How to Recognize and Protect Yourself From a Bad Boss
Red Flags During the Interview
More than 82% of employees currently report being unhappy with their working conditions and cite a bad boss as the cause of their displeasure. With the economy in a slump and a serious job shortage in the U.S., most people just accept poor working conditions due to a lack of options. Many employees do not complain due to fear of retaliation.
A bad boss isn't easy to spot, but working for one will have lasting effects on your daily life and future career prospects. They come in many forms from incompetent slackers to evil egotistical maniacs with a master plan. How can you tell if the person interviewing you is a bad boss?
Many applicants seeking a job focus intently on performing well during an interview and fail to consider whether the boss and the company is one they would really prefer to work for. Potential bosses are on their best behavior during the interview process, however there are things he or she may do that indicate they are a bad boss.
How to Screen a Potential Boss
- During an interview, pay particular attention to how this potential employer treats existing employees within the company, especially if your interview is conducted in a group setting. Take notice to whether he or she listens to the input of other employees and if they seem supportive or dismissive. A bad boss will not encourage other staff members to ask questions or finish a train of thought.
- Directly ask a potential boss what his or her short and long term goals are for the company. If you get a cookie cutter answer, or no answer—you probably won't want to work for this individual due to his or her lack of dedication, foresight, and organization.
- If a potential boss keeps you waiting for your interview, it can indicate he or she has time management deficiencies or they don't respect your time. You can expect this potential boss to treat customers this way also. If you will be directly working with customers, this lack of time management and respect for others can impact your effectiveness in pleasing customers.
- Ask questions! If your potential boss doesn't consider your questions thoughtfully, looks at his or her watch, acts distracted or uninterested, it is a red flag. Chat up any employees you can talk to and ask them what they like about their jobs. If they roll their eyes or say run for the door—he or she is probably a bad boss.
Welcome to the Bad Boss
If you missed the red flags during the interview and initial correspondence, it is likely you will soon find out that you are working for a bad boss. There are seven classic types of "bad bosses" and chances are you can easily spot which category your taskmaster falls into. Unfortunately, bosses may be a combination of these categories, making dealing with them even more difficult.
1. The Dictatorial Control Freak
This boss is the "hovering" type who must oversee every detail of every project. They can be found looking over your shoulder at the computer to track your progress and your activities. This type of boss can be particularly defeating as they want tasks done their way even if there is a more efficient way to do them. Their faithless attitudes leave employees uninspired and unheard. If you work for a control freak, it is important to not them bully or intimidate you. To survive, you must stand up for yourself and always be ready to defend your work product and probably your integrity.
2. The Incompetent Slacker
The incompetent slacker usually lands his or her position from sheer luck, inheritance, knowing someone in the company, or by smooching the right behinds. It is obvious to everyone this person is winging it on a daily basis and this boss is usually clueless about running the company. As a boss, the slacker rarely interferes with an employee's day to day tasks as he or she does not have a clue as to what needs to be done or how. This boss succeeds only because he or she has the right people supporting him. In times of success, this boss will also take all the credit. It is important to have a clear job description in writing and make sure you comply with your duties. Eventually this slacker's luck will run out. This boss doesn't know enough to make well thought out decisions for the company. To keep your job, it is best to "suggest" things to this boss when he is way off base and let him think the great idea was his.
3. The Ostrich
The ostrich is the paranoid boss who fears his or her responsibilities and upper level management. He or she is the nervous type who double checks everything done by lower level employees. He or she will avoid controversy and try to keep staff on track to avoid rocking the proverbial boat. Should you have a question about a project, you cannot expect this boss to give you a quick answer as he will have to triple check the answer with upper management. His or her lack of confidence may overshadow any work done by his employees. To deal with the ostrich, it is best to always double check your own work to prevent anxiety and embarrassment to the department.
4. Mr. Penny Pincher
Normally, the Penny Pincher boss is either the owner of the company or a supervisor of a company under tight budget restrictions. He or she limits the amount of money spent on needed office supplies and always has a quick excuse ready for anyone seeking a raise. If this boss is in a profit industry, the best way to deal with him is to demonstrate your requests for supplies or raises with detailed analysis on savings to the company or through your own accomplishments in making the company money.
5. The Egomaniac
This boss works very hard to uphold his own image and he does not pay much attention to those he tramples on his way to the top. While he will pulverize anyone who gets in his way, he soon forgets those who helped him get to where he is. To effectively deal with this boss, it would be helpful for you to be the president of his fan club at the office. If he or she is competent and worthy of respect, supporting this egomaniac may take you up the corporate ladder. If he is not respectable, it could hurt your working reputation to be associated with this boss.
6. The Passive Aggressive Boss
Probably the MOST frustrating boss of all, he or she may seem very nice and laid back when you first meet him and you may think he or she is even cool. You will first get the sense that this boss really goes the extra mile to be "nice". All at once this boss has a surprising change in behavior similar to pouting. These bosses have difficulty in saying what they really want and feel but expect things to be done their way. These bosses have a true personality disorder that cause them to be passive and agreeable one minute, and stubborn and resentful the next. They purposely procrastinate with tools needed to get the job done in silent protest, yet they will never verbalize the fact that they are angry. They will leave you guessing what you did wrong on a daily basis. These bosses are nice to your face and later you will realize that with every problem in the office, he was secretly throwing you under the bus of responsibility. It is best to keep good notes, document everything, and only try to catch this boss on a stable day if you need input. As an employee you must step back from their behavior and realize you are not at fault for their mood changes.
7. The Evil Boss From the Deepest Depths of Hell
Sadly, there are some very evil people in this world and many of them are bosses. These bosses are bad seeds. These bosses are the liars, embezzlers, con artists, and thieves. Their agendas rarely have anything to do with the job at hand, but a master plan that goes beyond the work place. If you encounter this boss, you must proceed with caution. These bosses protect their master plan and will demolish anyone who interferes. You must not act until you have documentation of his or her activities and can prove any claim you make. If this person is the owner of the company, it is best you leave before you are implicated and report this boss to authorities. If this person is not the owner, collect your proof and present it to upper management or the proper authorities before this evil boss terminates you.
Example of a Horrible Boss
What to Do If a Boss Gets Out of Hand
If you are in a situation with a boss who is abusing you there are some things you can do to make your situation more manageable. If speaking directly with your boss does not work, these additional steps may help:
- Speak to the human resource department where you work if you have one. Present your case in a calm manner and don't make accusations you can not prove.
- If there is not a human resource department where you work and the situation is unbearable, contact your local Equal Employment Security Commission. They offer free services and protection to employees in abusive situations. Most offices have an intake form online in which you explain your situation. Once they receive your information, they compile an official report if they think your rights are in danger. The ESC can intervene and offer mediation services between you and your employer and determine to prosecute your employer. This agency handles cases involving a violation of civil rights and most claims must be categorized as discrimination due to race or gender, disability, sexual harassment, and retaliation by the employer towards the employee as punishment.
- Keep a detailed log of all daily activities, accomplishments, failures, and conversations with your boss in a hidden location. Add any thing that may be relevant in your case. These items will help you in your cause and can be vital if you are wrongfully terminated by a bad boss.
- If you are in a dangerous or volatile situation or subject to physical or sexual harassment, consider purchasing a small, undetectable video camera to capture abusive behavior. Many mini cameras are available and can be worn on your clothing disguised as buttons and pens. Voice recordings are not admissible in court if a conversation is recorded without the knowledge and consent of the recorded party.
- If you are the victim of a bad boss, it is important to protect yourself and avoid long term harm to your career. Despite a job shortage in the United States, no one deserves to be subject to abusive bosses just to keep a job!
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.