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Posts Tagged ‘bad boss’

5 Tricks To Beat A Bad Boss

October 8th, 2012 by Michelle McQuaid

bad bossIs your bad boss holding you back?  Have they become so reliant on you they’re unwilling to let you move onwards or upwards?  Or perhaps rather than acknowledging all the things you do well, they fixate – or even invent – constant areas of improvement for your work.

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The Secret To Surviving A Bad Boss

September 26th, 2012 by Michelle McQuaid

the secret to surviving a bad bossAre you trying to survive a bad boss?  Fed up with advice to speak to them about it, raise it to HR or quit your job?

The good news is there’s a proven, practical way to overcome the terrors your bad boss is creating, and you’ve probably completely overlooked it.

Ready?  The secret to surviving a bad boss is … other people. Tah dah!

Researchers have found that the single best predictor of momentary experiences that lead to higher wellbeing and engagement at work, is not what we’re doing, but who we’re doing it with.

In fact, having a best friend at work makes it seven times more likely that you’ll be engaged in your job, makes you better at engaging customers, helps you to produce higher quality work, improves your well-being and makes it less likely you’ll be injured on the job – regardless of your bad boss.


Why a bad boss tries to destroy your relationships

Studies show that a bad boss can greatly undermine your relationships at work and at home.

Perhaps you’re like the legal secretary whose bad boss encouraged her colleagues to ignore her completely.  Or maybe your bad boss likes to play you off against your colleagues so there’s no trust among your peers.  Or it could be just the sheer stress and misery created by your bad boss is coloring your time with friends and family.

The problem is by design, the negativity created by a bad boss inspires us to protect ourselves, which often means pulling back from others. Unfortunately, this separation can set you on a dark and lonely path that insulates you from the one thing you need most – the love and support of other people who care about you.  Making it easier for a bad boss to get the better of you.

“Our relationships with other people matter, and matter more than anything else in the world,” explains George Vaillant, a leading psychiatrist who is famous for overseeing on one of the longest running psychological studies of all time – the Harvard Grant Study which found social bonds don’t just predict overall happiness but also eventual career achievement, occupational success, and income regardless of a bad boss.  How can this be?

Firstly, evolution has genetically hard-wired us for love. As a child, your survival depends on unconditional and forgiving love. As an adult, you flourish when the positive emotions of love, joy, hope, forgiveness, compassion and trust allow you to attach to social networks that provide cooperation, support and physical, intellectual, emotional and financial prosperity.

Your colleagues, friends and family are the best source of ideas and encouragement when it comes to surviving a bad boss.

Secondly, we have a biological need for social support. Each time you joyfully connect with another person, the pleasure-inducing hormone oxytocin is released into your bloodstream, immediately reducing anxiety and improving concentration and focus. Each social connection also bolsters your cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and immune systems, so that the more connections you make over time, the better you function.

Enjoyable moments with your colleagues, friends and family offer a biological “undo” effect for the lowering the stress your bad boss creates and raising your wellbeing to start looking for win-win outcomes for you, your boss and your organization.

How to protect your relationships from a bad boss

Studies show even brief encounters which fuel openness, energy and authenticity among colleagues – one conversation or an email exchange – can infuse you with a greater sense of vitality, giving you a pep in your step and a greater capacity to deal with your bad boss.  Here are some proven, practical ways from positive psychology to help protect your relationships no matter what your bad boss is coming up with:

