How to deal with an unmanageable manager
Aside from compensation, people generally quit their jobs for one of two reasons – a lack of upward mobility and growth, or a negative relationship with a superior.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, Harvard Business Review finds that the stronger your positive work relationships, the better you’ll perform. In a similar study, HBR reports that those who are generally happier at work score higher on productivity metrics.
So for the sake of your job, your sanity, and your well-being, it’s in your best interest to forge a mutually-beneficial relationship with your colleagues – and, most importantly perhaps, with your boss. But what can you do, when you’ve found a job you love but a manager you find…unmanageable?
Start small, ask yourself a few key questions, and trust your intuition. Here’s how:
1. Give them the benefit of the doubt – but don’t doubt yourself, either.
Assume, for a moment, that your boss is not an evil person with malicious intentions. Instead, imagine that they are a tired parent, or an overworked employee with their own unreasonable and demanding boss to whom they must report.
With this perspective in mind, consider how you can better appeal to their good nature. Ask yourself: what, exactly, is bothering you about their behavior? Are they truly being rude and dismissive, or do they simply have a different communicative style?
Try a new approach, a new mode of communication, and see what comes of it. If it yields different results – excellent. Revise, refine, retry. If not, don’t doubt your intuition; if you truly feel that your boss is unreasonable after making multiple attempts to remedy the situation, it’s time for a new plan.
2. Assess the situation: is it just you?
Before you make any rash decisions or public accusations, take an objective look at the situation. How long has this been going on for? Did it start at a certain, specific time – say when a certain employee left unexpectedly? Do others at your work feel the same way?
Speak to your co-workers – they are your allies. Gather intel, listen to their stories, and evaluate if this is as big an issue as you’ve made it out to be. If the behavior started at a precise time, maybe it’s reactionary and will soon disappear. If it’s been going on since before anyone can remember, more radical action may be required.
3. There’s power in numbers.
You’ve determined that it’s not ‘just you.’ Multiple people around the office have shared similar stories, and a disturbing narrative is starting to take shape.
But it’s not all bad; the more people who you can rally together and have speak to HR, the more likely it is that you can effect change. It’s a scary prospect, going against your direct superior, but if the alternative is leaving a job you love, it’s worth a try. You don’t have anything to lose, but a lot to gain. Plus, you’ll become the office maverick.
4. Transfer to another division within the company.
Even if your company is insistent on keeping a toxic manager, you still have options. Depending on the size of the company, you may be able to easily and painlessly switch to a new division – thereby avoiding all possible awkwardness.
Explain the situation, communicate clearly that you are still invested in your job and the success of the business, and that you’d love the opportunity to grow in a role where you have room to fully develop your skills and knowledge. A smart company will realize your value – and abhor the idea of on-boarding a new employee unnecessarily – and accommodate your request.
If, on the other hand, your company is too small to effect such a change, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
5. Call a recruiter.
At this point, you’ve done everything within your power to smooth over the situation. And while nothing has worked, that doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to an unpleasant work environment.
Remember that HBR article – if you’re not happy at work, you won’t be a good worker. It’s in your best interest to find a job where you can flourish under supportive management, not wither under an overbearing boss.
Working with a recruiter will allow you to covertly explore your options. We know the importance of finding your true calling, in a place where you feel welcomed and inspired. It’s a balancing act, and culture is often just as essential as title or compensation. We’ll delve into your strengths, weaknesses, and ideal work environments to find you your ideal fit.
Work, even on a good day, can be trying. Add to that an unreasonable manager, and it sometimes becomes impossible. We believe that every person should be excited to come to work every day – not disappointed. Send us your resume at firstname.lastname@example.org to find the right fit for you.