What can you do if you don't have a great boss?

Brittany Hink

Have you noticed that your desk calendars keep adding more "holidays" to the list? People are celebrating everything from National Coffee Day to National Wear Flip Flop Day and now National Boss’s Day has made its way to the mainstream! This is a day that many choose to show appreciation for their supervisors and other individuals in management positions. Many others choose to ignore it. There are many types of bosses; some lead by example, others micromanage and others are defined as leaders.
What makes a boss a good leader? If you grab your closest dictionary, or go to Google and look up the formal definition of a boss and a leader, the outcomes might surprise you. A person that commands and makes decisions or someone that manages workers is the typical results. When you ask yourself the difference between a boss and leader, what comes to mind? Being a boss has resulted in many negative connotations including detached, uncaring, demanding, and cold. Leadership is no longer only about having the highest title within the organization or managing a group of employees. Leadership is about motivating, providing support, and inspiring individuals.
Countless individuals have that one supervisor, past or present, that comes to mind when someone mentions a terrible boss. We all hear the horror stories of supervisors that worry more about their status and paycheck and less about how they treat their employees. For an individual with a boss that micromanages and demands outcomes rather than supporting and developing employees; work can be daunting.
So, what can you do if you don’t have a great boss?
Focus on your work performance: It may be hard to block out any negativity coming from the top, but it is in your best interest to ignore any of the negativity and focus on your overall performance. Work harder and smarter. Your excellent performance will show in your work and upper management will take notice. Your grumpy boss may still not be your favorite person but due to your hard work and dedication, he/she will get some bonus points too. That can always lead to a little more appreciation from your boss. Who doesn’t want a little more appreciation?!
Put yourself in their shoes: Is your boss’ supervisor a leader or a boss? Is your boss following their example? Take a minute to sit back and review your supervisor’s point-of-view. There may be some underlying conditions for the reason of your boss’ actions. When tensions are high, step back and look at what other challenges could be influencing your supervisors decisions.
Master your boss: Every single individual has a personality, likes and dislikes, and a preferred way of doing things. Take time to notice your bosses and adapt. If you are building a report and the boss makes a positive comment on the chart you included- make note of that and include something similar every time. If your boss mentions they can’t stand red ink, don’t write in red ink. Remember the small things that your boss likes, enjoys and appreciates as well as those things your boss disapproves. Those little things add up and can help you "master" your boss.
Talk it out: Talk with your supervisor and see what you can do to help the team/company. Taking the initiative to show that you are here for the long haul and that you really want the entire company to succeed will show your boss that you truly care. Ask if there’s anything that you can do to help him/her and make life a little easier. A slight acknowledgment of their actions can open one's eyes to a situation they may not have realized they were creating. If your situation is that bad: talk to someone else. Go to another department or manager and ask advice. Be certain that you are not complaining about your manager but you are seeking advice.
Find a mentor: Finding someone to look up to and lean on for advice can be instrumental in advancing your career. If your boss isn’t your ideal mentor, find someone that is. A good mentor can assist you with challenges you are facing with your boss and your mentor can usually give first-hand experience on handling different issues and challenges. Your mentor can also give you advice on ways to advance your career giving you new opportunities. Finding the right mentor may take some time but picking the right one can make all of the difference in your career.
Some employees are hesitant about celebrating National Boss’s Day due to their experience with a bad supervisor. Don’t let that stop you! Remember, just as you enjoy being appreciated your boss will too. Even a small ‘thank you’ note will go a long way. A true leader will stand behind their team and motivate each individual to be the best they can be. Talent development experts are taking the initiative to implement leadership development training and courses throughout many organizations. Having specific trainings for leaders to enhance their overall development can drastically increase organizational outcomes and growth.
  • If you have a lousy boss: Keep your chin up! There are many things that you can do to enhance your individual career.

  • If you are a boss: Be someone that employees look up to and appreciate daily…not only on National Boss’s Day.