Article 43


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Big Bad Boss


Knowledge Tip #1: Watch Out for the Double Whammy

Reporting to a bad boss can zap your energy quicker than most things you can think of, especially if you’re confined in the same work location with that boss for 7 or 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. When you find yourself in a difficult work situation, you are going to have to work doubly hard to continue to perform you job well and to fight the abuse which you must often do on your own time.

Be aware that your mind can trick you. No one is strong enough to withstand constant psychological abuse without experiencing negative side effects. Sluggishness, disinterest, distraction and the inability to stay focused for long periods of time are early signs of depression. No matter how strong you think you are, don’t let it go on for more than three weeks. When you become depressed, you lose the energy you need to fight back - so notice these signs in yourself. Pay attention to family members and friends who keep asking you, “What’s wrong?” You may think you can keep your work life separate from your personal life, but when you are attacked psychologically as bad bosses do it spills over. It’s a double whammy, they get you at work and they get you at home.

If you hear yourself saying,"I don’t need any help,” then you probably do. Check the RESOURCES page to identify contacts that can help you regain the emotional strength you need to improve your situation.

Knowledge Tip # 2: More Work is Not More Responsibility

Bad bosses take advantage of employees by increasing your work load--giving you more of the same kind of work to do, rather than increasing your responsibility--giving you more challenging assignments that require more complex skills. They also take advantage by increasing your responsibility but not your salary.

If you are routinely given assignments that require greater skill than those listed in your job description, you may be working at a higher level position while being paid a lower level salary. An occasional assignment that requires greater skill is an opportunity to develop new skills and prepare for a higher level position--it is a benefit, like training, for which increased salary is not warranted. However, if it is truly a developmental assignment, your boss must guide you and help you succeed, not leave you to sink or swim--that is a manipulation designed to set you up to fail.

Increased responsibility raises the value of your work, and, over time, moves you up the compensation (salary and benefits) scale--the greater the value of your work, the greater your compensation. On the other hand, increased work load (more of the same responsibility) keeps you at the same salary level and may entitle you only to overtime pay if you work more than your normally scheduled hours and you are an hourly-waged worker, rather than a salaried employee (management) who may not be entitled to overtime pay.

Knowldege Tip #3: Get a Copy of Your Job Description

Your salary is determined by the responsibilities (duties and obligations) assigned to you. Your responsibilities and required skills are outlined in your job description--a list of duties and obligations you are expected to perform in exchange for the compensation you receive.

Your job description is an important documentfor you to have. Think of a job description as a formal agreement between you and your employer that states, in effect, “You will do these things and we will pay you this amount for doing them.” Without a copy of your job description, you cannot determine when you are being asked to perform jobs that are beyond your compensation level, so you may be manipulated without your knowledge.

It is appropriate to ask for a copy of your job description, and it is best to get a copy when you are new to the job--long before any problems or challenges arise. In large organizations, formal job descriptions are required to assign a salary level before a job is advertised or filled. If your boss doesn’t give you a copy of your job description, you may get one from the Human Resources Department. In very small organizations where this documentmay not exist, create your own. Keep the job ad to which you responded when you applied for your position and consider that to be your job description. If it contains a statement such as: “And other duties as assigned” get clarification as soon as possible about what some of those “other” duties might include as well as the kinds of things you will definitely not be asked to do. Add those duties to the job description you are creating if they seem appropriate--if not, challenge them before you are asked to perform them. You have a right to know what is expected of you at each salary level.

Remember: If it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist.

Knowledge Tip #4: Be Aware of Internet Information about You

Employers search the Web to get information about their employees. Anything you post to a Web site, a Blog or an online Forum may be seen by your employer. And anything anyone else posts about you, including the media, may also be seen. Know what’s out there. Do an “ego search” (enter your name in a search engine, such as Google or Yahoo) regularly. If you’re involved in anything you wouldn’t want your employer to know about, don’t discuss it on the Web.

