Balancing act: Send me your tales of horrible bosses — or excellent ones
When we moved to Utah in 1995 — back when we were young and relatively inexperienced reporters — my wife and I both worked for the same newspaper, and for the same editor.
She was a great boss. She worked hard, all of the time. She often was at the office before we arrived and was still toiling away as we left for the day. (That's not good for work/life balance, maybe, but we knew she was dedicated!)
She knew how to do her job, and she knew how to do our jobs, so she could speak with authority, and we respected her. She wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty and do "grunt work" if it needed to be done. She was demanding, but in a nice way. (Well, as nice as a newspaper city editor should be. Everyone gets a bit, um, terse on deadline.)
She defended us when we deserved it and corrected us when we needed it. We knew we had her support and that she was helping us become the best reporters and writers we could be. Going to work was fun, because she helped create that kind of atmosphere.
She's still a good friend of ours, not to mention the best boss we've ever had.
I thought of her and how lucky we were to work with her early in our careers when I received a press release about bad bosses.
According to a survey developed by OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in placement of administrative professionals, 46 percent of the 441 office workers contacted said they had worked for an unreasonable boss.
That's not surprising. Frankly, I was glad to hear that 54 percent of respondents never had worked for someone who was unreasonable. Lucky!
More interesting to me were the answers when those who had bad bosses were asked, "How did you respond?" The poll showed that 35 percent stayed at the job and tried to deal with the issue, while 24 percent stayed and "suffered through the torment."
However, 27 percent quit working for the unreasonable boss once they had another job lined up, and 11 percent quit immediately without having new employment ready.
You'd have to be in a pretty bad situation to quit without having somewhere else to go. I would guess that most people are more likely to face a bit of "torment" until they are able to move on to (hopefully) greener pastures.
If you find yourself dealing with a bad boss, the OfficeTeam release did offer suggestions for coping.
For example, if your boss is a micromanager, focus on building trust. "Don't miss deadlines, pay attention to details and keep your supervisor apprised of all the steps you've taken to ensure quality work," the press release said.
If your boss is a poor communicator, make sure you ask for any pertinent information at the beginning of a project. "Diplomatically point out that these details are necessary to ensure you meet his or her expectations," the release said. "Seek clarification when confused and arrange regular check-ins."
When dealing with a bully, OfficeTeam suggests that you stand up for yourself. If your supervisor shoots down your proposal, "calmly explain your rationale. Often, this type of manager will relent when presented with a voice of reason."
It doesn't always work out that way, in my experience, but sometimes it does. At least, it's worth a shot.
I've been fortunate to have mostly good bosses during my career, along with a couple of great ones. I've also had a few who were downright bad in some of the ways mentioned above.
How about you? Have you had an excellent boss? What made him or her great? Have you had a horrible boss? How did you cope? Let me know, and I'll share some of your praise (or venting) in a future column.
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