Four ways to deal with a horrible boss – that don’t involve quitting on the spot.

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From Gordon Gecko in Wall Street to Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, a bad boss story makes for a good movie. But when you are working for one, it’s not so much fun.

And at some stage in your career, chances are you’ll encounter someone who is less than ideal to work for.

Dealing with a bad boss is not about getting even, but getting savvy about how you manage it. Here are four critical tips:

Understand what’s driving their behaviour

Seek to understand what’s driving their behaviour, and whether this behaviour is consistent or out of character. There’s a difference between a boss who is a good person, but in a stressful situation and not coping very well, and a boss who thrives on power, is a narcissist and/or a bully. Once you understand what’s driving the behaviour you can then work out the best approach to take.

Your boss might just be a psychopath. Here’s how to tell. Post continues.

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For example, if they are stressed due to work pressures find out if there are ways you can help them with their workload. This is a great opportunity to build a good relationship with your boss as they will see you as a person who helps them in times of need. It can also help to talk to them about the impact their behaviour is having on you.

This is a conversation that needs to be managed thoughtfully. Be prepared for it and pick the best time to have the conversation. If they are a narcissist, then it’s important to think long-term.

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Think long term benefits

If the person constantly displays poor leadership behaviour, unfortunately, you are not likely to change them. In this situation, think about the benefits you are gaining from the job (in terms of experience etc) and determine if it is worth sticking it out for a bit longer.

Reflecting on my career, there are times when I worked for people who were hard to work for, but the experience and benefit gained in the role made it worthwhile. That said, you need to set a timeframe in which to move on, as prolonged time in an unhealthy working environment isn’t good for your confidence and well-being.

Build your support crew

You want to have people around – both inside and outside the organisation – who will support and advocate for you. This will help set you up for your next job (which may be inside or outside the organisation), and help ensure you maintain a strong and healthy sense of self. Also, a strong internal support network can help to counter-balance the challenges of working for someone who is difficult.

Look after yourself first

Your health and well-being always needs to come first. This means you need to:

Know your rights – If their behaviour is illegal (ie bullying/harassment) then seek advice on your next steps and counsel from people you trust, to determine the best course of action
Know when to exit – If their behaviour is impacting your health and well-being then build your exit strategy
Manage the impact – Put in place daily practices, such as exercise, meditation and reflection to manage your well-being

Dealing with a difficult boss isn’t something anyone looks forward to, but unfortunately at times it is an inevitable part of the working world.

Stay true to who you are. Back yourself. Always take the higher ground. And remember, corporate karma often wins in the end!

Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate your Career’. You can contact her on [email protected]

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