A boss can make or break a job. Lack of manager training, promoting for the wrong reasons, and even personal character flaws have resulted in multiple "bad bosses" making the work environment for many stressful, or even toxic. According to an American Psychological Association survey, three-fourths of Americans suffer from workplace stress. And that stress can take a toll.
We've all heard about them: the micro-manager, the rage-a-holic, the mean girl, the one-upsman. They are our bosses, our co-workers, our business partners. From nine to five, Monday through Friday, we cannot escape them. So what are some strategies for how to cope with a bad boss, or a toxic work environment? Our experts on the subject of dealing with a stressful work environment, executive coach and business strategist Kathi Elster and Harvard-trained psychotherapist Katherine Crowley analyze this issue and give us the following advice:
- Detect the issue. For example, if your boss is prone to angry outbursts, identify that issue and what generally causes it. Or, perhaps your boss or co-worker is the mean girl. Detect the way that she operates, and take a mental note of her behavior.
- Detach from the problem. As an employee, it is important to take some emotional distance from the toxic behavior. You probably did not cause the behavior, and therefore you probably cannot change it.
- Depersonalize the behavior. Whatever the individual is doing is not about you. They have done it to people before you, and they will probably do it to people after you. Take this into consideration before thinking everyone is out to get you.
- Deal with it. This step can take many forms. It may be necessary to confront one's boss about their behavior. Our experts advise to never bring up the issue in the "heat of the moment." For instance, if a boss has a temper, never confront them about their anger in the heat of their rage. It's better to stay cool and calm during their blow-up and respond to the behavior when the individual has cooled down. And if you feel like either the bad behavior changes or you leave never give that ultimatum unless you intend on following through.
Other tips from our experts include the concept of "managing up." Managing up means stretching yourself to go above and beyond what might be expected of you. This may include working with and around your employer's idiosyncrasies. Elster suggests setting up short, formal meetings with a boss, bringing an agenda, and getting the latest from them on the top priorities. Elster says this doesn't necessarily mean more work, just more accurate work.
- Kathi Elster, co-author of "Mean Girls at Work," "Working for You Isn't Working for Me," and "Working with You Is Killing Me."
- Kathleen Crowley, co-author and Psychotherapist.