Take This Job And Shove It!

What is the number one reason people feel dissatisfied or leave their job? Contrary to popular belief, it’s not advancement opportunities, it’s not money, it’s not even an inability to do the job. The number one reason people leave or feel dissatisfied at work is their relationship with their immediate supervisor.

We’ve all had that boss. The one who either takes us for granted, doesn’t communicate, or even the one who is waiting at our desk when we walk in late to make a point. It’s no wonder so many people feel apathetic, disengaged, and frustrated. Most of us have also hopefully had the boss that inspires us, coaches us, and pushes us beyond what we think we’re capable of. If you are one of those bosses, thank you.

So what do you do when you want to keep your job but don’t want to lose your sanity?

Here are 10 things you can do to survive a challenging boss:

#1 Re-Evaluate Your Expectations

One of the quickest, albeit toughest, ways to not only survive but thrive in this environment is to really take a look at your expectations. Even if your expectations are completely realistic, if they are not getting met, maybe it’s time to change them. At the very least, it’s time to discuss them with your manager. Focus on what is most important and ask for what you need. There’s always the option of continuing to be frustrated, but that is exhausting and a waste of time and energy.

#2 Most Leaders Are Not Born. They Are Made

Just because your boss is in a supervisory position doesn’t mean he/she is inherently a great leader. In fact, most managers have been promoted into their role due to their technical knowledge or tenure in the organization. Knowledge and tenure are great, but leading others requires a completely different skill set. In the structure of most organizations, the only way to make more money is to move up. It’s the Peter Principal – we get promoted to our level of incompetence. We could all use a raise, so when someone promotes us, most of us hope we learn management skills along the way. The individuals, teams, and organizations that are the most successful invest in leadership development, regardless of their training budget.

#3 Focus On What You Can Control

Rather than spend precious time and energy worrying about thing things out of your control, focus on the three things you can control: 1. How well you do your job (skills)  2. What you think about and the way you think about it (attitude) and 3. What you do about it (behavior). There’s always the off chance that your current supervisor is getting ready for a transformational metamorphosis, but it’s not likely. This is a tough one and really has to be a conscious choice that is practiced and habituated.

#4 Stop The Negativity

I see so many people who walk around complaining and griping about the amount of work, the type of work, the division of work, etc. Guess what?  No one likes a Negative Nelly . If you’re constantly negative, it’s hard for your supervisor to want to support you. Try to find ways to be positive and add value. Become the go-to person that gets sh!t done. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your supervisor’s attitude might shift. If it doesn’t, at least you know you are doing the right things and giving it your best shot.

#5 Align Priorities

What are your top priorities for projects, initiatives, and workload? How do you define success? What are your short, mid, and long-term goals? Does your manager share the same perception? If you are working hard and still not seeing results, have a conversation about priorities. Where should you be focusing your time and energy? When other things get added to your plate, you can ask for help re-prioritizing. Create a shared definition of success. After all, if you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever know if you get there?

#6 A Rock And A Hard Place

While you might take your share of punishment from your supervisor, rest assured, he/she feels the pressure from both directions. It’s no picnic for them either. Ideally managers would be able to spend their time developing leadership skills and providing a vision, but in reality, they are stuck in operations, trying to please their employees and the manager they report to.   Is it an excuse for poor behavior?  Of course not, but they are often stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Front line supervisors and mid-level managers have some of the toughest jobs around.

#7 Get It Right

I know I talk about this one all the time, but it is THAT IMPORTANT.  Most of us are so focused on being right and having things be “fair” that we lose sight of the goal.  Rather than getting frustrated that you are the one that has to modify your style or approach, remember the goal is to get it right, not be right.  The next time you are in a conversation that isn’t going well, ask yourself, “What’s the goal? And is what I’m doing going to get me closer to reaching it?” If not, STOP and re-evaluate your strategy.

#8 Talk To Your Boss

Most of the time, we don’t even realize that what we’re doing is bothering someone else. It is called unconscious incompetence. It means we don’t know what we don’t know.  Rather than building frustration and resentment, talk to your supervisor. In a non-threatening, assertive manner, share your concerns. Most people fear having the conversation. I’d rather have one uncomfortable conversation than be miserable every day. If you choose to have the conversation, make sure you are solution-oriented and positive.

#9 Modify Your Style

Regardless of who you are speaking with, modifying your communication style is the number one way to increase receptivity and decrease defensiveness. Is your boss fast-paced and impatient? If so, standing in their door and telling them all about your weekend and your dog fluffy probably isn’t the best idea. Get to the point and move on. However, if your manager is big on relationship building and you are always strictly about business, try to socialize a bit more. If you’re thinking, “Why do I always have to be the one to flex?” Is your goal to get it right or be right? There’s your answer.

#10 Help Your Boss Leverage Your Strengths

I had a participant in a training session a few months ago who said he would much rather be doing my job. I asked if he had ever talked with his supervisor about volunteering to do some training in the department, and he looked shocked. After simply talking with his supervisor, he began training new employees, then started training more throughout the department, and eventually he became a trainer for the organization. Don’t be afraid to know what you like, know what you’re good at, and share your desire to do that! If you never ask, you will never know.

Bottom line…if you don’t like your supervisor, you have a few options:

1.  Stay where you are and be miserable

2.  Stay where you are and find ways to modify your behavior, your approach, or the situation

3.  Leave

Whether or not you are part of the problem, it’s up to you to be part of the solution.

What other strategies have you tried to survive a bad boss?  Leave a comment!


  1. Be someone you look up to. That means don’t brown nose. Recognize which way the wind blows instead, and build your reputation for agility; tough job market was not my downfall, it was being vulnerable to a negative work culture! Decide to focus on what you allow yourself to think on!

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