Four Techniques for Managing Horrible Bosses

Most of us, at some point or another in our career, have had that boss that we can’t stand. You know the ones I’m talking about: they:

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Or maybe you’ve had the boss that shows up late every day, handles personal affairs throughout the day instead of doing actual work, or complains and gossips about people in the office to other employees.

No matter the reason, most of us have been in a situation in which our managers could use some managing.

Take the movie Horrible Bosses – in this film Nick, Dale, and Kurt have had enough of their bosses. Nick’s sadistic boss teases Nick with the prospect of a promotion for months, only to award it to himself. Dale’s boss sexually harasses him daily, creating a toxic work environment. Kurt’s boss passes away and leaves his party-obsessed son to ineffectively run the company. Over drinks one night, they develop a plan to kill their bosses. However, through a series of mishaps, only one of the bosses (the partying son, Bobby) winds up dead – and not at the hands of the three friends. In the end, after numerous twists and turns, each of the three has their situation resolved, though not in the most efficient manner.

Although this is one way to handle a terrible boss, it’s definitely not the best or most productive way. In this situation you should do what we call “managing up.” Managing up refers to managing your supervisor by building a successful working relationship in which you can both work more effectively.

Not sure what this looks like? Here are some tips:

  • Maintain direct communication – create a relationship in which you and your manager communicate often, openly, and honestly. A great way to do this is to a establish a calendar of regular check-ins during which the two of you have time and space to have conversations around your work and your relationship.

  • Learn and understand your manager’s goals and vision. If you are unsure of what they are, have a conversation right away to make sure that you are on the same page.  

  • Talk to your manager about how he/she can best utilize your talents. It might be that your manager is unaware of some of your talents or doesn’t realize that you are not being pushed to use them.

  • Establish mutual guidelines for accountability. If you and your manager hold each other accountable in the same way, you’re less likely to feel that he/she is not pulling their weight.

Don’t be a Nick or a Dale or a Kurt; practice these tips with your boss. Don’t let your boss be a reason to dislike a job that you otherwise love. Learn to manage up and start to improve your relationship with your boss.