What to do if your boss is an a**hole (Part 2/3)

In Part 1, I suggested that the first thing you need to do when dealing with an a**hole boss is to stop calling them an a**hole.

In Part 2, I’d like to suggest the awful, scary, terrifying, epically tricky task of talking to your boss about the things that are bothering you. No, it’s not that difficult a thing to do, and I’ll suggest an approach that might make it easier.

Some people go through their entire lives without ever giving their boss feedback. This type of person is far less happy in their work than those who do give their boss feedback. So, let’s start with that premise, that people who can learn to give their boss feedback are happier and altogether more successful people than those who don’t.

But there’s a way to do it that dramatically increases your likelihood of having a productive outcome from doing so. Notice I say a productive outcome rather than a happy or perfect outcome.

Please remember that the risk of not giving your boss feedback about their a**hole behavior is almost certainly more significant than the risk of providing it. The chances of not giving feedback are that your boss won’t get any better, that they might remain perpetually unaware of the impact of their behavior on others, and that you will end up in an endless cycle of passive aggressive anger and grievance.

A couple of rules:

  1. Ask for permission. “Do you mind if I offer some observations?”
  2. Wait for a good time to give the feedback, optimally in a meeting they’ve already scheduled with you.
  3. Tell your boss what you notice and do this noticing without judgment attached to it. “I noticed that you said some very critical things about me in the team meeting today. I want you to know that I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed by being spoken to that way, and especially in public.” Or, “I noticed that you had a calendar change and you weren’t able to attend the meeting today. We didn’t know you had changed your plans and we had ten people in a room for 15 minutes waiting for you. I want you to know that we can easily reschedule these meetings if we know in advance that you won’t be able to attend and that I want to help us avoid wasting people’s time like this in the future.”

With this kind of language, you can avoid attacking your bosses character, or even implying blame in either situation. What you did say was that their behavior had an impact, you’re calmly informing them of that impact, and you’re inviting them to respond.

Now, none of this ensures your a**hole boss will change their ways, but maybe it will. And that’s much better than saying nothing IMHO.

About the Author

Sarah Thomson

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