“This is what it looked like, the way you did it!”
My boss was dancing in front of me with wide eyes and a huge, frozen smile.
“’Hi!’” she bellowed exuberantly, pumping my hand frantically, “’How’re you doing today?! Let’s go!’”
My face felt like a tea kettle, and I knew it was as bright as my nail polish. I had just greeted my client in the reception area and led her back to a room. Now I’d come up front to put her chart away, and my boss had hurried over to give me some “constructive” criticism.
…And she wasn’t done.
“I bet your poor client was thinking, ‘Woah! Wow! What’s happening here?!’” She whipped her head back and forth and threw her arms out in exaggerated bewilderment.
Her laugh was loud and jarring in the otherwise tranquil environment. I peeked around to see if anyone was watching, and felt my face melting as I confirmed all the eyes on us.
Just the day before, they’d all seen me get a lecture about being too timid when I approached my clients. It was similarly-styled, with an imitation of me hunching over and curling my hands down in front of me like a mouse, while whispering an introduction to an invisible client. I needed to be friendly and sure of myself, was the message, so today I’d made an effort, and apparently it was a little overdone.
I watched my boss bob around some more, cracking herself up, and then I said I needed to get my appointment started and hurried off.
It was about six months or so before I quit that job, and on the happy day that I roared out of the parking lot for the last time, I celebrated to myself that my boss and I were finally parting ways.
There’s some things I really wish I’d known back then. In more jobs than that one, actually. I’ve had a few jobs I absolutely dreaded going to. Jobs that made me tear up on Sunday nights because it was almost time to be there again. And the reason for it all was the person who’d hired me.
So in case you can relate, let’s go over this right now. Here’s what you do when you don’t like your boss:
REMEMBER YOUR REASON TO DO WELL HERE
It’s not for your boss. You want to excel at this job because you can use it to get what you want for your life. If that’s not completely familiar yet, READ THIS to learn your job’s true purpose and potential.
And then understand and remember it, so when you’re faced with the unwelcome face, it won’t have the same power over your mood, emotions and reactions.
KNOW THAT YOU AREN’T STUCK IN THIS JOB
You aren’t stuck here. Yes, you might not be able to quit today, or tomorrow, or even six months or a year from now, but that’s only because there’s something in it for you that you’ve chosen over leaving right now. Maybe it’s the experience, or the pay, or to qualify for another position in a different department, or maybe a contract that gave you things you wanted in return. Maybe it’s that you’re looking for an opportunity with a new company, and you’ll be here until you find it.
Either way, you aren’t stuck here forever, and there’s so much you can use this place for in the meantime.
This one is always important, but even more abundantly-so when you’ve got a boss you can’t stand. It’s likely that he/she is really good at getting under your skin, shaking you up, and making you doubt yourself.
You’ve got to keep your confidence up, because you can get what you want out of this place, despite the person you work for. …As long as you actually go after, and take it, and that’s where you’ll really need to believe in yourself and your abilities.
Plus – in the cases where you know the person in front of you is purposefully trying to rattle your cage and get a reaction, staying calm and confident will feel so satisfying.
If you haven’t read my post about how to increase your confidence, you can read that HERE.
STAY IN CHARACTER
This is crucial. Being in character is how you develop priceless skills and traits that you’ll need for achieving anything you want for your life. And it’s how you make the best impression on all the valuable connections you work with, and give yourself every opportunity and advantage your job offers.
A boss you don’t like will tempt you constantly to break character, so you can give up, give a piece of your mind, or set your speed to idle out of spite.
And you can’t give in, because what you really want is too important. If you aren’t sure what “being in character” means, or what it is and is not, READ THIS.
LEARN HOW TO WORK WITH YOUR BOSS’S WEAKNESS
Whether it’s a temper, being unorganized, micromanaging, playing favorites, laziness, immaturity, distrust, unchecked emotions, being inconsiderate, or just being strange and annoying and hard to take seriously – there are people who have already figured out how to work with that type and have written books and articles, or recorded podcasts and videos. Find that stuff and then read/watch/listen, and practice what you learn at work, so you can become an expert too.
VENT TO A FRIEND – IF YOU NEED TO, AND DO IT CAREFULLY
I’ve heard mixed reviews on this one, so do it with good judgement, and keep yourself in check. On the one hand, I feel like venting can be helpful. When I do it with a positive person who I trust, I feel listened to, cared for, and I get whatever-it-is out of my head and off of my chest, and I can move forward feeling unburdened and ready to find solutions.
On the other, I can see that if I just sat around complaining with no other action, or kept all my focus on things out of my control, or chose to fuss to someone who would be just as negative – I’d probably leave feeling worse.
You know yourself, so if this would be helpful for you, find a friend outside of work, and someone who you know will keep everything you say to him/herself. Then – without saying names, or giving out any confidential information – you can confide your frustration, so it doesn’t build up and boil over. But make sure this person will also not let you wallow. Make sure this is a person who will encourage you and build you up, and help you to go back to work feeling stronger, and positive, and with an actual plan.
HELP YOUR COWORKERS
If your boss bothers you, it’s likely that he/she does the same to your coworkers. Give yourself this secret mission, and I promise, this will be what helps you the most:
Go to work everyday determined to give your coworkers what your boss does not. Maybe it’s respect, or kindness, or understanding, or consideration, or appreciation. Maybe it’s consistency, or efficiency, or organization. Whatever your boss is not giving, find ways to give it yourself, and make it your mission to give your coworkers a great day at work. Have their backs. Be a friend. Care about them and what’s going on in their lives. The people you work with are really the best thing about the whole place, once you have a group that respects, cares for, and looks out for each other.
You can have the most infuriating boss and still love your job, if your focus at work is to help everyone else you work with to succeed with you. READ THIS to learn how to work well with your coworkers, and the six things you'll want to be for them every time you're together.
USE THE EXPERIENCE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
You’ll look like a superstar when you can get this all right. Your boss is actually doing you a huge favor by giving you practice with a priceless skill: working well with difficult people. This won’t be the only time you need to know how to do this, so embrace the chance you have right now to make it a strength.
But after saying all that, here’s the most important thing to keep in mind:
DON’T PUT UP WITH ABUSE
This whole thing has been about the bosses who drive you crazy but are generally good, well-meaning people. Just people with weaknesses (like all of us). But this was NOT about abuse. Bullying in any form, or harassment of any kind, does NOT fall into the behavior I had in mind when I wrote all of this. That type of behavior is never okay, and please do not feel like you should ignore or put up with it for the sake of keeping your job or keeping the peace.
And even if the abuse is not happening to you, if you know it’s happening to anyone in your company, be the one who helps stop it. READ THIS for what I learned about how to help a coworker who is being bullied at work.
I didn’t know any of this when I worked for that boss in my story. I would love to go back in time and see her face (and my coworkers’) while I gave amazing responses to her antics, and went about my job with confidence and my own secret purposes. But – I’ll live with the past as-is, because helping you makes it all so worth it!
Working well with your boss is STEP 7 to using your job, and I’ll be going into how to do that soon. But a difficult boss can be a huge roadblock to that, if we don’t know how to deal with it. And it’s such a common problem, I felt like it should be tackled first.
If you have any questions about this, or have your own experiences or ideas about working with a boss you don’t like, please share in the comments!