Your Complete Guide For Dealing With A Jackass Boss Part 1
If you are dealing with a toxic, nasty or destructive boss, you know how stressful that is. In this first part of our series, we look at being analytical and thoughtful around your options while stressing the importance of not “burning bridges” or otherwise damaging your job future.
Consider the Consequences — Do A Reality Check
The reality check principle involves asking several questions to determine how difficult a person is, and the objective consequences of those difficult behaviors.
If you have a difficult boss and must decide what to do next, the reality check is even more important than when dealing with a difficult employees. Why? It’s your butt on the line.
Your boss has something your individual employees don’t have, and that’s power over you. He or she can do things your employees can’t. Make your life miserable so you’ll quit? Sure. Have you transferred to a janitorial position? Pass me the broom! Fire you outright? Quite possibly.
Your reality check provides the context for making decisions about your job — often whether to stay or go. For example, what are the effects of your difficult boss’s behavior? What will happen if you do nothing? Can you live with that, or if you do nothing will it get worse?
But there’s an added consideration, and that’s deciding what you are prepared to lose and what you can afford to lose. After all, we’re talking about your career, your livelihood, and possibly your ability to feed your family. Standing up to a difficult boss when you can’t afford the consequences can be gratifying morally but debilitating financially. You may see yourself as doing the right thing and standing up for principles, and we all respect that. But if standing up for your principles results in your starving and living on the street, you have to think twice.
Let’s not forget that by standing up for principles and getting yourself fired, you lose any ability to make things better in your workplace.
So, let’s walk you through the process of answering some very important questions.
Start with the Effects and Outcomes
You start by assessing the effects and consequences of your difficult boss’s actions and behaviors. What do you need to consider?
1. First, how is your boss affecting the productivity of your work unit? Is there interference? Do you feel you can’t get the job done?
This is an interesting one, because you may have more ammunition to go over situation, you have evidence. The flip side is if you do nothing, you may be held accountable for your work unit’s failures, even if those failures are a result of the actions of your boss.
2. Second, does the behavior of your difficult boss damage or hurt people, particularly your employees? If so, in what ways? And here’s an additional question:
Can you live with that? Some people can, some can’t.
3. Third, how is your boss affecting your career — your chances of promotion or future employment? A boss who makes you look bad affects not only the present but the future. If you do nothing, you may end up losing more than you can afford. A supplementary question: Do you care? Some managers aren’t worried about promotion or career. Are you? If so, then a boss who interferes with your career is of greater concern.
4. Fourth, what about your mental health? Is your boss the main reason you’re experiencing high stress levels connected to work? Do you dread going to work because your boss drives you crazy? Are you experiencing high levels of anxiety or depression because of your boss? Sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly why those things occur, but if you have a really terrible boss, you’ll be able to connect the dots.
5. Fifth, are you sailing on a sinking ship? Occasionally, a boss can be so destructive that he or she ends up destroying a work unit through things like layoffs or damaging its functionality. There’s little point trying to bail out a swamped boat with a small cup. Is the writing on the wall, either for your work unit or you, personally?
So let’s say you’ve evaluated the situation and decide that you really can’t sit back and do nothing, because the consequences of doing nothing are too severe. Let’s take a look at the effects on you personally.
Let’s make this simple. What happens to you if you lose a battle with your boss and end up quitting or getting fired? What are the practical circumstances? Here are a few things to consider:
➤ Do you have sufficient savings to survive without a job for a year? (That’s a conservative estimate of how long it might take until you find a suitable position.)
➤ Are you employable elsewhere? How quickly are other people in your field finding employment?
➤ What’s your current debt load?
➤ Mentally, are you able to be unemployed for an extended period without going crazy?
➤ Will your spouse support your leaving or losing your job?
The answers to these questions tell you what you can afford to lose. If you can’t afford to lose your job and the consequences of living with a difficult boss are palatable, then weigh your options carefully. It may be you need to bide your time until you are better positioned to accept the risks involved in going head-to-head with a difficult boss.
Here are more questions, not related directly to economics but to how important your current job is to you:
➤ If you leave your current job, will it impact negatively on your future?
➤ Can you handle losing your social support group from work?
➤ Do you really love your job (except for your boss)?
➤ How important are principles to you — important enough to lose your job?
By answering these questions honestly, you help yourself by figuring out where you stand. I can’t stress how important this is. Going off half-cocked and doing something that gets you fired when you aren’t ready for those consequences is just plain dumb.
What Are Your Options?
Now it’s time to consider the options available to you. We’ll go through these one by one, indicating when each is desirable and when each is not. Here is the quick list:
➤ Quit immediately.
➤ Lay the groundwork for moving on.
➤ Present an ultimatum.
➤ Appeal to your boss’s boss.
➤ Appeal to the human resources department and grievances committee.
➤ Get sneaky.
➤ Work it out.
➤ Live with it.
Look at the list and you will see it starts with the most drastic options and moves to more cooperative and constructive behavior. In an ideal world you would never want to get sneaky or appeal to your boss’s boss. But we don’t live in that ideal world (or at least most of us don’t). Still, we want to try to work things out before we escalate into a confrontational process that might make things worse.
Conclusion For Part 1
You DO have options around how to deal with your boss from hell. Each has distinct pro’s and con’s. In Part II we’ll start looking at what you can do and how to maximize your choices, while protecting your career future.