Things you should and shouldn't do when you don't like your boss (and vice versa).
Not getting along with your boss is always difficult, but during a down economy the consequences can be devastating. Working under the fear of a job loss brings on stress, further impacting job performance when you need to be demonstrating your best efforts. In good economies, the option to leave and pursue other employment is a viable and healthy alternative. So, what can you do in bad market cycles? Take a deep breath, step back from your emotions, and consider the following:
1. Absolutely don't quit without a firm offer in hand, no matter how bad it may seem now. The long-term effects of unemployment can be more harmful than a stressful work environment, to say nothing of the loss of income, health insurance, and possible family problems.
2. Engage in honest self-reflection to see where you can improve, and start with your changes first. Ask unbiased third parties, your mentor (you do have a mentor, don't you?), or a counselor to make sure you are objective in your assessments. Things to think about:
4. Volunteer and perform well on high-profile projects that will capture the attention of your boss's boss, managers, and employees outside of your unit. This can increase your odds of an inter-departmental transfer.
5. Document all your successes. The more evidence you gather the better, not only as proof that you are doing your job and doing it well, but also as reminders to use as ammunition if needed.
6. Document your boss's criticisms or bad behaviors. Record negative or unfair events as they happen so you won't forget details, along with any witnesses present. Keep critical emails or phone calls if possible. Make sure these are sent to your home computer.
7. Identify and understand your boss's needs, and then fulfill them. Does your manager like to be complimented in front of others? Do they want you to ask for permission, or prefer you handle things on your own? Mimic the behavior of the boss's favorite employee and observe how they make favorable impressions, then duplicate their actions.
8. Become your boss's ally, not a threat. If you are showing your manager up, even if it's legitimate or easy to do, you may have to back off until things turn around and you have more options.
9. Discuss your concerns if your boss is reasonable. If your manager is fair and rational in other dealings with the team, you may have the opportunity to clear the air with a sincere conversation. Don't be defensive, take notes, and act on the suggestions. A simple misunderstanding may have initiated the riff.
10. If your boss is unreasonable, don't discuss your concerns, and don't take it personally. You will have to accept the reality of the situation, and do all of the above to protect yourself as best as you can. Try to disengage from your manager's attacks and enjoy what you do well, while continuing to professionally learn and grow.
You may have noticed that I didn't include filing a complaint with Human Resources on the list. HR's role is to protect the company, not the employee. If you have an enlightened HR department that has responded favorably to employee complaints in the past, then go ahead and approach them, especially if you can document that your manager's behavior is also damaging the company. If not, tread carefully.
Keep in mind, a bad boss and a tough economy is an unfortunate circumstance, not a life sentence. During these times you have to deal with reality as best you can, confident you will have more leverage in the future. Focus on improving the things you have control over, including your attitude and behavior. Expand on the activities that are rewarding and empowering in your personal life. Finally, at least try to like your boss. You won't hear any complaints about that.