How to deal with a bad boss

Having a bad boss doesn’t excuse you from being a good employee. And good employees manage up.

This works because work relationships are all about control. Your boss may be threatened that you’re young and intelligent, may not want to give you more responsibility, could be on a power-trip, or might just be an inexperienced manager. There could be any number of reasons why he’s not so nice.

But if you had more control at your job – if you could be in charge of more or your boss could be in charge of less, things would be better off, right? Managing up allows you to retain your sense of poise and productivity, and requires that you:

1. Perform like you’ve never performed before. It doesn’t matter if your boss told you to wash dishes. If that’s your task, you had better be the best darn dish-washer there ever was. It’s really hard for a boss to complain if you’re doing everything right and smiling about it. And you’ll feel better after accomplishing something instead of complaining.

Besides, no one gets to skip paying dues all together. Sometimes the workplace is dirty, unethical and downright salacious, but you should never be a part of that. By complaining and not doing, you’re being complicit in a negative environment instead of showing your real value and true work ethic.

2. Realize what the real point of working is. Even if you feel like you can run miles around what you’re doing or on the flip side, that your task is too difficult, realize that the opportunity in most jobs is not to learn a specific or creative skill, but to learn people skills, which are far more important at the end of the day.

It’s people skills that differentiate you and help you succeed over anything else. That’s why you’re actually lucky to have a bad boss. There will never be a deficiency of difficult people at your job or in your life. This is a prime opportunity to use that to your advantage.

3. Discover what your boss cares about and learn to care too. For example, I once had a boss that would bully me in private and become my best friend in public. Her main concern was image, mostly hers.  Once I understood this, I took less of what she said to heart, and focused mainly on tasks that would increase the positive sentiment of our organization publicly. I never failed to compliment her to others, and so I knew when she said, “I’ve been hearing great things about you,” she really meant “I’ve been hearing great things about myself.”

Your boss could equally care about leaving at 5:00 pm to see his kids, or pushing through her pet project on eco-friendly envelopes, or making sure he never has to write notes at a meeting again. Whatever the push-point is, find it and use it to make your boss look good. Real good.

4. Care like you and your boss are real people. Because you both are. Not all of us are suited to be inspirational leaders, and most of us don’t realize how difficult it really is to be a good manager. And many more don’t even realize that the onus is truly on the employee to bring out the best in a manager. Where would Obama be without the ideas and enthusiasm of the American citizens for change?

Your participation, empathy and respect towards your boss will be reflected in how your boss treats you. Try reverence for a change.

Boss it up.