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How to Deal with a Nightmare Boss

How to Deal with a Nightmare Boss
Angry Business Man

The Nightmare Boss

“Nightmare bosses” can take on many forms, but 6 major categories come to mind: the Demanding Boss, the Bully Boss, and the Disorganized Boss, the Clueless Boss, the Know-It-All Boss, and the Poor-Communicator Boss. I’m sure there are others and often several of these traits can be found in your boss. A bad boss can have advantages if you use the situation as an opportunity rather than as a problem.

A demanding boss may ask for more than you can deliver, but if you use the opportunity, then you can allow your boss to be the rough surface upon which you sharpen your skills. You don’t have to like your boss. Keep in mind that it is business, not personal, and always ask yourself “how can I use this situation to my advantage?”

The thing to remember is this, no matter how bad your boss is, in the end it doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do about it. This guide will describe the tactics you can employ to come out on top no matter what your boss is doing.


Assumptions

These tactics are to be used when there are current benefits that coincide with working for this bad boss. Maybe your bad boss has connections that you are hoping to leverage at some point or perhaps the branch office you work in gives you good exposure to higher level executives. I’m assuming that you can see potential growth with your company and that working for this current bad boss is merely a stepping stone along your path that just happens to be a little more tricky to deal with. However, if there is no future with this company or if the cons outweigh the pros of the situation, then please move directly to Step #9 “Unbearable Situations” where I explain the next steps to take.

What to Do When You Have a Bad Boss

In order to thrive under a bad boss you will need to come to work ready to play your best game everyday. Remember, this will serve your career, so don’t resent it, relish it!

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1. Be Organized

Let your boss’s disorganization be an inspiration for you to be your most organized. This is the foundation on which to build your whole career. This will allow you to deliver on all the other steps that follow. Have a system for managing your time, tasks, and projects. The more organized you are, the more productive you will be and the faster you will reach your career goals.

2. Deliver Results in Writing

This is important for pretty much all boss types. If you’ve notified your boss in writing, particularly via email, you have an e-trail to prove you finished assigned tasks on time.

3. Write Your Own Quarterly Reviews

Make it easy for your boss to write a good quarterly review of you. Have one place where you file all your accomplishments for the quarter, such as an email folder or Word document. Nothing is too small to log. When it comes time for quarterly reviews you can then easily type up your self-assessment with a list of your accomplishments. Be proactive and use the format that your boss prefers. Your boss can then use that for writing your review.

4. Present Your Daily/Weekly Plan to Your Boss in Writing

This is helpful for bosses who demand more than you can physically deliver. When you plan your day and your week, send a quick listing of how you will be spending your time. Be sure to prioritize it according to what your boss thinks is most important. When your boss gives you more assignments than you can handle, you can go to your boss with your daily/weekly plan that you already sent to him/her and ask your boss which items they want you to let slide.

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Always put that decision back on your boss (and confirm it in a quick email for that e-trail,) so that they can’t yell at you for letting something slide. If they say “put in more hours,” then you need to decide for yourself how many hours per week is acceptable. If you are continually asked to work beyond what is acceptable to you, then you may want to move onto Step #9 Unbearable Situations.

5. Make Your Boss Look Good

Resist the urge for sabotage because it rarely works and often backfires in your face. When you are working to make your boss look good, even bad bosses are going to notice this. When you make your boss look good, their boss will hopefully notice. But don’t wait for your boss to give you credit. Claim the credit, toot your horn. I saw too many good workers get buried under feelings of self-pity because they weren’t getting noticed. You must speak up and let your boss, your boss’s boss, and your peers know about your accomplishments.

YOU are in charge of getting yourself ahead in your career. Of course you should do this in a humble manner and give plenty of praise for your boss and anyone else who aided you. When your boss looks good, you look good, as long as you speak up. If your boss aggressively campaigns to make you look bad or steal 100% credit, and this is a pattern, then you may have an Unbearable Situation. If so, skip ahead to #9.

6. Don’t Argue But Do Stand Your Ground

If your boss attacks you, remain calm. Do not take the bait. This takes a zen-like state of mind, but it can be done. I know because I’ve had to do it. Control your emotions for the moment. Imagine that you have a forcefield around you which can not be penetrated by verbal attack. I know this may sound kooky, but it will help your mental strength.

