By: Dr: Gwen Smith
According to statistics only two out of ten people love what they do as work. This means that up to 80% hate their jobs. After doing some careful research I discovered that there a variety of reasons why people hate their jobs and many people are stuck because of the stories they tell themselves: they can’t find another job, or there’s a lot of competition, or they have limited skills and the reasons go on. In this article I will talk about one of the reasons: the bad boss. I will offer recommendations on how to handle that situation. For the next few weeks, I will cover some of the other areas.
If you find yourself to be one of those people hating your job, there are some definite things that you can do to start changing your circumstances. This article deals with the bad boss. Other articles will address the myriad of reasons people give as well as provide recommendations for addressing them.
Toxic work environment
First, if you find yourself in a job where your boss denigrates and underrates you and your work, there is a way to have your voice heard. The very first time this happens, you’ll need to address it. If it’s past the first time, it’s never too late and it’s something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Many people feel that just being quiet and not raising a concern and continuing to gossip about it is the way to handle this. This cannot be further from the truth. As a result of this belief they continue to suffer and pretend as though everything is OK because they ‘don’t want to become a target.
First off it is inauthentic and hypocritical and you know that it is so it really affects the core of who you are being. You feel less than yourself and perhaps may even start having feelings of self-hate because you know you shouldn’t be tolerating it.
As with any relationship, you will continue to pay regardless of what you think. You self-worth will diminish each time you allow this to happen without addressing it. I’ll also readily say that how you address this is very critical with the type of results to expect. I will address this in a few moments.
In the meantime I’d like to raise your attention to another perspective. People, yourself included, are not always aware of the impact their speech is having on others. They are sometimes not even aware of their tone. So a first place to start is to create awareness. Perhaps you will be the first person to have ever brought attention to the concern, and this may stop the behavior. It won’t stop by gossiping about it and by pretending it doesn’t exist however.
Addressing it may not stop it either but at the very least, your supervisor will now be very aware about the disruption his behavior is causing for you. And he will remember it the next time it comes to interacting with you. It doesn’t matter how belligerent your boss is, a first approach is to bring awareness to the unpleasant interaction, and to not pretend as though the problem does not exist.
Two ways to handle a misbehaving boss
Assertiveness not aggression is the key. There is a distinct difference between the two. When you are assertive you acknowledge what your boss wants to see happen, bring to his or her attention your observations of what actually did happen with your interactions and how you felt as a result of the interaction. Following this, you’ll make your request for what you actually want to happen and what will happen if your request is not honored. Do not create a story about what happened; just deal with what happened only. Also, do not threaten.
Example: The first scenario
So, here’s an example: Let’s say your supervisor is upset that you missed a deadline and he comes yelling at you and calling you names in front of everyone. There are two ways that you can handle this scenario. First, you can immediately say in the most respectful firm tone possible, “John, please do not yell at me. If you continue, I’m going to walk away to calm myself. I don’t want to disrespect you.”
This is not insubordination, and there is nothing in the labor laws that tell you that you need to accommodate this level of behavior. Insubordination occurs when you refuse to do what your boss tells you to do. Be aware that you do what your boss tells you as long as it is legal, moral and ethical. It’s also great to make notes of your interactions: what he tells you, what you said, the date and the time. Start keeping a log. If you have a union this documentation will come in handy and even if you create a legal case or file a grievance later on. You can eventually file a grievance with your detailed log of activities. Your HR office should be able to assist you with the paperwork.
When addressing this situation directly with your boss, at all times be sure that you are respectful while at the same time being assertive. While displaying anger will likely not get you the results you’d like, it’s also not insubordination. I would, however, highly recommend you not take this approach.
Example: The second scenario
Second, you could wait a few moments, and then send an email requesting to speak with him or set an appointment with his secretary. This is where you’ll need to be very calm yet assertive. There’s a lot of power in this next approach but only if you do it right.
When you meet here’s a sample conversation:
“John, I realize that I missed the timeline that we had, and I want to apologize for having done this. I know how important deadlines are to you and I will make every effort to meet future deadlines or to let you know in advance if I’m going to miss them. I don’t plan to however.”
