Common “Bad Boss” Behavior and How to Deal With It

Business Coach Column by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) from the Manila Bulletin

Usually, when you have a boss who is difficult to deal with, there seems to be nothing you can do but to accept it. Many are stuck in such situations because they fear losing their jobs, and our culture dictates that we must obey people who are our ‘superiors’.

Most Filipino employees hate confrontations, especially with their superiors. Many choose to keep silent, but others just go berserk kapag puno na ang salop (when they’ve had enough).

Managing a difficult boss is a challenge that depends on the boss’ character and personality. Some are chronically unreasonable while others just exhibit untoward reactions during stressful situations. The latter are easier to deal with, as there are times when they are open to suggestions or even criticism.

Here are some proactive ways to effectively deal with “bad boss” behavior:

The boss wants you to run her/his personal errands. Your boss asks you to drop off soiled linens at the laundry shop, or buy a gift for her/his parents’ wedding anniversary, or go to the grocery store. Unless it is an emergency, do not even start doing personal favors. This is not part of your job description and degrades your status.

The boss is intruding on your privacy. S/he frequently asks you about your boyfriend/girlfriend. This is quite bothersome, as the boss seems more interested in your personal life rather than your work performance. In this case, you may casually tell your boss that you would rather not talk about your private life. Just be honest, and say you are uncomfortable discussing things not work related.

The boss does not compensate you properly. Before complaining, check your contract of employment for the salary or what benefits stated in the contract. If the contract has been violated, or in this case, the wage order has not been followed, you may come to your boss and state your concerns. If s/he does not react to this, you may give a letter of complaint addressed to your boss.

If your efforts are in vain, your only option may be to file a complaint with the Department of Labor. Unfortunately, you must be prepared for long and tedious litigation. Worse, you may find it harder to get a good job since you certainly will not get a good recommendation if your employer is vindictive.

If you feel that you are underpaid relative to your contributions, then a one-on-one talk with your boss to air your views may be the solution. Your superior may have overlooked your value to the company.

The boss takes credit for your accomplishments. Talk to your boss regarding this in a calm and non-confrontational manner. If this seems ineffective, I advise that you have all your reports, feedbacks, plans of action, etc. in writing and with your name on it. This way, you are signaling you want to take credit for your own work. You may also keep all your ideas and suggestions to yourself and only bring them up during meetings. This way, your co-employees will know that the bright business ideas and concepts originally came from you.

The boss always uses offensive language in the workplace. S/he is always cursing, yelling, and swearing. However, expressing anger or desperation in this manner is not professional. It is demeaning and may scare you out of your wits. Never answer back in the same manner; your boss might think you are fighting back or being disrespectful. Your best recourse is to write an objective incident report/s to the HR manager and explaining why this creates a hostile work environment for you. Sure, nothing in the labor code prohibits a boss from being a jerk, but there are limits.

The boss is an absentee manager yet wants everybody to deliver results. S/he is not there to oversee projects and does not guide, advise, nor give directions. Some projects are not executed on time because s/he is nowhere to be found. This leads to the demoralization of the staff. The best thing to do is to ask questions when s/he is present, or to tell her/him that you want her/his opinions or reactions before implementing a task. You may also politely ask how your boss wants to be reached in case you have concerns (Email? Phone?). Nowadays, technology has made communication faster and more efficient. Some companies use videoconferencing; others use internet chat or talk via Skype.

General Tips:

If you love your job but your boss seems to be a major hurdle to your aspirations, it is futile to react negatively by fighting back, yelling, or taking revenge with petty acts. Be less emotional, as you might say or do things you will regret.

Show you are hardworking, and doing your job to the best of your ability. Be as professional as you can, as some superiors have the tendency to bully employees who act like wimps. The idea is to give an impression to your boss that you are decisive, serious, and gutsy. In this manner, you can show that you are not the type that can easily be pushed around.

As your last recourse, if the boss is overly abusive, then it is time to tell the boss’s boss your situation. However, the best way to do this is by asking your co-employees who have the same predicament to support you in this undertaking. Remember, there is power in numbers!

Ask some co-employees to be with you when you approach the boss’s boss. Tell her/him everything, but also understand that your immediate boss will never pardon you for this. You may be successful in convincing your boss’s boss, who might take your side. However, if a positive result is not achieved, you may consider seeking legal advice, or else study your prospects of finding employment elsewhere. This is better than sacrificing your health to the stress and pressure of handling a difficult boss.

There are many ways to improving your working conditions under a “bad boss”. It is up to you gather the courage to do what is right. It may be exceedingly stressful to try to fix the problem but doing nothing will condemn you to a hellish working environment every workday.

(All rights reserved. Copyright by Manila Bulletin and Ruben P. Anlacan, Jr. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)


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