How To Morph Your Soul-Sucking Manager Into a Source of Inspiration

Part 1: Coping and Building Bridges

There are many types of bad managers, and we can’t address them all in a blog post--or even seven blog posts. But the common denominator among bad managers is that they all sap the inspiration you feel at work (and maybe at home too).  More than likely, you can’t do anything about who your boss is (if you want to stay in the same job), but you can influence the impact they have on you. Here’s how – we’ll cover the first two steps in this blog post, and I’ll continue with a blog post to follow.

Start with the Commandments of Coping

Like in any negative situation, it helps to visualize the light at the end of the tunnel. Realize that this, too, shall pass. Furthermore, realizing that you can make a difference and really do something about the situation (by following these steps) can motivate you to keep moving and cope with a bad boss.

Know that no one person or situation defines you. Nor does any situation that really ticked off your boss. Let it go and leave it at the office. You can do your job well, irrespective of that uninspiring manager. You’re in control.

Since you’re in control, there’s no reason to shrink, or shirk, from the situation. Don’t back down from a bad boss. Maintain your confidence and stand your ground. The situation won’t change unless you truly want to change it. And here’s a pro tip: Just complaining about it to your co-workers or your spouse won’t change the situation, so channel that energy into actually doing something about the situation.

Have you ever realized that your neighbor you fought with over the fence lines when you moved into the house is fun to share drinks with over the fire pit? Maybe the same goes for your manager. Resist the temptation to label them as “bad,” or you’ll miss out on the times they have good advice to share. Even if they are uninspiring, they got to their position of responsibility somehow, and they might have a larger perspective or deeper industry knowledge that can help you succeed, no matter how many vacation days they haven’t approved or Power Points they’ve forced you to rewrite five times.

To evoke the best in your manager, another helpful tactic is learning to read their moods and identify triggers. A friend of mine told me she had a wonderful boss, but she had to read her mood to know when to ask for permission on certain things and identify what triggers stressed her out, avoiding them whenever possible. My friend could tell when she walked in based on how the manager ate their breakfast whether or not they were in a good mood, and the friend approached the day accordingly. Later she learned her boss was under tremendous pressure from upper management, and that was the cause of her crankiness.

Begin building bridges

Remember your manager is also a person with a life outside of work, and someone who might be experiencing their own uninspiring and draining situation. Seek to understand them as a person. Are they managing more people than they can handle? Is their boss a jerk? Is there a family situation such as a sick parent or a child with special needs draining everything they have before they even set their coffee down on their desk in the morning? You can’t know if you don’t seek to understand them as a person.

Try to own the relationship, and make an effort to be interested in who your manager is as a person, not just what they are doing to you or how you think theyʻre draining you. Remember they have their own insecurities, in-law issues, hopes, dreams, and deadlines.  Picture your boss as someone you can connect with down the road after you or they move on to another organization. You canʻt control everything about your relationship with your manager, but how you feel about them and the situation is completely under your control and yours only.

There are five more ways to morph your manager into a source of inspiration that Iʻll cover in the next installment. But get started with these two tactics now, and see if they reframe your manager for you sooner rather than later.

Check back on Monday, November 27th for Part II