If you’re searching for a new job, check to see what’s out there. If you ran in a Breast Cancer Survivor marathon that was reported by the med ia and a potential employer finds that story, the employer might reject your application, considering you a heath insurance risk-- you would never know the real reason you didn’t get the job.

If someone else has your same name and there’s news out there that could be used against that person, be sure to point out to your employer that the news is not about you.

Knowledge Tip #5: Being the Only One Doesn’t Mean You’re the Problem

“If you’re the only one who doesn’t get along with the boss, then you must be the problem,” right? Wrong! Some bosses BUILD LITTLE EMPIRES and staff them with cults - GROUPS OF EMPLOYEES who enable the boss’s misdoings, or who are indebted to the boss for “giving” them their job when they may not have been the best qualified candidate. Of course the boss gets along with these people--they collude with the boss’s misdeeds!

When an employee comes along who doesn’t approve of these misdeeds, or who discovers these misdeeds when he or she is not supposed to know about them, or who threatens to expose this nasty little empire, guess what happens? That employee becomes “the only one who doesn’t get along with the boss”! The bad guys win by majority vote. Sadly, this myth is perpetuated by a belief in the democratic process--a process which is often corrupted by a controlling faction of people who manipulate the system for personal gain.

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t let anyone try to convince you that you are the problem. You are the only one who’s trying to do the right thing! You won’t last long in this situation; the group will gang up on you and you’ll be made the group’s scapegoat. Unless you know this cult is going to be broken up by reorganization or downsizing, begin a job search as soon as you see the writing on the wall.

Knowledge Tip #6: Don’t Make It about You

You may be thinking about talking with your bad boss about her or his effect on you to ease the pressure. But if you’ve got a boss who doesn’t like you, wants to dominate you, or is trying to get away with something inappropriate, you’ll be wasting your breath.

Talking about your stress will only make your bad boss happy to know he or she is causing you to suffer. So don’t go there. Always (this is one time when “always” is the right answer) state your concerns in terms of their effect on business results.

Suppose, for example, your boss keeps giving you impossible deadlines and you’re stressed out about it. If you decide to talk about this with your boss, say, “When we don’t allow enough time to get their jobs done right, our customers go to our competitors the next time, and we lose.” Nothing may change, this just keeps your bad boss from knowing he is torturing you--and it helps you develop a healthy managerial outlook that you can take with you to your next job.

No matter what the issue, bad bosses always have a negative effect on business results. Think it through before you have that talk.

Knowledge Tip # 7: Bad Attitude? Uh-uh. Your Boss Must Do Better Than That!

Lazy bosses and bosses who don’t really want the responsibility of managing people try to take short cuts. If they don’t like something about you or your work, rather than give you constructive criticism to help you develop, they’ll start attacking you with vague generalitiesחlike your attitude. Don’t get sucked in by this.

“Attitude” is a label for a pattern of behavior that could represent anything. No one can see labels, so no one can actually see your attitude. That which can be seen is what you do and say observable behavior. Examples of observable behavior include rolling your eyes when spoken to or slamming down a note pad on your desk. These are the kinds of things that may be labeled “attitude” and they are specific enough so that you know what exactly is objectionable. Your boss must be this specific to help you develop. 

As soon as you hear your boss say, “I don’t like your attitude,” start coaching your lazy boss into being more effective at managing you. Respond with words to this effect:

“Exactly what is it that I have said or done that has a negative effect on my job performance?”

Expect to hear a response from a bad boss that goes something like this:

“Your work if fine; it’s your attitude that’s lousy.”

When you hear these words, you know you’re not dealing with a work-related issue. This boss doesn’t like you personally for reasons that may have nothing to do with you. Stick to the subject like a broken record with a come back like:

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘attitude.’ I can change my behavior if you will tell me exactly what I do that you label as a ‘bad attitude.’”

