Bad Boss, Good Job – Try These 5 Steps Before You Quit

What Can You Do If You Clash With A Bad Boss?

You’ve found the perfect job, but your boss isn’t so perfect…  Or maybe you had a great boss and love your job but you’ve suddenly lost them to a new role or promotion. What can you do if the boss you loved and respected has been replaced with someone who always seems to want to go left when you want to go right?

Losing a great boss is a terrible experience. Starting a great job with a bad boss – also a terrible experience. Both will deflate your enthusiasm and make your job harder.  Sadly, it’s why many people end up leaving good jobs.

According to a 2015 American study by Gallup one in two people cited a bad manager as the reason they left their last job. Undoubtedly, a manager who isn’t good at leadership can be the downfall of any company. People will leave a bad boss – even if they love their job.

What steps can you take if you don’t like your boss?

“Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.” — Stephen Covey

Step One – Communicate With Your Bad Boss

Communication is essential to relationship-building. Perhaps you haven’t had much of a chance to get to know your boss. This is your opportunity to talk and learn what makes them tick.

Ask questions, look for things that are relatable to talk about and build rapport. I’ve spent a lot of time discussing Emotional Intelligence lately. It’s paramount for good leadership. Ask yourself if your boss may be struggling with a lower EI/EQ level than your own. Knowing this can help you adjust your expectations.

Ask your boss what’s most important to them.  What are their expectations for you and your role?  How do they measure success?  Seek clear goals and objectives with respect to the timelines that you’ll be measured against.

Try stepping into your boss’s shoes.  Why do you think they act the way they do?  Can you spot anything that might trigger undesirable reactions from them?

I once worked with a boss who valued efficiencies. I adapted to send shorter emails and request fewer meetings. It was a different experience from the boss I’d previously worked with. Even our conversations were short and to the point. My initial reaction was to see this person as “cold” and unfriendly. Once I developed a better understanding of their needs, I began to see that their demeanor wasn’t personal. My boss ran a tight ship and needed a crew that understood the value of efficient communication.

Bad Boss Step Two – Seek Constructive Feedback

We’ve all had performance reviews that seem to go nowhere. If part of your issue/concern with your boss is not getting the feedback that you need – be proactive.

If you’re looking for regular feedback and don’t feel like you’re getting it, suggest a regular scheduled meeting with your boss.

Good leaders must be accessible to their people. Even if you can only get an informal 15-minute discussion once per week, it will help keep you both on track.

To make your meetings more constructive see if your boss is open to creating an agenda. Send the agenda to your boss in advance. Ensure that it outlines a couple of key performance issues that you would like to focus on for the week.

Step Three – Find Colleagues Who Already Believe Your “Bad Boss” Is A Good Boss

Is there someone you trust who has a good working relationship with your boss? Ideally, this person should be one of your peers. If there isn’t anyone who fits the bill, that’s ok too.

If you feel comfortable, approach your colleague and get to know them a little better. You may gain a better understanding of what your boss appreciates about them.

What if you find someone who you can’t get close to?

If you’ve found someone in a role that’s too high up the corporate ladder for you to approach, observe from afar. How do they act around your boss?  How does your boss act around them?  What kinds of conversations do they typically have?  Do they share a common interest?  Your observations may provide insights to help you better connect with your boss.

Sometimes it’s easier to observe differences in communication styles or gain insights into the behaviour of others from a distance.

Step Four – Consider Your Options 

A bad boss isn’t always an easy problem to fix. If you’re unable to fix communication issues or find a way to move forward, you’ll need a plan for your next move.

Before you start looking outside of the company you already know that you like – look for opportunities within. Look at other opportunities within your company that you would qualify for – that won’t require you to report to the same boss.

If you love the company you work for, and enjoy the job you have, it’s worth it to see if you have the option of switching to another department or team.

Step Five – Make A Genuine Effort, Work With A Coach

Lastly, there’s no substitute for a “good honest try”. But, if you’ve already tried the four steps outlined above, ask yourself if you’ve done so with genuine effort before giving up.

Did you simply “go through the motions” during this journey? Or, did you put your heart into it and really make an effort to get past your feelings?

Because, if you can honestly say you have but things haven’t improved, it probably is time to look for a new job with a new company.

The old saying “it takes two to tangle” applies here. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much effort you’ve put into a relationship. Sometimes there is no getting past your differences. Especially if, despite your best efforts, your boss doesn’t seem to be engaged with or invested in you.

Leaving a good job may not be your desired outcome, but you’ll be happier working somewhere that you feel appreciated. It’s important to have a comfortable working relationship with the person you report to.  Sometimes it’s a lesson in trusting your instincts, knowing when to shift strategies and move on.

Working with a career coach may help with your transition either way.

A coach can help you work up to the conversations that you’ll have with your boss, understand your own motivations and how to use emotional awareness to your advantage. If you decide to move on, a coach will support you during your job search. Furthermore, you can work on the skills that you’ll need to help you navigate future “bad boss” relationships much faster.  After all, they say the grass is always greener on the other side – until you get there.

How much do you love your job? Take my Career Change Assessment quiz

Your relationship with your boss will always set the tone for your job satisfaction. How much you enjoy (or don’t enjoy) your work has a lot to do with how you communicate with others in the workplace.

A strong, positive relationship right out of the gate is something we all hope for. However, new working relationships don’t always start smoothly. A little time, effort, (and coaching), may be needed to make things work.

I can help if you need support during this process, book a coaching session and truly give it your best shot before walking away.

You’ll leave with fewer regrets – especially if you love your job.