What to do when you have a bad manager?

23 april 2019

I know - you deserve to have a great manager.


Everyone does.


But what if you're stuck with one that's less than perfect? 

Who doesn't listen. Who's into political games. Who expects more from you than he's willing to do himself?

Who never should have gotten promoted in the first place?

We've all had one of those.

And except changing jobs, there is very little you can do about it.

Or is there?


If, for whatever reason you choose to stay (you need the money, you don't want to leave your colleagues, ...), how can you make your life better?



When you have a bad manager (or colleague), your spontaneous reaction will be to create more distance. 



You don't want to have to spend any more time with this person that you absolutely have to. Right? 

And they deserve this! If they were a better person/manager, you wouldn't treat them like that. Right?

But ask yourself: is this helping you?


Sure, it may feel good in the moment to "show her". You may feel powerful "punishing him".

But how do you feel, overall, every day, in this relationship?

Pretty lousy huh?


What could you do to feel better? To make things better for you? And for your (other) colleagues?

Get off your high horse. 

It's not about being right. It's about doing what's best. 


And that - unfortunately, my friend - means that you'll have to invest in the "bad" relationship.

Get to know the person. Get to know who they are beneath their frustrating weaknesses.

Connect to the person, build the relationship.


Not to reward him for his bad behavior. Not to make her life easier.

But to stop making your own life so damn difficult.



Because these conversations you keep having in your head, over and over again, about how he/she should be different....

They're exhausting, right? 



They fuel your frustration. They steal your attention.

And in the end - they make things worse.


So what's the alternative to these incessant internal monologues? (or complaint marathons with the rest of the team)

Stop talking about. Stop complaining.

Start having real conversations instead. 



How do you build a relationship with someone you don't like?

  1. Decide that you want to improve things. Be very clear in that intention.

  2. Ask yourself: what conversations would I be having, if this were a great manager? Then start having them.

  3. If possible, organize recurring 1-2-1 meetings, so you get used to having regular conversations. It may feel a bit awkward to begin with, but do it anyway.

  4. The more you speak to each other, the better you get to know each other, the easier the relationship will become. You don't have to become friends. But you do have to be able to work together. 



If you'd rather strangle your manager, than have a conversation with him - do this exercise first:

  • What one quality can appreciate in this person? This doesn't have to be a work related quality. Maybe they're passionate about a hobby. Or they're good with children. Once you have found a quality: feel the appreciation for that quality.

  • Then look for another quality. And another.

  • Don't stop until you have a list of 10 things you genuinely find positive in this person

  • Then go back to the 4-step process above


Like every one of you - I've had good managers, I've had great managers - and some that were, well, less ideal...

And I have made the mistake of choosing distance and being right at times. And I made my life hell doing so.

Fortunately, I learned that you always, always, have a better choice available.

It might look like the more "difficult" choice - but give it a try, and see how it does make your life better.



PS: This approach won't guarantee a good boss or a perfect relationship (nothing does).

But doing this will make things better.

Not doing it will make things worse.


Your choice!

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