7 Ways to Handle a Lousy Boss

Last Updated Oct 7, 2008 12:58 PM EDT

2886049368_818fe10ee6_m.jpgSo, your boss stinks. But you don't have the option of a new job right now. Feel stuck? Don't panic yet. There are a few ways you can help make the most of a bad situation, or even turn it around to your advantage.

1. Look at it as an opportunity. Penelope Trunk took advantage of a computer-illiterate boss to become indispensable to him and get close to the big deals, where she benefited from his expertise in negotiation. The lesson? Everyone has something to offer; find that in your boss and learn from it.

2. Manage your boss. Perform well, let your boss know what you're doing, and build personal rapport wherever you can find it. And don't buy into the myths of managing up; you don't need to work like a slave, be overly deferential, or insulate your boss from others to get the most out of your relationship.

3. Build an alliance. If you can become an asset to your boss, chances are he'll become an ally instead of an adversary. Figure out his weak spots and see how your skills and strengths can fill the gaps; take on tasks he finds disagreeable; and play up his strengths and successes (sincerely, if possible).

4. Find a different mentor. If you and your boss don't connect well, develop a relationship with a supervisor in another part of the company. You can get support, coaching, and a sounding board.

5. Know your boss's type. There are different strategies for dealing with varying personalities. For example, if your boss is a micromanager, you can cope by requesting that he give you clear expectations, ask about his preferred ways of doing things, and report back on a regular basis for feedback. Figure out who he is before you attempt to handle him.

6. Think "communication" and "documentation." Whenever possible, try to talk; discussing your concerns openly is often the quickest and least painful way to resolve problems. But if that doesn't work, document incidents that are causing tension in case you have to defend your version of events or take your case to senior management.

7. Reserve quitting for the worst-case scenario. Think your next job will boast perfect people? Not a chance. The jerks of the world are everywhere, and if you can figure out a way to deal with them you'll be better off. Besides, don't forget that bosses leave, people get promoted, and companies change. And tell yourself: This, too, shall pass.

Tomorrow, I'll take a look at how you can make yourself a better boss. In the meantime, if you have any other tips for dealing with a toxic supervisor, share them with Team Taskmaster's readers!

(image by LunaDiRimmel via Flickr, CC 2.0)

  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for AnchorDesk.com and writes regularly for Law.com and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.