I’ve Never Had a Bad Boss

by Jennifer Miller on October 25, 2011

in Personal Effectiveness

I’ve never had a bad boss.


During my two decades in corporate America, I have had 14 direct supervisors. Add to that the dozens of project leaders and various quasi-leaders I had during my tenures on several non-profit boards and it adds up to nearly 30 people to whom I have had to account directly over the years.

And in all that time, I can honestly say I never once had anyone that even approximated a character out of Horrible Bosses.  I’ve heard the real-life horror stories too: incompetent managers, egomaniacs, womanizers, bullies. Somehow, they never showed up in my office. Am I the luckiest person in the world, or is something else at play?

It’s both. While it’s true that I’ve had the good fortune to avoid working for a psycho, maneater or a tool, I do believe that my choices about how to interact with my boss have also contributed to the No Bad Boss declaration.  Here are six ways you can actively do your part to ensure a solid manager-employee working relationship.

Attract them. If you’re really good at what you do, quality bosses will seek you out. It’s that simple. If you want to work for a great boss, you need to be a great employee.

Cut him or her a little slack. It often comes down to your mindset: What do you expect from your boss?  Is  it realistic? Face, it managers are human. They make mistakes. They are not superheroes. Even good bosses slip up sometimes, so cut ‘em a little slack.

Learn from them. Sure, you can learn a lot from a great leader, but even “meh” bosses can teach you something, if you just pay attention. Even if all they teach you is what not to do, that’s still great information that you can put to use.

Own your part. Realize that your manager is not there to rescue you or do your job for you. Before you blame him or her for the reason you’re so unhappy,  examine your actions to see if you are in any way contributing to the problem.

Make your boss look good. Yeah, I know, a completely old-school suggestion. I stand by it; it’s part of the deal in organizational life. But I’m not talking about blowing sunshine in the boss’ direction.  I’m talking about representing your department’s “brand” in the most positive light. When you work hard, honor commitments and act professionally throughout the organization, it reflects well on your entire department. That, in turn, reflects well on your boss. It’s just possible that he or she will show a tiny bit of gratitude for your efforts. Even if he/she doesn’t, you can sleep at night knowing that you’ve done your best.

And finally, if you are job-seeking or transferring into a new department, consider this proactive measure:

Screen them. The best way to ensure that you don’t work for a bad boss is to never put yourself in the position of working for one. So, if you are interviewing for a job with your prospective boss, be sure to listen to that little voice that’s whispering “this person is scary” or “seems kind of like an egomaniac”. Trust your gut. I once went on a job interview for a position that I was very interested in with an excellent company. However, during the interview, I could tell that the hiring manager was a real jerk. When the invitation for a second interview came around, I saved myself the hassle and declined. 

Your working relationship with your boss need not be a fodder for a comedy motion picture. With these tips, you can take an active role in making one of the most important work relationships more productive.

Question: what’s the best “get along with your boss” tip you can offer?


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Gutek October 30, 2011 at 9:54 pm

There are two “best tips” that have served me very well in my career. Many of you have heard them before:
1. Don’t let your boss be “surprised” by something you could have told her/him. Bosses don’t like unecessary surprises. Especially the negative ones!
2. Bring your boss solutions not problems. For example if there is an issue that needs to be dealt with, do bring it to your boss’s attention — but also bring your best shot at a solution to the problem. It may not be the solution chosen but it will put you in a much different context than one who just brings problems. And, it’s possible she/he may just think your solution is brilliant!

Jennifer October 31, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Hi, Sarah!

Thanks for adding to the conversation. How fitting that one of my great bosses is offering great advice.


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