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Use A Bad Boss to Your Advantage

Use A Bad Boss to Your Advantage

Before you lose your cool, think it through.

Jeff Schmitt | BusinessWeek

It happened again. Maybe the boss broke his or her word, bad-mouthed you, or torpedoed your promotion. You’re not surprised. Your boss already ignores your ideas, talks down to you, and expects you to be a mind-reader. And that doesn’t even count the eavesdropping. What’s worse, your boss won’t talk about it with you, telling you to “move on.” as if nothing ever happened. O.K., you’ve been saddled with a bad boss.

Having to answer to a boss is a fact of working life. But what are your options when you’re undermined by the person whose goodwill you need? Sure, you can lash out or call human resources. Unfortunately, companies are like Vegas casinos: The house always wins. Still, you have options. When the anger starts to boil, consider the following:

Don’t Act Immediately

Initially, you’ll want to fight back. You may fantasize about writing a blistering critique of your rotten boss…and e-mailing it to the CEO. And those thoughts aren’t necessarily harmful. But thoughts don’t have to lead to action. Sure, your boss may be small-minded, two-faced, spineless, and technically inept. But would a dramatic gesture be worth the lost salary? Is it worth a hole in your résumé, the one you’ll be explaining for years to come? This isn’t the economy to choose pride over practicality.

Play the Game

You were cheated or unfairly smeared. Welcome to the real world. But don’t let it turn you sour or sloppy. And don’t let your boss get to you, either. Nod and smile when he delivers another self-serving sermon. Maintain a can-do attitude, like you have your dream job. Respect and defer, even when trust is lost. You’ll work with plenty of jerks over your career. You may as well start practicing now.


Start collecting references and recommendation letters from clients, peers, industry pros, and local leaders. Keep a file of positive citations to your work too. Even more, focus on activities that position you to lead and produce measurable results. No one can take those experiences away from you. And they’ll enhance your credibility when the next opportunity arises.

Forge Alliances

Identify the job you eventually want. Get to know the players in that department. Grab lunch with them. Help them out during downtime to prove yourself. Build a relationship with a mentor or your boss’s own boss, too. They can provide direction, intelligence, and even a reference. Beyond that, get involved in corporate initiatives, such as community outreach or strategic planning. Your boss has the power and network to blackball you. Stay visible and broaden your circle to counter that.

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