Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video The effect of working with a difficult boss, part of Dealing with a Difficult Boss.
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- Outside of your parents and family, few people in your life will have as big an impact as the bosses for whom you work. Thankfully, most of them will be acceptable. That is, they are decent in terms of both functional or technical skills and decent in terms of their interpersonal dynamics with you and the team. Then a few are likely to be truly exceptional, a person you're proud to work with. One who makes you better at your job. A person you look forward to seeing at work. Of course, a few might be very difficult bosses.
These are people who may or may not have great work skills, but their values, personality or interpersonal skills, are seriously problematic. To be specific, a difficult boss is a person you report to, one you don't respect or enjoy, and one who represents a threat to your mental well being, and professional progress. They cause you stress by acting inappropriately towards you, or others on a consistent basis, by constantly being highly critical of your work, and the team's work, or by showing clear ethical lapses, time and again.
Here's the bad news. Very often when someone comes face-to-face with a difficult boss, they just fold and choose to do nothing. They choose the path of least resistance. They say nothing in response to problematic behaviors. At some level, I completely understand this type of conflict avoidance. I mean, who wants to do anything other than get away from a difficult person as soon as possible. That makes sense, but ultimately it's not the smartest choice.
You see, when you choose to never deal with it, you risk constantly causing yourself problems. First of all, all of your accomplishments to-date, can start to fade in the minds of others the longer you're associated with a difficult boss. As if that's not bad enough, the longer you stay with them, and they don't change, the more likely you're going to be trapped, working with this individual for a long time. Even worse, your simple association with them will stain your reputation, simply because you're constantly thought about as a pair.
So your oddly guilty by association. Let me be a bit more systematic. The threat of a difficult boss is quite diverse. They can affect you in several ways. For example, they will affect you mentally by causing cognitive fatigue, greater difficulty focusing and thinking deeply, and by increasing the likelihood of negative thoughts. They'll influence you physically due to the strong tie between mental and physical fatigue. Get ready to be tired, just by being in their presence too often.
Logically, it follows that your performance might slip. The more tired and burdened you feel, the more difficult it is to perform at a high level. Of course, these all suggest a hit to your reputation and the quality of your other relationships. Thus the net result is a decrease in your long-term professional potential. Listen, there are many things in life you have to deal with that are not your fault. A difficult boss is one of them. You have to be proactive to mitigate the damage and formulate a plan to move on.
Thankfully, this is a skill anyone can learn, once they decide to, and you're going to start working on this skill, right now.