How often do you speak to others about your bad boss or hear stories about your friends and family’s bad experiences with their bosses? It is common. Very common! What’s not common are stories like my friend Dina, who decided to speak to her boss about her thoughts and saw how it moved their working relationship forward.
Let’s start this by clearing the air and saying: it really stinks to have a bad boss! And here I am, asking you to help your Bad Boss be better? How is that even possible?
I’m coming from a place of responsibility and I’m inviting you over. Also, in this place we recognize that we have the power to change things to serve us better. If you had the option to change your relationship with your boss for the best, would you do it?
My own "bad boss" experience
I want to share one of my biggest lessons professionally. For years I worked with a guy that I didn’t get along with at all. We were very different, our priorities were different and let me just say that every time I had to attend a meeting with him, I left feeling frustrated, disrespected and wanting to quit often. This guy wasn’t my boss, just a peer, but the dislike was so strong that it would affect how I felt at work.
One day, my boss at the time shared what I thought to be shocking news: things were changing in the company and I was going to be reporting to this guy now.
And right there, a job that I loved so much turned into a job I didn’t like anymore.
Great jobs get hidden behind horrible bosses
Dream jobs exist. Yes, they do. But they often get lost behind the poor leaders that are responsible to move the teams forward.
I so often hear stories from my friends and family about how much they love their jobs, but hate their boss and guess what? That makes them hate the whole thing. What happens with the opposite? When jobs are dull, but bosses are great, people tend to love the whole thing.
What we are saying here is that:
Bad bosses cancel a great job.
Great bosses enhance a bad one.
The world is filled with bad bosses. The world is also filled with fearful employees that won’t say enough to drive improvement. Both are equally bad for organizations.
The Transformation Begins
Let’s start something to help your bad boss be better. There is a reason you are reading this and the reason is that you CAN do something about it. Believe it, because it is true. It does require for you to be brave, but only for 5 seconds. That’s it.
Take time on your own to answer these questions:
What bothers you about your boss?
What are 3 things you would have them improve?
How would you suggest they accomplish that improvement? (Examples work well here)
What are 2 things your boss does well? Make it a positive here.
Think of a couple of areas your boss could use some help with.
Remember this: Your boss is human. Coming from the standpoint that most humans are good, your boss is probably doing what they know it’s best.
Now the last thing I would have you do is go to your boss and read them the list you wrote. Do not do that! It is important though, that for your credibility, you come up with specific feedback that will clearly paint a picture of the areas of opportunity. Thinking of specific examples will be the most helpful way to drive your point across.
Best avenues to provide feedback to your bad boss
Employer 360 feedback—Take full advantage of these opportunities and share, with professionalism and honesty, areas where you believe your boss must focus on in order to improve their leadership skills. This is an opportunity that many let pass due to fear of getting in “trouble”.
Your boss directly, part 1—Many leaders keep offering their team members opportunities to provide them with feedback. If this is the case for you, take the chance! When they say: “Please let me know if you have feedback for me”. Jump in and say: “Actually, there is some feedback I would like to share”.
Your boss directly, part 2—Other leaders never have asked or offered the option to receive face to face feedback. This doesn’t mean they are not up for it. I encourage you to ask: “Boss, can I share some feedback with you?”.
Your boss’ boss—If none of those avenues are available or work for you, find an opportunity to speak to your boss’ leader. They are responsible for your boss’ development and most likely, they’ll be very interested in your thoughts.
Human Resources—And finally, if nothings has worked, then go to HR. Through them you will ensure that your boss will hear the feedback. If you want to keep your identity confidential, they will respect that request.
Remember to provide thoughtful, honest and constructive feedback.
The first day I had to work for my very bad boss
Now back to my story… When I started working with who I considered to be my new bad boss, he did something that surprised me: He asked me to share my thoughts about him. He gave me an avenue to provide feedback. Right then, I had a decision to make:
-Was I going to be a fearful employee that didn’t share my thoughts to avoid conflict or getting in trouble?
-Was I going to be brave and share my honest feedback?
I chose the latter. With professionalism, honesty and some sort of vulnerability I shared my concerns about his leadership style. I was surprised to experience him being attentive and open to the feedback. He also shared very insightful feedback that I took to heart and worked on improving.
That day the air was cleared. We agreed to hit reset and start again.
Moving forward, the relationship improved. There was mutual respect and an open avenue for feedback. We continued to think very differently, but we started respecting each other’s points of view. We both grew from that experience and I can humbly say that it was an extremely valuable learning lesson. Thinking back, he would make it to my top-3-list of great bosses in my life.
I have learned something throughout my career: Most of the time, having a “good” or “bad” boss depends on us. Many times, I worked for people that I absolutely loved working for, but others reporting to the same person would complain and be miserable all the time for having to work for them.
Now it’s your turn to help your boss get better. There is no chance for failure here if done with a leadership mindset. One of your best teachers could be hiding behind a “bad boss label” and you could be missing out. Take steps to uncover them now and grow as well.