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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 January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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