Stevie Martin | Staff Writer | Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Ask An Adult: What Do I Do If I Hate My Boss?

The Debrief: Ways to cope with a boss who's driving you mad, without throwing them through a wall and consequently losing your job

Laura Callaghan

In Europe, just under 50% of employees think their boss is ‘OK’. Considering the amount of hours you spend in the office/workplace every day, hating your boss’s guts can take a lot out of you, and the people around you.

Firstly, it clouds your day with, like, negative energy (man), and secondly, it clouds everyone else’s day. There’s nothing like your flatmate coming home and going on about how much they hate their boss – again. What are you supposed to say? Oh, no. That’s annoying. Again. Why don’t you do something about it? Again. 

So why don’t you do something about it? Well, it can be a bit of a minefield. You don’t want to get fired, are not confident enough to do a Bridget Jones ‘stick this job up your arse’, and don’t want to cause a fight resulting in your superior drop-kicking you out of a window.

We spoke to two experts on the topic of boss-hating – Denise Taylor, careers psychologist at Amazing People, and Ellie from Bristol who hates her boss, but has figured out how to deal with it. They tell us how to deal with an authority figure you can’t stand, while avoid those three pitfalls. 

Work out if it’s their problem, or yours

Our capacity for denial can be astonishing. Are you constantly underperforming? Do you argue with them a lot? Before you take them down to Downtown (the place where bad bosses are coped with), make sure you’re not the problem. Because, quite often, you might be. Sorry, dude.

‘You don’t have to like them, and your boss isn’t there to be your best friend. What you want is a professional relationship,’ says Denise. ‘Look inwards – if you’re the sort of person who leaves things to the last minute, and they want to know when everything’s going to be done, then start delivering. You need to look at how your boss likes it, and whether you can adapt to that.’

Denise once had a client who was baffled that they didn’t get on with their boss, despite the fact they were late pretty much all the time – and their boss was always on time.

‘Most people who come to me are on their first or second warning, and you have to be like, “Come on! You just need to start playing by the rules a bit!”’ she says. 

Not your problem? Work out what the problem is

In an ideal world, we’d all compromise and get along and enjoy hanging out with our colleagues after hours – but sometimes life doesn’t work out that way because Carol chews carrots really loudly all day, Jake waltzes in an hour and a half after everyone else (seemingly above the effing law), and your boss has an exceptionally passive aggressive email manner.

‘What if they remind you of someone in the past? You might also see a side of you in them, and it’s really worth thinking about what it is you don’t like about them, and what it is they do that drives you mad,’ Denise advises. Because once you’ve hit upon the problem, then you can... 

Set up a meeting 

Suggest a meeting, either face-to-face or over the phone (emails are too easy to ignore) to review your performance and by ‘suggest’, we mean, ‘Do not back down until said meeting is go and you are sitting in the same room together’.

If they’re busy this week, then push for next week. If they say you don’t need to chat, say it’s important to you.

‘Make sure you have an agenda, and that you manage the meeting,’ says Denise. ‘A good agenda would be: five minutes where they tell you how they think you’re doing, five minutes on how you think you’re doing, 15 minutes to discuss the next three months and what you hope to change and then five minutes to wrap up and agree on objectives.’

It's critical to have action points at the end of the meeting, and to agree to talk again in a month’s time to make sure things have improved. Also, don’t accuse your boss, but rather ‘Figure out how you can both work together more effectively’.

Also, don’t cry or punch a wall. 

Practise empathy

Unless you’re a big ol’ psychopath and hate happiness, trying to figure out why they are like they are can be pretty helpful. Ellie, who has had a pretty gross time with her boss of late, highly recommends it: ‘Try and understand why they’re being a tool. They might have personal problems, or be struggling with their own role, or not so happy outside of work, or maybe your personality just isn’t a good fit with theirs,’ she says.

‘Maybe you react more than is necessary to their irritating behaviour. Once you try and find a bit of empathy towards them, it’s easier not to want to maim them.’

Making the effort to interact with them at work drinks, or in the kitchen, is a good way to put your empathy skills to good use. But if they’re one of those Dragon Bosses who never enter kitchens or go to work drinks and just sit in their little glass office palace sending you gross emails, probably move onto the next line of attack. 

Find ways to blow off steam 

Is this annoying boss worth losing your job over? If yes, start looking for another job. If no, start compartmentalising and stop letting it take over your life.

‘Go to the gym after work, get out of the office during lunchtimes. Sometimes I’ll get clients to twang elastic bands on their wrists when they’re annoyed,’ says Denise. ‘Try walking part of the way home instead of getting on the train, where everyone’s all tired and stressed. Then, when you get home, you’re ready to start your evening.’

Ellie agrees to keeping your boss at work, and as far away from your personal life as possible: ‘Remember they’re just your boss in the office. When you leave the office, they have nothing to do with your life, and you shouldn’t let them impact on your home life. Don’t take being miserable home, as that’s giving them more power to make you sad.’

Don’t give ’em the power. 

Go big, or stop complaining

We mentioned it before, and it’s tough love time: make a big change, or put up with your annoying boss.

‘If your boss is genuinely so, so, awful and you’ve tried everything, then look for another job, because it’s not worth it,’ says Denise. ‘A friend of mine was miserable after three months, and felt she had to stay there for a year – but who says? Who cares what people think? You just tell them it wasn’t the right position for you.’

There’s also the option of going higher up. Ellie says: ‘Bosses also have bosses. If your feelings are substantiated with actual bad behaviour, then go one step above. Sometimes it takes a more senior member of staff to nip problems in the bud. It’s important to remember you’re never completely powerless, even when your immediate superior might want you to feel like that.’

Is there actual bullying taking place? Read this guide on how to tell when it’s bullying, and what to do, as featured on super helpful careers site GoThinkBig, and go directly to HR because that’s never acceptable, no matter how much money the person in question earns. 

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Follow Stevie on Twitter: @5tevieM

 

Picture: Laura Callaghan

Tags: Ask An Adult, Work it