If you’ve had more than one job in your life, it’s likely you’ve had at least one nightmare boss. You know, the supervisor who belittles you in public, micromanages, steals ideas and doesn’t support you in your work? Yes, that bad boss.
Are there ways to spot a potentially terrible boss before you take a job? Can you effectively deal with a difficult manager when you’re already in the job? It’s a topic that several LinkedIn Influencers weighed in on this week. Here’s what two of them had to say.
Alex Malley, chief executive at CPA Australia
When you go for an interview, you’re on the spot as a candidate. But what about the person you might end up working for? “No matter what stage of life or career you are at, as an interviewee, it really is your responsibility to be an investigator,” wrote Malley in his post How to spot (and avoid) a horrible boss. “Digging beneath the surface is often required to uncover the true… personality of the person sitting across from you.”
What clues should you look for? What should you ask to reveal the tell-tale signs of a potentially bad manager? Among the five clues, Malley points out:
“The dominator. In almost every interview there is a dominant interviewer — this is often the most senior person in the room. This scenario provides you with a very good opportunity to note… the comfort of the other staff in the presence of their boss,” he wrote. “Do they nod nervously in agreement? Are they shy to engage more broadly in the conversation? Are they seeking approval after they speak? Look for the signs of the world you might be signing up to.”
“The culture question. Ask the dominant interviewer to describe what they view as the culture of their organisation. More often than not you can expect one of three responses,” explained Malley. “One, a generalisation of the behaviours expected within the business. Two, a dispassionate articulation of structure and protocol. Finally, and the one most of us want to hear, is a passionate explanation of the positive and sustainable culture that has been built over time. Whatever the response, if it is genuine, you should note a positive change in the body language of the responder and his or her colleagues.”
Kapil Kella, Lead HR executive, KPIT (India)
“How many times have you questioned why some leaders get the roles that they do? Probably, often,” wrote Kella in his post Are You the Victim of a Bad Boss? “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.”
“But what if your boss isn’t that bad? What if all your boss needs is a little supervisory skills training?,” wrote Kella. Is there anything you can do to manage up and actually make a not-great boss into a decent, even good, manager?
Yes, wrote Kella. Start by making “a list of the supervisory skills you think he or she is missing. Next, rank the list from most annoying to least annoying. Pick the top two or three worst offenses… and start developing a strategy,” he wrote.
Kella offers six steps in an action plan to keep yourself sane — and maybe even improve — a boss whose supervisory skills leave much to be desired. Above all, he wrote, “don’t sacrifice your health or self-esteem”. If you’re tempted to avoid your boss, that might “help you personally, but isn’t usually a good professional move.” And if you do need to put some temporary distance between a bad boss and yourself, use the time to create an action plan. Among Kella’s tips:
“Make a pact with yourself that you will use the time to adopt good supervisory skills yourself,” he wrote. “Start identifying other sources of positive reinforcement for doing your job to the best of your abilities. We all want approval and recognition for a job well done.” Sometimes that approval can be a catalyst to a calmer attitude and more confidence to deal with a difficult boss.
If you’ve already had a meltdown with your boss, “do not fret,” wrote Kella. “Try a new strategy: forgiveness. Regain your strength and move forward with confidence and professionalism.”
Other advice: Don’t get upset about the small things. “Personality quirks exist everywhere in work… focus on the job.”
Have you faced down a bad boss? How did you cope? Have you known in an interview your would-be manager might be a nightmare and taken the position anyway? Why? What happened? Share your story or comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Capital, on our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.