  • Respond actively and constructively – When someone shares news of a victory or just a good thing that’s happened to them, how you respond can either build the relationship or undermine it.  You can respond actively by asking a question that allows them to talk more about what’s happened or passively by closing the conversation down.  You can respond constructively by observing what’s good about their news or destructively by pointing out why things are about to go wrong.  Research has found when it comes to improving your relationships it’s best to respond actively and constructively by asking positive questions that allow the other person to continue sharing and savoring their good news like: “The promotion sounds so exciting, how did you find out?”
  • Create connection rituals – One of the best ways to nurture our relationships at work is to create rituals which allow us to get together and be in touch with people we value on a regular basis – regardless of our bad boss. This might include a daily walk at lunch, a weekly coffee, a monthly dinner with your colleagues.  Studies show when you get at least six hours of daily social time, it increases your well-being and minimizes stress and worry. The six hours can include time at work, at home, on the telephone, talking to friends, sending emails and other communication, but each hour of social time you accumulate quickly decreases the odds of having a bad day. Even three hours of social time reduces your chances of your bad boss ruining your day to 10 per cent.
  • Show appreciation – Practicing appreciation and gratitude is a kind of mega strategy to improve our levels of positivity and our relationships. It opens your heart and urges you to give back – to do something good in return – helping to nurture new relationships and improve existing ones no matter what your bad boss is doing. Perhaps this is why countless studies have shown that consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely.  Try taking the time to genuinely thank someone they’ve done to help you each day before you log off – if you’re feeling really strong you might even find something to thank you bad boss for.
  • Avoid social comparisons – Comparing ourselves to others is pretty natural especially if your bad boss likes to point it out! Unfortunately, the more social comparisons you make, the more likely you are to encounter unfavorable contrasts because no matter how successful, wealthy, or fortunate you become, there’s always someone who can best you.  A three-step approach can shake this off. Firstly, you need to identify a recent event where the social comparisons you’ve made left you feeling jealous or unhappy and spend a few minutes writing about the event and what it was that unsettled you so you can unburden yourself of any negativity. Then, you need to identify at least three things you’re currently doing or could begin doing to find peace around this perceived short-coming to improve your mood and self-regard. Finally, you need to learn to avoid social comparison in the future by noting down the situations (places, times and people – like your bad boss) that appear to trigger these insecurities and try to avoid these situations or modify them just enough to thwart their ability to unsettle you.

People who have at least three or four very close friendships at work are healthier, have higher wellbeing and are more engaged in their jobs.  Don’t let your bad boss undermine your relationships when these people are the secret to feeling happier at work.  Best of all research shows positive social connections predict more individual learning behavior, motivate you more than money or power and improve your effectiveness and performance which is the best way to ultimately free yourself of your bad boss.

Do you have a best friend at work? How does it make your workday better?

Have a bad boss? Sign our petition to rid the world of bad bosses everywhere! 

Creative Commons License Image Thomas Cunningham via Compfight

Why Happiness Is The Best Revenge On A Bad Boss

September 11th, 2012 by Michelle McQuaid

Dealing with a bad bossDo you have a bad boss who’s sucking all the joy from your life? Chances are it’s costing you money, success, health and happiness.

Did you know happier employees have higher levels of productivity, produce higher sales, perform better in leadership positions, receive higher performance ratings and higher pay and enjoy more job security?

In fact, the latest scientific evidence from more than 200 studies of 275,000 people around the world tells us that happiness and positivity doesn’t simply reflect success and fulfillment; it also produces it in nearly every domain of life, including work, health, friendship, sociability, creativity and energy.

Is your bad boss is keeping you from all of this?


How a bad boss costs you more than happiness

While I certainly was relieved to escape each bad boss I’ve encountered at work, it wasn’t until I met Barbara Fredrickson from the University of North Carolina, often described as the “genius of positive psychology”, that I really started to understand what these bosses where costing by robbing me of positive emotions like joy, interest and pride in my work.

Barb explained our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best – not when they’re negative or even neutral – but when they’re positive. A rare state when you’re enduring a bad boss.

Yet Barb’s research has repeatedly demonstrated that positivity – or the lack thereof – doesn’t just change the contents of our mind, trading bad thoughts for good ones; it also changes the scope or boundaries of our psyche by broadening and building us.


