Is your manager a terror? Before you think about quitting, try standing up for yourself, make a work buddy, and exercise regularly
Every morning, you are filled with dread—you don’t want to go to office and face your boss, who is critical of your work, disorganized, impulsive, disoriented, and has anger management issues. Basically, he’s a boss from hell. And this can take a toll.
Sharmila Banwat, consultant psychologist at the Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital in Mumbai, says, “It is the work atmosphere rather than workload which correlates highly to workplace depression.” Bad managers, she adds, can lead to stress disorders, anxiety, panic attacks, even substance abuse in some cases. A study published in February in the International Journal Of Mental Health Nursing says workplace bullying can lead to mental distress and illness.
So if you are dealing with a boss who makes the lives of the characters Nick, Kurt and Dale in the movie Horrible Bosses seem like a breeze, then read on and see how you can manage the situation.
Is my boss really that bad?
In a study published in the Human Research Development Review in January 2015, researchers at the University of Louisville in the US defined dysfunctional bosses through a graph. Low dysfunction behaviours included rudeness, unrealistic or high expectations, or taking credit for your work. Highly dysfunctional bosses, says the study, are derisive, deceptive, inappropriately assign blame, yell at you, coerce, threaten, publicly scorn or denigrate you, or opt for destructive criticism. All this can lead to psychological issues, ranging from annoyance to trauma.
“An unhelpful boss will define the problem and not coach you for a solution, will be critical, not recognize your efforts, and doesn’t respect your time or work life, and hence would generate a lot of stress in your life,” says Achal Bhagat, senior consultant, psychiatry at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals in New Delhi. Some indicators of stress, he says, are lack of interest and motivation, not being proactive about work, unexplained tiredness and fatigue, low self-esteem, unexplained physical symptoms, anxiety, an inability to stop thinking of work issues at home, taking work home, spending time with your family or on your life goals, irritable and arguing with loved ones.
As soon as you label the person in question a “bad boss”, however, you take away your power to change the situation. So, if you find yourself in this situation, take charge.
The first step in dealing with a bad work situation is to accept it and keep working hard, suggests Samir Parikh, director, mental health and behavioural sciences, at Fortis Healthcare in New Delhi. Slacking or letting the quality of work deteriorate because the boss is not good to you is not going to help. “Keep your focus, clarity and commitment to take responsibility for your own success, regardless of the difficult personalities you may have to encounter throughout your work life,” says Banwat.
Stand up for yourself
Does your boss bully, ridicule or belittle you in front of people? Instead of taking it quietly, face him. A study published by the Ohio State University in the Personnel Psychology journal in January 2015 suggested that workers who stand up for themselves after they have been treated badly feel better about their jobs. “If your boss is hostile, there appear to be benefits to reciprocating,” says Bennett Tepper, lead author of the study and professor of management and human resources at the university, in a press release. “Employees felt better about themselves because they didn’t just sit back and take the abuse,” Prof. Tepper adds.
Remember, we are all equal at the workplace, we all perform specific roles and no one does any favour to anyone, adds Dr Bhagat.
Don’t bite back
You can stand up for yourself if bullied, but don’t get nasty, try to get even or look for revenge. It will only add to your misery. “If your communication with your boss is not helpful, ask them for their time and give them feedback,” says Dr Bhagat. “Give positive feedback about things that are helpful and give negative feedback for things that are unhelpful. Be respectful and non-arrogant. Be precise and do not generalize your negative feedback. Clearly say what your expectations are and request an open discussion on these expectations,” adds Dr Bhagat.
Find out what drives your boss
Why is he being so nasty? Is it his personal goals, ambitions or frustrations? Or is it the fact that he can’t handle things not going his way? “When you know what drives your boss, you can frame your opinions and use language in ways that align with their core values, concerns and priorities,” says Banwat. This eases workspace tension.
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