As we have commented before in Viewpoint, despite the pay scale or seniority of roles that we are dealing with it is often surprising the comments/concerns that come our way through community feedback. You may recall a few months ago we mentioned a senior individual who needed some support and guidance around the best way to dress for an interview in a “non-conventional” office environment.

We have recently been running another senior search and as part of that process, I encountered an individual who was having real issues with a dominant or truth be told the very difficult boss. It’s struck me again that despite the seniority of the individual involved that all stages of our careers we can encounter these challenges and how to deal with a “bad boss” deserves some attention.

Of course, there are going to be the obvious and dare I say it kitsch strategies that are generally rolled out. However what advice can actually add value and help you deal with this in the modern workplace

Personally, I see massive value is standing out i.e. Make yourself indispensable! As the old saying goes, nothing succeeds like success. If you can, despite the frustrations you’re feeling, master all aspects of your job and then some, and become a key employee, it can lead to several positive outcomes. It may change your boss’s behaviour in a more agreeable direction; it may get you promoted and out of your boss’s orbit; it definitely will give you the satisfaction of knowing you did your absolute best in tough circumstances.

As difficult as is may be. Empathy. Try to see things through his or her eyes. I’m always a big believer in trying to put yourself in the place of others. This means understanding, as best you can, what pressures, what motivators, what hopes and fears drive their behaviour. Management comes with it a multitude of pressures from many sources: boards, senior managers, employees, customers, investors and sales reps to name a few. The more you understand the pressures your (difficult) boss is under, the better equipped you’ll be to cope. No guarantee this will change your own experience, but empathy is a powerful emotion.

If things do continue there is obviously a point where things have to be addressed. Firstly you can try to confront it. They may be unaware and a constructive and mature conversation around the problem may well address the problem. You may also want to document their actions. It may come to the point where you have to document what your supervisor is doing. Document major incidents that you feel are not becoming of a supervisor. Keep in mind these incidents will be scrutinized, so be as detailed and factual as possible.

Last but definitely not least, there’s no percentage in being a victim. If you’ve made numerous good faith efforts to improve things — to no avail — it may just be time to go. Leaving an intolerable situation is usually liberating.

Of course, the best way to manage a bad boss is not to have one in the first place. So whenever you are looking to move into a new role in the same company or move to another organization altogether, invest some time to get a sense of the culture, the leadership and the sort of management practices that are tolerated and supported. If you are moving internally, make sure you do your networking ahead of time to get a sense of both the environment within the team you might be moving too, and those who are creating it.