Survive a Bad Boss or Toxic Workplace–and Keep Your Job!

It’s Sunday night and your weekend is almost over. Has stress started building already, dread of Monday morning and your rotten boss and toxic workplace environment? Sadly, you’re not alone. For far too many of us, “work” is not a pleasant experience! The July 11, 2012 Wall Street Journal reported on a poll of more than 32,000 employees at mid- to large-size companies around the world. Fewer than half of respondents said they have confidence in their senior managers and only 44% believe managers are sincerely interested in employee well-being.

Many employees also admitted to feeling stressed, anxious and burned out on the job–30% said they are bothered by excessive pressure at work and only 47% said their company makes it possible to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Even more disturbing, just 1/3 of employees polled said their employer does a good job of providing opportunities for advancement.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of us with crappy employers could just quit and start our own business or find a better job? Unfortunately, especially for those of us over 40, it’s not all that easy. Since the 2008 recession began, most of us have come to realize that we’re only one paycheck away from the unemployment line. We also know that the reported 8.2% unemployment actually is closer to 15% if we count all those who have given up looking; not to mention the vast number of people underemployed performing jobs way below their capabilities. For those of us with jobs, a lot of us have built up health and retirement benefits with our present employers and we can just walk away.

So how can you hang in there with a bad boss? Your first step is to reflect upon just what type of bad boss you work for. Unfortunately, a common pattern in today’s workplace is a narcissistic, often bullying top manager surrounded by handpicked brown-nosing middle managers who would not even think about standing up for you! Which kind of boss do you suffer under: dictator, nitpicker, bully, harasser, liar or Mr/Ms Nice Guy/Gal (pleasant around but no backbone to make a decision)?

Once you’ve identified your boss’s primary faults, you will be better prepared to deal with them, at least until you can find a better way to earn a living. For the short term you have only two options:

  1. Toughen up–don’t let the idiocy around you affect you psychologically (in laymen’s terms, retain your sanity.)
  2. Give in–become one of them, an ass kisser like your boss’s favored co-workers. (But that’s not really in your nature, is it?)

If you are self-confident and positive about who you are, I highly recommend the first option–you’re too strong a person to kiss up to your sociopathic boss. I suggest you start by granting yourself a 30-day “mental vacation.” (I know your boss won’t grant you a real extended vacation right now, but you can take one in your mind.) During this 30-day period, absolutely refuse to let stress from your job get you down. Meditate continuously on how you would prefer to spend the remainder of your productive years. Think long term: how could your present job be modified, not just to make it tolerable but to make it fun. How long do you expect to be stuck under your present boss? Might he or she be fired, promoted or transferred? Might you be promoted out from under him/her?

Over the next few weeks and months, work to rebuild your own self-confidence which your boss has tried routinely to tear down. Recognize your boss for what (s)he is–a petty bully sorely lacking in self-confidence and in the ability to lead. Play by the boss’s rules at least for now without becoming “one of them.” Surprise and influence colleagues by remaining positive around them, however odious the boss’s decrees. Never complain in public.

Be prepared to report your boss to those higher up in the organization, but only if your boss clearly violates employment law, common sense or decency (e.g., dishonesty, sexual harassment, discrimination, clear violation of company rules of conduct.) Other than these flagrant violations, it seldom makes sense to complain to your boss’s boss or to HR.

Once you restore self-confidence and are proud of who you are, formulate a plan to market yourself to a new job, both within or outside of your present employer. No one should have to suffer indefinately within a toxic workplace.

Want to learn more about bad bosses and how to overcome them? Tune in to my Internet radio program, Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age at¬†www.WebTalkRadio.net. On the Podcast which premiers on August 6, I will interview Bill Bouffard,¬†author of PUTTIN’ COLOGNE ON THE RICKSHAW: A Guide to Dysfunctional Management and the Evil Workplace Environments They Create. Bill has done extensive research on strife, office politics and dysfunction in the American workplace and will offer you valuable insights into fighting back!

 

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