How many times have you witnessed someone working in a supervisory position without the necessary supervisory skills? How many times have you questioned why some leaders get the roles that they do? Probably often. It should come as no surprise to you, then, that at least once in your working life, you will be the victim of a bad boss.

Stanley Bing a columnist for Fortune magazine and the bestselling author of Crazy Bosses, isn’t the only person to point out that there are bosses who are wicked, mean, dysfunctional, or just plain bad bosses. But what if your boss isn’t that bad? What if all your boss needs is a little supervisory skills training?

You have come to terms with the fact that your boss will never be the leader he appeared to be during the interview. You reluctantly realize your boss prefers golf or shopping to mentoring you. She stole your ideas. He even assigned you a couple of high-profile controversial projects that went bad. Naturally, when this happened he went missing.

Signs of a Bad Boss

How can you tell if your boss is mean, dumb, toxic, out to get you, or if he simply never had the advantage of Supervisory Skills 101?

First, it starts with recognizing that not all bosses are created equal.  Many supervisors or leaders simply advanced through the ranks because they were the ‘last man standing’.  No one else wanted the job. Second, is the long-accepted notion of the Peter Principle.  The Peter principle suggests that people are often promoted to their level of incompetence.

Even though this concept was first introduced in 1969, by Laurence J, Peter, it is still alive and living in corporate America. Here are a few clues that your boss could use some basic supervisory skills training.

  • He ignores the classic, time-honored cliché, “Praise in public, criticize in private.”
  • She gives you assignments and doesn’t follow up.
  • He doesn’t support you when something goes wrong.
  • She thinks everything is fine when it isn’t.
  • He constantly claims that he is empowering you — but he just isn’t.
  • She micro-manages and needs to know everything.
  • He acts paranoid.
  • She jumps to conclusions.
  • He doesn’t know how to plan, prioritize, or organize.
  • If it isn’t her idea, then it can’t be good.
  • He implements two-faced attacks.

What Can You Do?

There are a number of actions you can take once you realize you are just working for a bad boss.

Start with yourself – are you irritating? Seriously, are you going out of your way intentionally to trigger reactions in your boss? Even if you feel a certain way and try to act professional, your body language is likely to betray you.

Next, try to determine what is important to your boss? There are, after all, some reasonable expectations. Many bosses expect you to be on time, for example. Some want you to prioritize your work assignments whereas others want you to follow a step-by-step process. Are they visionaries or executors? Are you following the informal or formal protocol – in other words, do you go out of the chain of command, and buddy-up to their boss? Many bosses are sensitive to this action.

If you truly determine you are working for a bad boss and it isn’t you, here are the steps you can take:

  • The obvious one: look for another job either inside or outside the company.
  • Schedule time with your boss and ask them to give you more direction or express that you’d like to take on some assignments that might lessen their responsibilities.
  • Bring in a food-related gift – this amazing small gesture does wonders to get the bad boss to just like you better. Don’t worry that the team thinks you are “sucking up”
  • Concentrate on your work. If your boss is bad enough, there are others observing how well you are holding up under the pressure.
  • Don’t talk badly about your boss to anyone else in the company. If you have already done so, stop. Again, this is an opportunity for people to notice your personal integrity
  • Decide the job is a learning opportunity for your next position

Many articles will tell you it is necessary to set boundaries. In theory, this is a good thought. Generally speaking, however, the truly bad boss, will not appreciate or be enlightened by this type of conversation. So, you have to set your own boundaries and commit to sticking with them.

If you are in a situation where you cannot, for whatever reason, quit your job at the current time consider signing up for our webinar: Coping with a Bad Boss. But, keep in mind, this is a band-aide and not a cure. Watch this space for more information.