What do you think 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.

With the current economy, I hear the sentiment,  ‘You should feel lucky to have a job”.  While you may feel fortunate to have a job, it certainly doesn’t mean you have to like it.

So what do you do when you need to keep your job but don’t want to lose your sanity?  There is so much to be said on the topic that I am going to break it up into two posts.  Here are the first 5 of 10 things you can do to survive a bad 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.  There’s always the option of continuing to be frustrated that yours aren’t being met.

2.  Most leaders are not born, they are made. Just because your boss is in a supervisory position doesn’t mean they are inherently a great leader.  In fact, most managers have been promoted  into their role due to their technical knowledge of the job.  Knowledge of the job and supervising others doing that job are two completely different things.  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. It’s so easy to spend time being frustrated that we’re not treated like we would like to be, but it doesn’t accomplish anything.  You can control three things:  1.  What you think about  2. The way you think about it  3. What you do about it.  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 things 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 thing and giving it your best shot.

5.  Cut your supervisor a little slack. He/She might be  someone out of the Omen or a bad horror movie, but remember, they are trying to appease their manager and deliver results too.  You might have a legitimate reason to miss a deadline, but your supervisor is still held accountable.  I think middle management is one of the hardest positions in the organization.  You catch flack from both directions, and it’s hard to keep everyone happy and still get your job done.

Next week, we will explore 5 more ways to survive a bad boss.  In the meantime, focus on you and what you can control.  It makes life a whole lot less frustrating.


  1. Thanks again Anne, for another very timely and valuable post! I anxiously await the remaining five survival skills and have already experienced frustration relief by practicing the first five.

  2. Thank you for a great work shop. By practing what I learned in the communications workshop yesterday I left a meeting with a driver without experiencing the usual feeling of resentment . Instead, I left the meeting feeling with a positive feeling. By understanding her communication style and understanding myself better the meeting ended on a positive note. Mattie

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