I have been very fortunate with the bosses I’ve had over the years. On the whole, they have been people I respect and have been able to learn from. Who you work with—and for—can make or break a job. I have even seen colleagues whose entire careers have been upended by a terrible boss. Whether it’s a personality clash, a lack of management or leadership skills, or consistent issues with no improvement, how do you deal with a less-than-ideal boss, especially when you enjoy your work? In my experience, it’s all about alignment.
When you inherit a boss
When your and your boss’s values align, you don’t have to worry about pleasing the boss. Instead, you can work together to get things done. There are so many books and articles out there about “managing your boss.” Well, I don’t want to manage my boss. I want to manage my work and reach my goals. You can only do that when you do the work of staying aligned with your boss and team.
Sometimes, however, you inherit a bad boss. In these situations, reach for whatever level of alignment is attainable. What do they value that you value? Try to grow a good working relationship with your shared values as a starting point. Be sure to thoroughly define your boss’s expectations of you, as well as your expectations of your boss. Take time to learn about them, knowing that if you truly care about the work you do, you sometimes have to find a way to compromise.
Once, I asked someone working for me what his overall goal was in his work. He answered, “Make the boss look good.” I laughed, but I think there’s something to what he said. When you are on a team, you sink or swim together. We have to be loyal, support one another, and speak up and say good things about each other. This should be reciprocal.
However, I’m not advocating for blind loyalty. If you are in a situation where you cannot support your boss in good conscience, is this the right situation for you? If integrity and respect are not there, there’s only one answer in my mind: it’s time for you to move on.