Let’s face it: some boss are jerks. Some will verbally abuse you; others will steal your ideas, or pin the blame on you if something goes wrong. And there are those who are so passive-aggressive that you’re sucked into daily emotional warfare. They give wishy-washy instructions, then blow up because you don’t do what they want.
It can be tempting to quit, but if you can’t (or love everything else about your job) then here are some tips on how to survive a very stressful work situation.
Trust and productivity
It’s very difficult to work as a team when you mistrust your boss (and the other way around). You spend so much time and energy on dealing with the political and emotional undercurrents that you can’t focus on your work. You aren’t productive, and if expectations are high, you could easily be a candidate for burnout.
Are you making the situation worse?
Your boss is a jerk, that’s true. But you can also be adding to the problem. Part of it is the ‘natural’ reaction to a person you don’t trust: you distance yourself, or you interpret everything he does with suspicion or contempt.
This reaction, in turn, makes your boss mistrustful of you—which heightens the tension, until you feed off each other’s negativity.
Break the cycle. First, ask yourself if there is anything you are doing that may be triggering your boss’ reactions. Do you brush off his comments? Make faces? Talk about him behind his back? Overreact to comments? Remember that no matter how annoying your boss is, you still need to protect your professional reputation. Your actions, no matter how ‘natural’ are not helping your career, or your relationship.
Do excellent work, consistently.
You have no control over your boss’ opinions or actions. However, you have absolute control over your own. Let your work speak for itself. If you work hard, deliver excellent results, and behave in a professional way in every situation, then no matter what your boss says, other people will vouch for your competence. (Read our tips on habits that make your job easier.)
Document your progress.
Email and reports are your best friend. They create an official paper trail that will protect you in case your boss gets extra-nasty and tries to fire you or pin the blame on you.
Ask your boss, politely and in a professional way, if there is a problem. Clarify expectations and directions. Perhaps the animosity or confusion is caused by miscommunication: she says one thing, you understand it to be something else completely.