Now look him directly in the eyes. Do not look to the side, up or down. Do not avert your eyes in any direction and keep a poker face, no signs of emotions whatsoever and say, “John, when you yell at me and call me names, I feel disrespected (put whatever it does to you—maybe you lose focus on your work and can’t concentrate for hours) and it impacts my ability to give you the respect you deserve as my supervisor. I am requesting that you not yell at me again in the future. If you continue to do this, I will have to remove myself from this type of treatment out of respect for myself and so as not to disrespect you in return”
Hold the gaze (not a challenging stare; just make eye contact), poker face, be silent. Wait for him to respond. You’ll be sweating and your heart will be pounding, however, you must do this for your sake. Keep the direct look in his eyes as if waiting for a response. If he says something to justify his behavior, just repeat, “I’m asking you not to yell at me again and call me names John” If you continue to do this, I will have to remove myself from this type of treatment out of respect for myself and to not disrespect you in return.” You can eventually thank him for his time and leave his office if it’s becoming a circus.
Dissecting the conversation
I’d like to dissect this conversation so you can reconstruct it for yourself later as needed. Notice that you are not using ‘you’ statements as blame. You’re not saying “You are disrespectful”, or “You disrespect me”. You are using “I” statements. Saying how you feel, not bringing the focus on what he did so much.
You also are not interpreting the yelling to say, “You don’t like me”, that’s creating a story. Instead you are stating WHAT happened. He yelled and you felt a certain way. You’re not even saying he made you feel that way because he cannot make you feel a certain way. You have the power to choose the way you feel. He doesn’t have enough power to make you feel anything, unless you give him that power. So claim your power and choose how you will feel.
The other thing to be aware of is when you are belligerent and loud you will likely not get the result you want, hence the poker face and calm voice. I’ll share a story of one of my secretaries when I was an assistant principal decades ago at a school.
She was a Christian lady looking quite simple and professionally dressed. One day the other assistant principal, walked past her when she had asked him a question and he completely ignored her. She walked back to his office and said and in the calmest most direct voice, made eye contact and said: “Mr. Miranda, just now I asked you a question and you walked right past me. I’d like you to know that I did not appreciate that. I’d like you to respond to me and not ignore me again in the future when I ask you a question.” From that moment on, I saw him acknowledge her and go out of his way to interact with her as a result of her directness. She was well respected in that school.
What you can do going forward
Practice being assertive instead of being passive or aggressive in all of your relationships. If you have a caustic work environment caused by your boss’s treatment of you, stop gossiping about it and go directly to the source. Practice what you will say before you go.
After you’ve taken some recommended steps, you really have to weigh your options and assess what your health and happiness are worth. Life’s too short to endure continuously stressful work environments caused by bad bosses. Start looking for options. Keeping an open mind in this process will open up new possibilities to you that could bring you lasting satisfaction and joy doing what you actually love.
Searching for another job is only one of the options, and if you’re finding no success there, being willing to explore the areas of your life that really light you up can provide clues for your next direction and income. It can create a Plan B. It’s simpler than you think and it doesn’t require that you immediately walk away from the job you currently have.
A Plan B offers peace of mind knowing that that your current situation will be temporary. It provides some staying power to continue to endure the circumstances. I will quickly add too that under no circumstance should you be willing to continue to accommodate abuse for a paycheck. At the same time I’m aware that you have your bills to pay. In fact this is the source of justification that most people give for not leaving a toxic situation. But when you consider it, what is your health and well-being worth to you? Is your paycheck really worth sticking around and being abused for?
You can engage a community of friends, family and agencies to assist in finding another job if that’s what you need. Perhaps you have friends you can talk to for scouting out their employers’ job posts. Or, you can look up some employment agencies to help you to find work, even if it’s temporary. You’ll want to remove yourself from a continuously toxic work environment.
In summary take the step you need to bring awareness to the situation by talking to your boss. If it doesn’t stop, start documenting and finally start looking at other opportunities to really discover what it is that you may truly like to do for a career or business. Put a Plan B in place or seek the help of your community to secure something more promising for you.
I’d like to hear from you about some of the concerns you are having on your job.
Please leave us your comments below!