Unless you were born into money or you invented Facebook or Twitter, you have to work for a living. Most of us have bosses that are normal people with families, mortgages, car payments, and credit card debt just like everybody else, so occasionally they get a little grumpy. But as long as it all blows over before you need to leave early on Friday (so you can score that corner table for a fabulous happy hour at P.F. Chang’s), then who cares? It still beats hunting for a new job in this economy.

Or does it?

A moody boss is one thing, but if you work for someone who:

A) Has a voice that is often confused with a screeching pterodactyl
B) Uses the Don Rickles put-down approach to giving constructive criticism
C) Stabs you in the back while telling you how wonderful you are
D) Communicates about as well as a dead iPhone

Then you just might work for the boss from hell, in which case, you have two choices. Either invent the next cool new thing that replaces Facebook or Twitter, or teach that nasty goober you work for how to play nice in the sandbox.

If fate forces you to choose the latter, then you need to know specifically what you’re dealing with.

The Screamer/Intimidator
This head honcho thinks the only way he can get anyone’s attention is by imitating a bullhorn while telling you you’re about as smart as a used cotton ball. For some odd reason he equates office authority with being a bully, and if he could get away with stealing your lunch money and giving you a wedgie to prove how tough he is, he’d do it.

Unfortunately, shouting over a Screamer/Intimidator only makes this moron turn up his insulting volume until your ears bleed. To get him to shut his pie hole you could start wearing earmuffs to work in the hope he gets the message. But if that doesn’t work, then just be forthright and tell him you don’t appreciate being yelled at like a first grader who just wet his pants on the playground (make sure, however, you don’t wet your own pants while standing up to him, or your assertiveness loses its punch). As a backup, you might want to polish your resume before you have your chat.

The Back Stabber
If someone in authority over you is so unbelievably sweet you get a cavity every time he calls you into his office, then you might want to have your co-workers check your back for sharp objects. No offense to you, I’m sure you’re a lovely person, but if your boss is kissing your behind, you’ve either found the nicest boss in the world (possible, but not probable) or el jefe feels guilty because he’s not being completely honest with you (or about you).

If you suspect the latter, do a little reconnaissance before you make accusations. If the office is abuzz with some weird rumor about you that isn’t true (or worse yet, IS true but doesn’t paint a pretty picture), then hold your head high and, if possible, make light of it (as if you’re in on the joke). At the same time casually ask around to see who exactly is spreading this gossip. If you trace the source back to your boss, confront him. But do it in that “Dr. Phil” sort of way that shows you’re taking the high road, even though you both know Mr. Loose Lips deserves to have his mouth stapled shut.

The Mute
On the other end of the spectrum we have the introverted boss who couldn’t spit out a complete sentence if you wrote it on a sticky note and fed it to him for lunch. There’s nothing worse than a leader who thinks the art of communication is a fluffy science. If your boss expects you to read his mind to figure out what needs to be done, then you’re going to have to be the chatty one. Keep an ongoing list of your questions so that when you do get some face time with your boss you’re prepared to lead the conversation (which also includes reporting back results without being asked). Yes, this seems inequitable since you’re doing your boss’s job for him, but hey, if you’re looking for fairness, you might as well just drop out of the workforce and start your own commune.

When dealing with an insufferable boss the key is to know your pain threshold. How much will you take in order to keep your job? To figure that out consider how much you like your work and co-workers (aside from your boss), how much you’re paid, and if you can deal with the commute. Everything in life is about choices, and sometimes taking the harder road can lead to greater opportunities later. It helps to look at your jerk boss as simply a temporary bump in the road.

One comment on “Bosses We Hope You Don’t Work For

  • Yikes, thinking about bad bosses gives me the shivers. Recently I was listening to a talk from Peter Post from the Emily Post Institute and he was saying how there’s a lot of bullying and abuse that goes on in the workplace that filters down from bosses. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that they often do not change. You either deal, or move on.

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