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How to Communicate With a Bad Boss

by Lisa McQuerrey, studioD

A bad boss has the potential to make your work life miserable. Whether it's a lack of communication, overt favoritism, incomplete directives or other poor management skills, working for a unprofessional manager brings numerous challenges. Look for ways to effectively communicate with the bad boss to ensure you cover yourself in the event he disputes workplace problems or attempts to blame you for his own poor performance issues.

Assess Communication Preferences

Even bad bosses have preferred ways of communicating with subordinates. Your boss may favor direct personal conversations over telephone calls, or emails or text messages over video conferences. Try to adapt to and respect your boss’ preferred communication methods as a way to promote goodwill and facilitate effective communication.

Back Up Communication

Protect yourself by backing up all important communication with a traceable format. For example, if your boss regularly issues directives in person, and later claims he told you something entirely different, it sets the stage for all kinds of problems. Verify verbal conversations with a follow-up email to solidify directives. For example, “To verify our conversation from this morning, I will complete the Jones account brief for you by Thursday morning and you will give me your feedback by Friday afternoon. I'll have a final draft ready for presentation the following Monday.” Use the return receipt feature on your email so your boss has to acknowledge reading your communication. If terms are ever in dispute, you have a time and date-stamped verification in your possession.

Use the Chain of Command

Working with a bad boss on a continuous basis presents more problems than those related to communication. If your boss has myriad problems that make it difficult to complete your work or impact productivity or morale, consider taking your concerns up the chain of command. Document instances of the poor behavior and make an appointment to speak to your boss' supervisor in private. Explain the negative impact the boss has on your department and on your personal work efforts.

Seek New Employment

If you are not satisfied with the feedback you get from your boss’ supervisor, you may eventually decide it's better for your career to seek employment elsewhere. Working with a bad boss makes it difficult to develop your own career, set attainable goals and objectives and otherwise be part of a dynamic team environment. A bad boss can actually sabotage your career and hold you back, so if steps can’t be taken to transfer in-house or otherwise overcome the communication obstacles the bad boss places in your way, dust off your resume and look for other opportunities.

About the Author

Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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