APRIL 27 — Complaining about your boss is probably a global pastime, though now it is the national pastime if you think of our PM as “the boss.”
The thing here is, you have to realise that your boss, being human, is not without failings or weaknesses. Accept that there will be times when your boss slips up or mishandles situations—how you handle yourself will matter as well.
Though here I’ll dispense a golden bit of advice that will help keep you from being fired: never write an email when angry. Go to the washroom, take a cigarette break, grab a coffee—do anything but write an angry email.
If the email that got you angry needs an immediate reply, just say something on the lines of “acknowledged” or “noted”, then add you’ll need a bit more time to compose a more detailed reply. If you can delay that reply to the next day, the better.
Resist the urge to reply with a “k.” That is only permissible in Gchat when you just need to answer your colleague quickly while you try to stop the baby from rolling off the bed/your coffee mug from rolling off the table.
Also resist the urge to write email in all caps. You’re not 12-years-old. Bolding and underline works too.
Here a few types of nightmare bosses and tips on placating them:
1. The micromanaging boss
This boss will send you email at midnight in the middle of the night asking about updates, bypassing your supervisor and your supervisor’s supervisor. Expect random spotchecks and being asked every three minutes why a task handed to you 10 minutes ago isn’t done yet.
Tips: This boss is likely to drive you up the wall but resist the urge to snap and say, “I’d be done if you’d stop interrupting me every few minutes!” You have to work harder at communicating with this boss and be as transparent as possible. If you have to make a big show of giving your boss a frequent status update, do it and get used to it. It’ll give you good practise at being accountable.
When to quit: Your boss starts asking you for updates five minutes after leaving the office, then in the middle of dinner, then just as you’re going to sleep and at 4am in the morning. Your boss has no life, leave before yours leaves you too.
2. The overly friendly boss
This boss is very confusing. One of my ex-bosses got off on the wrong foot with me because he held my hand a wee bit too long. Dealing with bosses of the opposite sex is a huge potential minefield especially when there is an age gap as well.
Tips: If you feel your boss might be a little touchy feely, then maybe a gentle, polite word might work. Be as tactful as possible, explaining you are concerned about appropriateness and that you don’t feel comfortable. I had to explain to my former boss that it unnerved me when he stood behind me as I’d been attacked from behind before. An uncomfortable conversation but at least he stopped popping up behind me and triggering my first instinct to stab him.
When to quit: He (or she!) is suddenly giving you shoulder rubs and suggesting you follow him/her to the next overseas meeting... and share a room.
3. The incompetent boss
Sometimes people are promoted too soon before they’re ready to move up or sometimes they’re promoted for the wrong reasons. Thus are nightmare bosses born. You have to understand that deep down, they know they’re not up to par and often overcompensate by driving you insane.
Tips: Expect to have to pick up the slack or take the fall when they mess up, always be prepared to be in damage control mode. Still, sometimes you can use incompetent bosses to your advantage — by being an excellent employee, your boss will make you look even better. Hello, promotion chances.
When to quit: When your boss tries to hide his incompetence by trying to make you look bad. The managing director at a past company said the speeches I was writing weren’t as punchy as they used to be; I found out my boss had been sneakily editing them without my knowledge.
Bad bosses don’t always have to be a bad thing, really. You can learn from the bad ones as well as the good. Learning from others’ mistakes can be educational, but just don’t let them sabotage your own career as well.