s director wasn’t thrilled with the quality of my work, and my manager wasn’t very happy.

After sharing my side of the story, her understanding and support were a relief. But, of course, my initial thought when she called was Wow, I can’t believe she’s coming at me like this.

But she’d felt blindsided. In our most recent one-on-one, I’d indicated that everything was “oh fine, just fine,” and then she heard something different. If you’re a team leader, it’s not fun when it appears as if your team isn’t up to snuff.

Imagine if, instead, I’d said, “I’m struggling with this,” or, “I just wanted to give you a heads up about [insert issue].” She would’ve felt much more prepared to field complaints, and we probably could’ve avoided our awkward phone call.

If you’re ever hesitant about bringing a potential (or definite) issue to light, just do it. It may not end up mattering, but if it does, it’s best to have it out in the open as early as possible.

Your Performance Isn’t Up to Par

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, but if you’re dropping the ball, your boss probably won’t react very favorably.

She may lose confidence in you and not assign you to new projects. Or put you on a performance improvement plan. She may never give you a raise or a promotion. And hey, she may even demote you. (Womp womp.)

None of these scenarios is preferable. Or joyful. And any of them may make you want to endlessly grumble about how utterly horrible she is.

But if you’re missing deadlines, half-assing your assignments, or goofing off all day, it isn’t her fault. It’s yours.

Try to view yourself (as an employee) objectively. Is there anything you could be doing better? Are there any areas requiring more effort or fine-tuning? If you improve what you can control, she may start to react more positively. And, alas, you may realize you don’t hate her so much after all.

You’re Letting Your Personal Feelings Get in the Way

The truth is, you just aren’t a big fan of her. Her laugh is too high-pitched, she always heats up fish in the microwave, and her communication style’s a little too blunt for you.

And because she’s not your cup of tea, every single thing she does is wrong. Even if it really isn’t. That email she sent to your colleague wasn’t actually a waste of time, you just thought it was because she sent it. Basically, you’re letting your personal feelings about her taint your opinions about her work.

You need to separate your feelings about her personality and mannerisms from the job at hand. Because while you may not want to hang out with her on the weekend or invite her to your birthday happy hour, that doesn’t mean she’s a bad manager. And until you remove that judgmental lens you’re viewing her through, you’re just sabotaging yourself.

The boss-employee relationship can be tough, and it seems practically innate to moan and groan about the person you report to every day.

But when there are factors in your control, you should try to change them instead of playing the victim. Before you label her your archenemy, make sure you’re not guilty of any of the above.