Slaving Under a Shaky Supervisor
Unless he owns the company, a bad boss is probably living on borrowed time.
Do you have a bad boss? Do you pour on your best effort every day for a weasel, a wannabee, or a wimpy manager? Does your supervisor steal your best ideas and attempt to assume credit for your achievements? How can you advance your own career without being derailed or detoured by your boss’ incompetence?
What is a bad boss?
Bad bosses tend to be extremely insecure and defensive people, who are more interested in covering their own butts than contributing to the bottom line. In time, real talent is hard to miss. Those who have it are likely to rise to the top. Those who do not will eventually fall away.
In their guts, bad bosses usually know this. That’s why they are so difficult! They know they are standing on shaky footing.
My worst boss was a shrill and unstable middle-level advertising executive. I was fresh out of university, young and bold and ready to take on the world. I did everything I could to make our department succeed – and make her look good to the higher-ups.
Alas, the shrew stole my promotional concepts! After the first occurrence, I began keeping detailed files and copies of everything I did. I sent confirmation memos after meetings and carbon-copied relevant parties. With a year, I was head-hunted and received a position higher than what my bad boss had.
After I left, the shrieking manager was passed over several times, as others leapfrogged their way to the corner office.
Like a frightened animal, a bad boss tends to park himself in a position. Once he’s there, he cowers and hopes no one will threaten him.
What can you do about your bad boss?
As a dynamic and talented employee, how can you deal with a deadwood boss without derailing your own career?
Document your contributions.
Just as writers copyright their work, keep dated copies of everything you do. E-mail is a simple way to do this. After a brainstorming meeting, send a confirmation e-mail to the other participants, including your boss. Summarise ideas you presented, and clearly outline exactly who will be responsible for tasks that were discussed. Save this message on your computer. It will include a date and time stamp.
Deliberately include witnesses.
Avoid one-on-one brainstorming meetings with the bad boss. Whenever possible, include a third person in such sessions. Try to choose a person of strong character, who will stand on conviction, if your manager tries to claim your ideas as his own.
Deliver quality consistently.
Continue to strive for creativity and excellence. Don’t let one bad boss sidetrack your career or your abilities.
Develop strategic partnerships.
Cultivate high-powered allies within the organisation. This will deter your bad boss from subverting your efforts. In addition, once the bad boss is removed, these relationships will serve you well. (Perhaps your bad boss’ worst nightmare will come true, and you will receive his position!)
Never cover for an incompetent boss.
Don’t do it!
Instead, cover your own responsibilities, cover all the bases, cover your mouth, and cover your career.
Cover your own responsibilities.
Do the job you were hired to do. If needed, draw up a written job description for your position. Keep a personal file of your own, with copies of all performance reviews.
Cover all the bases.
Be an indispensable member of your department or team. Help your colleagues, and even your boss, when you are able to do so. However, you need not cover his or her shortcomings. That’s called codependency, even if your boss’ family owns the company!
Cover your mouth.
Resist the urge to join in the fear-mongering, the backstabbing, the idle threats, the unsupportable ultimatums, and the office gossip. Stay out of the fray. Do not engage your inept employer in verbal volleyball. Whatever your profession, be professional. Do your job as well as you can, even under the frustrating circumstances. True talent will surface, in time!
Cover your career.
Keep your CV current. Follow up on interesting job leads. Take advantage of every possible networking opportunity within your field of work and interest. Collect written letters of reference, printed emails that affirm you and your skills, thank-you memos for successful projects, and samples of your work.
Don’t cover your eyes!
Be aware of changes within your organisation. Be alert to the possibility that the top executives are already aware of your contributions – and your manager’s shortcomings.
Hold on for your livelihood.
If you are motivated, you can be upwardly mobile. Protect your own assets and accomplishments, as you exercise your own creativity and constructive contributions to the company. Build your own circle of allies within the organisation, both above and below you in the corporate structure.
Before you know it, your answer may arrive. If you work in a large organisation, your boss’ bosses may recognise your efforts and expertise. Perhaps another employer will spot you and try to lure you away to a better opportunity.
Your ticket to success may be coming your way sooner than you expected!