How should you respond? Matter-of-factly. Answer the “charges” with the facts and your understanding of what was expected of you. Explain that you did not know of the new expectations, but that you now understand how your boss wants things done going forward. Remain confident, strong, non-aggressive, and business-like. Ask if there is anything else and then go back to work. At the next opportunity, take a break outside to phone a friend to let off steam. Try not to do that at work. The risk is too great that your boss will overhear.

If the attacks are beyond what you think are acceptable, such as derogatory name calling or simply your own decision that the potential rewards are not worth working with such a difficult person, then move onto Step #9.

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7. Manage Your Boss

This is all about being proactive. Don’t wait for your boss to give you his or her expectations of you. Request a meeting to set these goals. If such meeting is continually postponed by your boss then put together your best estimate of what you think your goals should be. Put them in writing and ask for your boss to give his or her feedback.

Always be thinking two steps ahead of your boss. Try to anticipate what your boss will want in any given situation. If you’re sure then deliver it before your boss can even ask you. For things you’re not sure about, ask, and if you are right then go ahead and deliver on that. For example, your company just came out with a new promotion for clients. You know that your boss likes functions to launch promotions. Go ahead and ask your boss if he/she would like you to spearhead putting together a function.

Make things easy for your boss and hopefully they will make some things easy for you. If your boss does not help you in any way, then consider moving on to Step #9.

8. Ask For What You Want

Make sure you always know where it is you want to go with your career. Don’t expect to just be “promoted” for good work. Because the question is “promoted to where?” You must know first where you want to go next. Then you must communicate this to your boss. You must do it often, kind of like your own marketing campaign with your boss as your target audience. If possible you should find a way to let your boss’s boss know too, without being seen as “going over your boss’s head.”

You should put it in writing with a step by step plan of how your intend to get there, listing skills you plan to develop and how, and accomplishments you will seek to achieve and by when. Ask for feedback on your plan. And as always remember to summarize your meeting in a follow up email to your boss after the meeting. If your boss doesn’t reply, sent 1 additional polite reminder saying that you want to make sure that you are on the same page.

As you reach milestones along your path, document this with an email to your boss and file a copy in your “accomplishments” email folder. Promotions are not always completely within your boss’s sole control, so be somewhat understanding of this, but only to a degree. If you feel that you are not making progress on your larger career goals, then you may want to move on. See the next step.

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9. Unbearable Situations

If you have exhausted all possible tactics and your boss is just too abusive, clueless or otherwise unacceptable and you feel it is hurting your career or slowing you down, you may want to consider moving on from this boss. How should you go about doing this? With the utmost professionalism. Never give in to the desire to tell off your boss because you have decided to leave. Your paths may cross again.

If you like the company, but can’t bear working for your current boss, you may want to do some research into a lateral move to a different manager. Depending on the situation you may need to use discretion when researching this at first or if you feel comfortable that your boss would be open to you moving on then be up front with them about it. Use whatever polite reason you want to state to your boss, and don’t be tempted into confiding in a new boss how bad your old boss was. Leave that for your friends and family. Always be professional at work and take the high ground. At work, stay focused on the future and moving forward.

If you don’t see a future with your current company, then you will want to embark on a job search. Obviously be discreet. And keep to the golden rule of job switching, “Don’t leave your current job until you have a new one lined up.” And you will want to have that in writing too. I’ve seen friends receive verbal offers of a job only to receive a callback saying “sorry we just had a hiring freeze implemented, we can’t take you on.” And when you do leave, make sure to do so on a positive note. Never burn any bridges, no matter how rickety they are.

Conclusion

Hopefully by the end of this post you may view your situation with your difficult boss from a whole new perspective. Perhaps you will see that there is a silver lining in having a “bad boss” as it forces you to up your career game, putting you ahead of the competition.

K. Stone is author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. A few of her most popular articles are Investing Made Easy – A Simple Guide + Free Download, The Four Most Powerful Words, Maximum Energy in 10 Simple Steps, and How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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