Unless your boss identifies your observable behavior, there is nothing you can do to change her or his perception. After a few bouts of this vagueness, writea memo similar to this one:


[Your Boss’s Name]

You have mentioned that I can improve my work several times, but you have not given me specific examples of incidents and behavior to indicate what I might change. Furthermore, you have told me that my work is excellent, so I do not understand what you expect from me. I can only continue doing an excellent job in the way that I have been doing so until you offer specific, constructive criticism.

Your boss won’t like this because you will be forcing her/him to manage youחwhich your boss does not want to do. If you continue to receive vague remarks about your attitude, continue writing these memosbroken record style.

Keep copies in a safe place away from your work location in the event the situation escalates. Your documentation will indicate that you have been trying to comply with appropriate work-related behavior.

Knowledge Tip #8 : Can Your Former Boss Give You a Bad Reference?

In this day and age, when manipulation of systems and laws are commonplace, anything is possible. Typically, former employers only give dates of employment and salary information--not because of law, but because they want to avoid the possibility of being sued for interfering with your ability to obtain gainful employment. You have no way of knowing what your former employer tells a prospective employer; however, there are some things you can try to avoid a bad reference from a former boss, but be forewarned that none are guaranteed:

1. Don’t give your former bad boss’ name as a reference; instead, give the name of someone else you worked with at your former place of employment. For all you know, your former organization might have reorganized and you former boss might be in a different job now, anyway.

2. Find out the name of the Human Resource Department manager who is responsible for “employment verification” and give only that person’s name--even if the application asks for “supervisor” - the HR person is the supervisor responsible for providing this information. This person is also more likely than your former boss to give only dates of employment and salary information.

3. If you worked at your former place of employment for a short period of time, don’t even mention it on your job application. If there are questions about your unemployment during that time, it would be appropriate to say that you attended to family matters, but are now available to dedicate your time to doing a good job.

If you are not hired, do not assume that someone gave a bad reference. There are many other possible reasons. You will only upset yourself by thinking the worse. Just apply elsewhere, and follow the above advice.

Knowledge Tip # 8: What Outcome Do You Want?

You’re in a bad situation with your boss. Your boss is intentionally evil - he/she wants to be evil and knows how to get away with it. You don’t want things to go on the way they have been. You want change. You want relief. But what does that look like?

The first thing you must ask yourself, before you can begin to change a situation, is גWhat outcome do I want? You must have a goal to work toward. Then you must determine whether your goal is realistic.

There are things you cannot change, so you must rule out unrealistic goals first:

1. You cannot change your boss’ personalityno one can change another person.

2. You cannot get upper management to do what you want them to do - they defend the highest level employee in situations, even if they’re wrong, to avoid legal liability for the company.

3. You cannot get money for your suffering, UNLESS (1) you have a severance clause in your employment contract; (2) you are a member of a protected demographic group according to EEOC laws and you can prove discriminationגand even then you may not get money; or (3) you have evidence of wrongful treatment that an employment attorney accepts when agreeing to take your case to courtwhich might work eventually, providing you didn’t sign an arbitration agreement when you were hired or at anytime during your employment.

Things that you can change are about you:

1. You can change your expectations from I am owed something to I have learned something no matter how distasteful the lesson, you become wiser knowing that there are people in the world who want to be bad and know how to get away with it.

2. You can learn about and adapt to the personalities of the 13 bad-boss types.

3. You can change your anger into the hurt that it really is. Then, grieve your loss or seek professional counseling to help you get back to being the healthy, happy person you once were.

4. You can change jobs - moving away from the negativity is often the healthiest strategy, though it requires a lot of work on your part.

Once you’ve chosen a realistic goal, create a plan to get there. Throw all of your energy into achieving your goal while maintaining minimum requirements on your current job. When things continue to be bad at work, say to yourself, Its only temporary; I’m making changes. This is reclaiming your power - taking control of things you can, and creating a new situation that is right for you.


Posted by Elvis on 02/16/10 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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