Working for a Miserable Boss – How do You Deal with Them?

You would think (and hope) that in the professional world, the people that you work with would be, well…professional. But unfortunately, the tyrannical bullies that occupy elementary school playgrounds run amuck in the work place as well. What makes them worse in the workplace is that some title, or sense of entitlement, or some big paycheck they receive, gives them even more power to be a jerk. And if this “person” (using the term lightly here) doesn’t like you – then your work life can be a living hell where you constantly feel like you are walking on eggshells. Truth is working for a miserable boss can make for a miserable life.

With the recent release of the movie, Horrible Bosses, many news media organizations took notice and starting running surveys of the general population and how they really feel about their bosses. In one survey run by a Office Team, which is a major staffing service company, they found that nearly half of all employees today can empathizes with the just how bad it is when your boss sucks.

Even more telling, is that most employees who admitted to having a bully (or jerk) for a boss, spent a lot of time looking for another job in an effort to get away from the upper management. In fact, around 37% of the population leaves positions – even ones they love, because of problems dealing with upper management. According to a book by Robert Sutton, author of Good Boss Bad Boss – 75% of the work population label their boss or immediate supervisor as the number one stressor of their job. While it may be natural to feel apprehensive, or even pressured by your superiors, it is important to remember that in the work place everyone is an adult, and should be treated like one.

Another survey performed in 2010 by Landy & Conte, even linked the predisposition of heart attacks in middle-aged adults to working for a miserable boss. Considering that you spent a bulk of your time at work, it has been proven that an unhappy and unhealthy work relationship with co-workers or bosses can cause huge spikes in cortisol. The longer cortisol (a stress hormone) levels are stay raised – the more prone you are to having heart related problems. So your 8 or so hours in the office every day, working under a person who you find to be unreasonable and quite frankly despicable – could eventually lead to the demise of your health.

And of course, a miserable boss can also cause you to suffer from depression, mood problems, fatigue, and a whole army of negative health issues that can make your day-to-day life feel like you are being constantly held under water gasping for breath.

Of all the things that working for a miserable boss can do, you might not expect that it could predispose you to criminal activity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics however, in 2010 released a report that said, “Murder is officially among the top five causes of work related deaths in the United States.” That sounds pretty extreme, but the numbers don’t lie. Apparently, working for a bad boss, and the long-term stress that can incur because of it, causes folks to act irrationally.

A Gallup poll in 2007 showed that with more than half of all employed individuals at odds with their supervision, bad bosses have become the number one factor in work place displeasure. And, they are the number one reason that many companies cannot retain their employees. This poll showed that often family run companies are the worst, because many of the people in charge don’t always ‘deserve’ their positions, but were instead born into them. The end result of the poll was simply that “Employees leave supervisors, not companies.”

One leading psychology in work place relationships wrote a report in the journal of Work and Stress that said, “A worker’s relationship with his or her boss is nearly equal in importance to his or her relationship with his spouse when it comes to overall wellbeing.” It went on to say that “even friendly co-workers and a rewarding occupation can not make up for the negative relationship with the boss.”

Okay, so you get it! Working for a miserable boss sucks. But in today’s cutthroat economy, is it best to just pick up and leave or out right quit because your boss is a jerk? Obviously, you have to enlist some form of self-preservation and as the saying goes; it’s much easier to find a job when you already have one, right?

Forbes magazine suggests a formula for managing a difficult boss in the interim period while you look for a new job. In fact, this process can work so well that you might find it actually helps you move away from your new boss and into a new position in your company. The key is finding your boss’s weakness, which should be pretty easy to pinpoint since you work for them. Approach your boss as your client, and try to somehow identify with their communication style. Even if you don’t agree with how they manage or handle things – your job is to find out what their style is. Know what irritates them, and try to find ways around it. For instance, if your boss is a total OCD perfectionist – then always try to have all of your answers complete before going to them. If your boss doesn’t communicate well with instructions, then see if E-mailing them questions is a better approach to get what you want. And, if you know where their weaknesses are and in can ‘fill in those spots,’ with your own strengths – then you begin to develop a win win relationship. While it still may not be filled with the respect and integrity that you imagine from a professional relationship, it will be less stressful for you.

You can also try going to superiors, keeping track of things that are going on, and making sure that you mind your P’s and Q’s so you cannot be fired unjustly. In the meantime, envision a happier, less stressful future and keep things in perspective with your boss so that you don’t suffer from stress once you leave the office. When you feel in control of what goes on, and your future – you are apt to be able to let go of some of the stress. And last but not least, find the humor in the situation. Vent with co-workers and friends and know that you aren’t alone in your feelings of misery with the authority in your life. Remember, there is more to life than just work – and you have to somehow be able to balance your stress and happiness.



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