“Horrible Bosses” Strikes a Nerve

Have YOU ever had a "horrible boss?"Almost half of all workers have according to a new OfficeTeam survey as pointed out today by Diane Stafford, the Kansas City Star's careers and business columnist, in her article, "Bad Bosses: Nothing to Laugh About." This number makes sense when you look at how many media outletsBad boss  and blogs are publishing "bad boss" articles as the movie, "Horrible Bosses," is released to the general public this week. Besides the Kansas City Star, I've seen commentary on this subject on MSNBC.com, ABC.com, DailyFinance.com, Complex.com (blog), and more.

I can honestly say that I, too, have experience working for a horrible boss – a demanding, demeaning, tyrannical person. But I want to play devil's advocate today. I think it's only fair to walk in a boss's shoes for awhile before casting judgment on so many.

In the present workplace environment influenced by current economic conditions, it takes a lot of skill, poise, and savoir faire to keep a team of disgruntled, tired, and sometimes bored subordinates engaged and productive. Many of these employees are feeling overworked and underpaid before even considering how they feel about their boss. All kinds of surveys have reported that most workers would jump ship if they had a ship to jump to. Furthermore, the boss himself (or herself) may feel the same way about their own jobs, but because they're the boss, they have to follow "mum's the word" on sharing their true feelings.

For example, "bottom line results" is the number one goal in most companies these days. Bosses get leaned on pretty hard by their own bosses – all the way up the line – to squeeze every bit of work out of each person under them. "Do more with less" is the motto of most companies. That kind of pressure can create a lot of stress for a boss. Do you think they enjoy making their people unhappy – really?

Routinely, I have career coaching clients complain to me about their bosses. Some are fearful that they will be terminated based on their boss's behavior toward them. However, most of the time I've seen my clients find some inner peace once they address communication gaps with their bosses. Just yesterday a client confided that she and her boss had a total breakdown in communication over a new, simple procedure involving the use of email to notify outside sources of a situation. An entire procedure had been devised to accommodate this new policy. My client approached the implementation as she always does, using an analytical and logical processing method. On the other hand, her boss's main concern was, "How will this new procedure be regarded by the email recipients?" Bam! Left brain met right brain, a head-on collision. Neither knew how to proceed from their position.

Communication is the real key to success in the workplace, especially when you sprinkle in some empathy. "If you can't get out (of the company), take a deep breath and examine how you can improve communication lines (with your boss)," is part of my quote in today's Kansas City Star article. Try to imagine yourself in your boss's place – what would you do if you were the boss of you?

Approach your boss with open-ended questions to initiate dialog about your communication gap. Listen – really listen – to what your boss says about how you can improve. Don't defend yourself, but ask for guidance on approaching problems from your boss's point of view. Sure, it may not be as comfortable as your space, but give it a chance. No matter where you work, there will be people who look at things differently from you. Maybe sometimes you can get your way, but not always. Play the empathy card and you'll become amazed at how workplace communication slowly starts to improve.

Wishing your career success in 2011!

Meg 

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