- Robert Sutton
Not everyone is blessed with an excellent boss.
It’s an unfortunate reality, considering how terrible managers can wreak havoc on your work productivity, professional development, and stress levels, not to mention the overall organization.
Robert Sutton, a professor of management at Stanford University and author of “The No Asshole Rule” and the upcoming “The Asshole Survival Guide,” outlined some strategies for individuals dealing with an unreasonable manager.
Here are five tips he shared with Business Insider on coping with a bad boss:
1. Be careful and consider your options
Before you “go to war with a boss,” Sutton said it’s important to plan out a strategy and proceed with caution.
“As much as we wish that HR would be our friend, very often, if your boss has more power than you, you have to be very careful,” he told Business Insider. “Assess the political environment, if you possibly can.”
2. Confront the issue
If you think your boss’s bad behavior stems from clueless-ness as opposed to maliciousness, it’s usually best to politely and calmly point out the problem.
Sutton described meeting a female executive vice president who shared that her CEO had a habit of only interrupting the women in the room during meetings with his senior team.
“What her and her colleague did was, they counted how many interruptions happened during a meeting and they just brought him the information,” Sutton says. “He didn’t realize he was doing it and he changed his behavior.”
3. Grin and bear it
If you’re dealing with a narcissistic jerk of a boss and there’s no hope that higher ups will intervene, Sutton said it’s often not worth fighting back. Narcissists tend to be very thin-skinned, so calling out their nonsense will typically backfire.
Instead, in this case, it’s best to use cognitive distancing to protect yourself while you plan an exit strategy.
“When you’re in a difficult situation, if you can say to yourself, ‘If I can just get through tonight and look back on it over the weekend, six months, a year from now,’ stressful situations actually do much less damage on our mental and physical health,” Sutton said.
4. Document any abuse
- Oli Scarff/Getty Images
If your boss’ behavior qualifies as harassment Sutton says that documenting your experience is crucial. You want all the evidence you can get to build up a legal or HR case against them.
“That doesn’t always mean you’re going to win for sure, but it increases the odds,” Sutton says.
So save and screenshot emails, write memos detailing their behavior, and check the legality of recording someone without their permission in your state.
He cited the case of former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, who, after confirming the legality of recording someone without their permission, recorded her interactions with Roger Ailes, Business Insider reported.
Using the tapes, Carlson was able to prove her harassment case against her boss. Ailes was subsequently ousted from the network.
5. Forge alliances and hatch a plot
- marco monetti via flickr
Sutton recounted meeting a community college administrator who shared his story about dealing with a horrible boss.
“The chancellor was abusive,” Sutton said. “He was screaming all the time. And he wasn’t competent in other ways. But if they started criticizing him, he’d get upset.”
As a result, the administrator teamed up with some of his colleagues to handle the increasingly untenable situation.
“It was sneaky,” Sutton said. “He said, ‘We would still give him his daily a—kissing.’ This was while they built the case against him.”
Once the group had sufficiently documented the chancellor’s abusive behavior and incompetence, they handed their case over to the school’s board of overseers. The chancellor was subsequently sacked.
“He didn’t know it was coming,” Sutton said. “I hope nobody’s doing it to me right now.”