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Combating the ‘My-Boss-Is-a-Jerk’ Blues

It’s still possible to find fulfillment at work when your supervisor is a moron.

Two common mantras in our culture today are: “I hate my job” and “my boss is a jerk.” While both statements may be true, hating your job because your boss is a jerk isn’t going to lead anywhere good.

According to Gallup, more than half of the U.S. workforce (or about 70 million employees) are either just enduring their job or actively hate where they work. With that level of dissatisfaction, it’s no surprise that we hear so many negative comments – either in personal conversations 0r through social and mainstream media. In other words, If you don’t like your job, welcome to the club.

Here are two reasons why concluding “My boss is a jerk” (or even a “major jerk”) won’t help things for you at work.

1. It’s easy to label others and be vague. When we label others with vague pejorative terms – which seems to be common in our culture – it absolves us of any responsibility to do anything. “She’s an idiot” and “What a _____ [fill in the term]” are similar. You’ve called the person a name, but now what? Let’s assume your boss acts like a jerk at times. What does that really mean?

What has he or she done that you disagree with?

  • Is it the decisions he or she has made?
  • How he or she makes decisions?
  • How he or she communicates with you?
  • How he or she treats others?
  • How decisions are implemented (or not)?

Only when we identify the specific actions or behaviors that irritate, offend or hurt us can we then develop a plan of action to deal with them. If another person’s actions affect you negatively (especially repeatedly), then it may be good for you to figure out how you’re going to respond. Options may include ignoring them, talking to them or minimizing contact. But leaving it at “he’s a jerk” gives you no plan of action.

One of the problems in talking together with others about this without identifying the specific action is that you know where you are coming from, what you have been thinking about and the purpose of the conversation. However, the other person often has no clue. When you start talking, it can take the other person a while to figure out why you’re sharing what you have and what you want from him or her in response.

2. You can still enjoy your work even if your boss is difficult and has significant weaknesses. While we know that a person’s relationship with his or her direct supervisor is influential, it’s not the only factor. Your job also entails one or more of the following:

  • the tasks you’re supposed to accomplish
  • customers
  • potential customers
  • co-workers
  • vendors or suppliers
  • other interactions with the community at large

So focus on these aspects of your work. Do the best at what you do. Learn and grow in your skills. Figure out what your customers need and want and do your best to serve them well. Find positive co-workers and hang out with them. Be positive and energetic in the interactions you have with others. Also, remember that your boss almost certainly has some beneficial skills, strengths, knowledge or character qualities – it is unlikely that he or she is a total moron that has evil intent. He or she is probably quite different from you in many ways, but those differences can be beneficial to your organization.

Bringing a positive attitude to your job actually helps you enjoy your work more. So, do what you can to see some positives in your current job. If you can’t think of anything, compare yourself to those who don’t have safe water to drink and whose sole task each day is getting food for themselves and their family.

The single best thing that you can do to improve the likelihood of having a great work day is to have a daily attitude of gratitude. Research has repeatedly shown that people who have a positive, grateful attitude for their work actually enjoy their work more. Yes, your boss may be a jerk. But you can only make your daily experience at work better if you get past that vague conclusion and begin to focus on what you can do in the situation. (And remember: he or she may be saying the same thing about you.)

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Amy DeWolf

This is a great post with lots of good questions to ask yourself. I love the comment – You can still enjoy your work even if your boss is difficult and has significant weaknesses.

Steph Drahozal

I think this is a really positive way to view this issue – “He or she is probably quite different from you in many ways, but those differences can be beneficial to your organization.” Thanks for pointing that out!

Howard Stoller

I believe it is inevitable that over the course of a career you will have a boss that you do not like and/or that does not like you, so its key to learn how to manage the situation and you provide good advice for doing that. In addition, aside from your managing your attitude tp deal with the situation, you can also look to manage up and that involves doing what you can to make your boss’s job easier. There is much written on the Web about this.

Roger D. Pohlman

Great points, reminds me of the importance of daily reflection, considering my essential duties, policies and values compared to the fate (events that occur outside of our control) and opportunities (events that required us to take action/make a choice) and what I need to do (if the action is mine to own) or how to respond appropriately (when the concern is external)!

Avatar photo Blake Martin

I really enjoyed reading this post, and I particularly loved the closing- carrying an attitude of gratitude is an immediate way to turn your day (or job, or really anything) around for the better!