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Working for an Idiot Boss: How to Handle a Lousy Boss?

If you’ve never had an idiot boss, consider yourself very lucky.
The rest of us sometimes have to deal with bosses who are control-freaks, intrusive, micro-managing, rude, and even obnoxious.

So what makes a lousy boss?Idiot Boss

A lousy boss loves to take credit for your work and never gives you praise or positive feedback for any of your achievements.  A lousy boss fails to support you in accomplishing your work and leaves you hanging when you actually need their help.  All the “support” that you get is annoying and counter-productive micro-management when you actually don’t need any help and they are just interfering in your work.

Lousy bosses think their subordinates have no feelings, interests or personal lives outside work.  They think employees are robots designed for carrying out their orders. They make employees stay late after work for no reasons, attend stupid meetings and perform tasks that make no sense or have little purpose.

The worst type of a boss gives you way too many tasks to handle, with unclear directions and impossible deadlines, while constantly changing their mind and directions, and having no clue about what they want or how they want it done. At the end, when you are late or the work is not done to their satisfaction – it becomes your fault with all the resulting consequences.

Any of this sounds familiar?

So how do you deal with a lousy boss?
  1. Be smart and adapt to their style of work.  Find the buttons to press. Dealing with less than effective managers (let’s just call them idiot bosses), is a challenge that too many employees don’t know how to approach correctly.  One way to prevent problems is to study and understand your boss’s personality, their style of work and their expectations regarding your work. You can then adjust your approach and your style to please your boss, while guarantying yourself peace of mind.For example, if your boss is an annoying micro-manager, ask them about their preferred ways of you reporting to them, and report back on a regular basis and make sure ask for feedback every time.  Chances are you boss will love this and will soon leave you alone after seeing that things are done “their way” and that they are “in control”.   They may also get tired of “too much control” having to give you feedback all the time and will eventually give you more freedom (as some bosses will put it – “because they trust you will do a good job”.  The bottom line – you will make your boss happy and will earn your freedom while keeping your boss off your back.
  2. Manage your boss.  If it is at all possible, try resolving problems by talking to your boss – it is the quickest and the least painful way.   If something concerns you, makes you uncomfortable or offends you – tell them about it right away.  For example, if a boss is constantly yelling at you, simply tell them that you understand their frustration but them raising their voice makes you uncomfortable or even threatened.  This especially works well if you are a female and you boss is a male – mostly will back down right away.If that doesn’t work, document the facts of all incidents and how that impacted your performance – as well as other employees in the company. This process may be enough to relieve you of the stress so that you can cope.  If everything fails – take your case to the senior management.
  3. Do not take things personally.  Try focusing on work. Try to perform well, while ignoring all these distractions and focus on your work to see if that changes anything.  Let your boss know that you are doing job to the best of your abilities. 
  4. Find a mentor or a mediator in the office. If you and your boss don’t connect well, you should consider finding someone else in the office who may be able to help you.  A more experienced, seasoned or an elder employee may be more respected by the boss and may have already found “a recipe” to handling them.  They can put in a word for you as well as provide you with valuable support and advice in coping with the boss.  However, be very careful about your choice of words when talking to other employees – you never know who else they might tell.  Tell them you have a problem – don’t bad mouth your boss.
  5. Don’t sacrifice your nerves or self-esteem – it is not worth it!  Doing nothing and hoping that the problems will resolve themselves is the worst idea.  No one (especially your idiot boss) is worth losing your health, self-esteem or sanity over them. If there is no way to resolve these issues you should start looking for another job. If you want to stay in your company, a good mentor can help you transfer to a different department.  If you do decide to quit – do it wisely: don’t burn bridges and have a backup plan if anything changes.
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Tags: recommendations, relationships-at-work, at-work, boss
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  • Brian

    I'm Korean and never work for Korean companies or bosses. They fit the definition of the worst bosses ever and everything mentioned above

  • Kh Nadeem

    It is a wonderful topic and a good punching bag for comments. I am sure that mostly Boss means a self centered, selfish, unreasonable, ugly, rude, stupid and egocentric. Mostly when some one says to him that "you look nice and handsome in this dress today" where as he is not and he knows coz even his mother has never smiled at him but its a scene that he will blush....,

  • Francesca P.

    I think it's also about being " egocentric". We should wonder: "how do you get an egocentric boss to realize you know what you're talking about?"
    Often the boss wants to be the superstar taking over on all the higher end responsibilities and has his staff to do his crappy leg work to make him look good.

  • Alexis F.

    I've tried to be in denial that I had a lousy boss because, during my employment, I did adapt to his style, managed him, and tried not to take things personally (even when he made overt efforts to get rid of me when I first started). We eventually got along, despite several people's warning that he's notorious for smiling while throwing you under the bus. I was so grateful when he agreed to be a reference in my job search after I was laid off (corporate merger/acquisition). But he has spent three months avoiding me (email and phone calls included) after he also agreed to help me with the description of my previous job -- three sentences in my resume. He's my top-listed reference on my list, and now I'm afraid that he might sabotage my chances. It's so sad how much we subordinates have to compromise ourselves to accommodate the lousiest of bosses.

  • Jennie

    This boss has been known for putting his employees in poor light.
    Since he had tried to get rid of you in the beginning and you got laid off(along with avoidance) do not use him as a reference. He may be telling negative aspects to future employees that could ruin your chances of employment.

    Also, you should do your own resume. It's apparent he does not care and wanted to get rid of you, so he did a sloppy job on your paper. There are plenty of resume examples on the net and program that you can use. Don't be surprise if he promoted u for the lay-off since he's been avoiding.

    If you can, find another reference to put that one instead. There is no point of gambling and "hoping" he will make a good response, when he obviously will not.

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