When Employee Engagement Tanks with Bad Management, Manage Up

8 Strategies to Make the Best of the Worst

Uninspired. Mean. Egotistical. Micromanaging … Unfortunately, not all of us get up to go to work in the morning for the best bosses. With economic times being as tough as they are, “I quit,” is more of a dream (with the dramatic door slam or toss of files in the air) than a reality (for those who have to pay bills).

Sometimes the best lessons come from the worst examples. And, learning to become a great leader and manager means learning to work with all kinds of personalities and people.

Your success is in your hands. There will always be obstacles and bullies in life, but part of success is learning to navigate the landmines and strive in the most adverse and complicated situations.

Here are 8 strategies to learn from and survive a bad boss:

1. Treat your boss like a difficult client. The client is always right, right? When you’re working with a difficult, demanding boss, think of her as a tough, demanding client. How will you solve the problems to snag the sale?

2. Ask why: Empathy is critical to good leadership. Oftentimes we’re so caught up in our own engagement issues, we forget to look beyond and try to understand what our manager is dealing with: What pressure is she under? What is success or failure to her? These questions, from your employer’s point-of-view, might help understand a difficult manager’s attitude.

3. It takes two to tango. In almost all circumstances, both parties have a role in a negative relationship. So, step back and be a little introspective about how you, personally, are deteriorating this relationship. Consider the criticisms your boss has made. Are they valid? How can you improve your performance?

4. Manage Up. Anticipate your boss’s needs. Build relationships and networks. Maintain a positive attitude. Pay attention. Being a team player and understanding how you can not only become essential to the team but also the organization is a great way to deal with a difficult boss.

5. Document everything from your sales records and achievements to all of the negative e-mails you might be receiving from your boss. This is important to a clear record of the work you have done, on paper, in case there is a later conflict. Cover your bases and come back with facts about work done, not feelings.

6.Step away from the water cooler: Negativity breeds negativity. So if you’re having a problem with your manager, follow the correct procedures. Talk to her first. Speak up about her treatment of you. If things don’t improve, then follow procedure. All organizations have procedures on how to deal with workplace conflict. Step back from office politics to keep your reputation clean.

7. Consider your options. If you’ve done everything you can to diffuse a complicated working situation, it might be time to move on. That said, don’t jump from the fire to the frying pan. Look into company culture and understand which places might be a better fit.

8. Sometimes the only option is the last resort. Any one of these workplace incidences merit contacting an employment attorney:

  • a. Sexual harassment
  • b. Physical intimidation
  • c. Unlawful conduct
  • d. Discriminatory practices

We all might not have the opportunity to work for great, benevolent leaders, but we can learn from the worst. Save the most dramatic scenarios, a little empathy, humility, and speaking up can not only diffuse an explosive relationship but also help build a better one.

Learn from the worst and become a great leader.

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