How to Survive a Dysfunctional Boss

Last Updated Jan 13, 2010 8:29 PM EST

One of my recent posts, How to Spot a Dysfunctional Manager, left room for a sequel on how to survive one. Well, having had quite a few dysfunctional bosses, and admittedly having been one myself, I guess that probably qualifies me as something of an expert, doesn't it?

But before I give you the keys to the dysfunctional castle, a word of caution. This stuff is like playing with fire. Once you commit, there's no turning back. Also, three of the five methods don't even work most of the time. You know what that means, don't you? The result won't be pretty, that's what.

The other two work, but I'm not so sure you're going to like them very much. What can I say; this is tough stuff. But still, desperate times call for desperate measures, right? So, take a deep breath, and let's get down to business:
5 Ways to Survive a Dysfunctional Boss

  1. Go over his head. This one's the riskiest of them all, and the higher up you are in the management ranks, the riskier it is. Frankly, senior executives are relatively insensitive to whiny managers. That said, the technique did work for me once, albeit when I was a low-level manager. The key is to not complain about your boss, but to subtely ingratiate yourself to your boss's manager. In my case, he liked me, saw my potential, and eventually promoted me.
  2. Take a vacation - return - try again - freak out - repeat. Keep that routine up until you get to about an inch away from burning out. You know, when you start having fantasies about going postal and your wife is threatening to take the kids and split. Then quit and find another job. That's one of the tips guaranteed to work. See, I said you wouldn't like it.
  3. Go sideways. If your company's big enough and your expertise is transferable, then go ahead and transfer. You can also network or become chummy with manager and get him to hire you even if you're not exactly the perfect choice. Networking also helps if your boss tries to block the transfer. I guarantee that if someone at or above your boss's same management level wants you, he'll find a way to get you.
  4. Stab him in the back. I'm not saying make stuff up, but who knows, maybe he lied bigtime on his resume or screwed up a major deal, something like that. Just keep in mind, this kind of thing is very risky and likely to backfire. It's also stooping to a dysfunctional level, but you know what I said about desperate times. Of course, I've never done it, but I've seen it attempted quite a few times and it does occasionally work.
  5. Get over yourself and suck it up. This one also works, but it helps if you can compartmentalize your feelings. Anyway, look at it from the company's viewpoint. For one thing, a company exists to serve customers and shareholders, not thin-skinned employees who can't handle their own problems. If that sounds insensitive, well, guess what? That's exactly the way executive management views this kind of thing. Really. Don't like this one either? Well ... tough.
Well, those are my top five tips. Now it's your turn.

Also check out: