Coping with a difficult boss

Home Away from Home with Abi Adeboyejo

Email: Twitter: @abihafh

HAFH2We all pretend they are not a problem because we don’t know what to do about them. If you have a bad one you pray every day that things will get better; you alternate between praying for them and swearing at them under your breadth. We all promise ourselves that we would never become one of ‘those’ but who knows, maybe we will.

It is all about rubbish bosses. You know the ones that employ one person to do a job that would keep four people fully occupied. The ones that get to work at 7am and close at 8pm and believe that life begins and ends in the four walls of the office. The ones that take you to the most boring meetings ever where you suffer ‘death by PowerPoint’ and endure listening to someone read out notes that are already in the printed documents you’ve been given to read. Not only that, it is usually the meetings where lunch will be dry snacks and a bottle of tepid coke that your boss sends you to when he can’t make it. And pay? Let’s not even go there. Some bosses make you feel grateful that you are actually getting paid. But surely, you’ve earned it, haven’t you?

The horrid ones take praise for your ideas; they insult you in public places and pretend to have a better dress sense than you while secretly envying your style. They make you look incompetent by not instructing you properly and cut you off mid-sentence anytime anyone takes interest in what you are saying.

So what makes a good boss? Truthfully, a good boss has to have the basic foundation – that is, a good boss must be a good person. If you are a sadistic, egotistic, ignorant and emotionally challenged persons who take out your frustrations and inadequacies on your poor staff, then psychological (and maybe even spiritual) help is what you need.

Being able to listen is not a natural attribute; it is a skill that can be developed. Just as people can learn to tune certain conversations out (sound familiar, men?) so also can a person learn to listen carefully to all that is said to them. Don’t you just hate it when you have to keep reminding someone of what you said over and over again? It just shows lack of interest and that your views are of no importance to that person. If only bosses would listen when their employees try to tell them of new ideas many would not be in a position where that same member of staff would become the competition when they use such ideas to set up a rival establishment.

Appreciating your employees is also a skill any good boss must develop. I don’t mean appreciating the personal delights of employees as some bosses are accustomed to do with their female members of staff. Saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t have to include a dirty weekend away on a business trip with said staff. It also most certainly doesn’t include leering down blouses and slapping or pinching backsides in the privacy of the staff kitchen or storeroom. It really should be letters of commendation, monetary gifts and even personal gifts, if appropriate.

It is also good to challenge the ability of your staff. Get them to use their skills to the best of their ability, but don’t expect the impossible. Don’t employ an English graduate as your accountant and expect a balanced account at the end of the year.

Setting impossible targets are also a way to get tarred as the boss from hell. I was once asked to tutor a bunch of E and U graders (otherwise known to people like you and me as certified JAMB or School Cert failures as it was called in my time). My boss then wanted these people to achieve distinctions in ICM Legal Studies. Me? I just looked at them and gave them all the answers to all possible questions and asked them to memorise them. They ended up failing again and one managed a merit and I got told off, but the moral of the story is ‘they weren’t ever going to get distinctions’ even if I whispered the answers to them in the exam.

Be consistent. If you are the kind of boss who shouts and rages when you are angry, then be consistent at it. Seriously. I’d rather have a boss whose mood could be predicted than one whose mood changes unpredictably. I used to work in a law firm where our principal would shout the office down anytime something went wrong. We stood out of his way when he was mad and when he calmed down we would all get free lunch or get to go home early which is his way of saying sorry for his outburst. He was hot tempered and we all just got on with things. It is the sneaky kind that is dangerous. You know the kind of boss who will smile at you and not tell you when you’ve done something wrong and then one day bring out a dossier of your errors, put you under review and possibly sack you for incompetence.

What about the ‘do as I say’ boss? He gets to work at 10am but expects you be there at 7am. If your boss pays you to be there at 7am then you can’t complain. Wait until you are your own boss and then resume work whenever you like. If your boss too is paid by someone else to be at work from 7am too then shame on him for being a bad example! Be the kind of career person your subordinates dream of becoming. Work as hard as everyone, and then work even harder, to justify why you are paid so much more than other employees.

Good bosses give generous salaries. If you can afford to pay your employees more than your competitors, then do so. You will get employees who are loyal and dedicated to you. In short, buy them. With your charming personality and other good deeds, you can actually have a work environment where all the employees are really happy to come to work.

But after all is said and done, the rubbish bosses still seem to outnumber the good ones. Perhaps we should all remember that as we curse (or pray) for our bosses, so shall they be. Instead of complaining about how horrid your boss is, learn to cope with them. If all the attributes mentioned above are lacking in your boss, make sure they are not lacking in you. Remember your boss can afford to be angry, moody and horrid. You can’t. What doesn’t kill you will only make your stronger (or make you a better boss in future).