The secret to fighting back against a bad boss

Positivity opens us up to be more creative and receptive – even towards a bad boss. Studies show that it literally expands our peripheral vision, allowing us to see more than we typically do. In addition, it floods our brains with dopamine and serotonin and enables us to make and sustain more neural connections so that we can organize new information, think more quickly and creatively, become more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving, and see and invent new ways of doing things when it comes to managing our bad boss.

It also alters how we see our connections with others so that we look past what separates us – like racial differences – and think more in terms of “we” and less in terms of “me”.  It can help us be more tolerant towards others – perhaps even a bad boss.

The best part is by opening our hearts and minds, positive emotions allow us to discover and build new skills, new ties, new knowledge, and new ways of being. As our positive emotions accrue, they also build up our psychological, intellectual, social and physical resources, leaving us better equipped to face a bad boss.

We become more optimistic, more resilient, more open, more accepting, and more driven by purpose.  And what’s more, we cultivate more open-minded mental habits, ignite better connections with others and improve our biological markers for health so that we can lower our blood pressure, experience less pain, have fewer colds and sleep better.   Leaving you in perfect form to overcome your bad boss!


The tipping point to dealing with your bad boss

positivity breed positivity

My favorite part of Barb’s research is her discovery that positivity obeys a tipping point – even in the face of a bad boss. She’s found when we encounter at least three heartfelt positive emotional experiences that uplift us, for every heart-wrenching negative emotional experience we endure, a tipping point occurs, which predicts our ability to see new opportunities, bounce back from setbacks, connect more with others, and reach our potential.

As part of her work she also notes that appropriate negativity – that we can learn from rather than be shamed by – is a necessary ingredient in life, which keeps us grounded in reality and may even provide a practical use for a bad boss. Barb suggests that the goal is not to banish heart-wrenching negative emotions, but to balance them with enough heartfelt, positive ones (around 3 to 1) so that they no longer leave us to languish.

You can increase your relative positivity (our “positive ratio”) when it comes to your bad boss in three ways by:

  • Increasing the numerator (the number of positive emotions you’re experiencing).
  • Decreasing the denominator (the number of negative emotions you’re experiencing).
  • Or doing both.

This doesn’t mean painting on a smiling face, wishing away your bad boss with positive thinking, or pretending they don’t exist. Rather, it’s about creating moments of heartfelt joy, gratitude, peace, curiosity, hope, pride, laughter, inspiration, awe, and love that arise from how you interpret events and ideas as they unfold – inspite of your bad boss!


Five ways to overcome the misery of a bad boss

You can boost your positivity levels to deal with your bad boss by:

  • Creating “Jolts of Joy” in your day – Counteract the impact of your bad boss by sprinkling some Jolts of Joy – moments that bring a genuine smile to your face – to short circuit the negativity caused by your bad boss.  Create a list of the things you can do in ten minutes or less at work that will make you feel good.  This might include finding a quiet place to meditate, putting a favorite song on your ipod, taking a quick walk outside, watching a funny clip on youtube or calling a friend.  All proven mood boosters.
  • Breaking the grip of rumination – Our brains are programmed so that when we dwell on a bad boss, we can’t see the big picture and think clearly so instead we selectively call to mind more and more negative thoughts, thereby creating adownward spiral of despair and multiplying our pessimism exponentially. Create a list of positive distractions from your bad boss – like exercising or doing something kind for someone else – that you can reach for when you find yourself pointlessly ruminating.
  • Cultivating optimism – Most of us have particular habits when it comes to explaining how good and bad events happen to us – particularly around a bad boss. It turns out there are three important dimensions that impact our explanations: personal (“me-not me”), permanent (“always-not always”) and pervasive (“everything- not everything”). Optimistic explanations find permanent and universal causes of good events and temporary and specific causes for misfortune to leave us feeling more hopeful for the future. Being optimistic involves a choice about how you see your bad boss. Remember, the goal is not to eliminate negativity, deny or avoid unfavorable information or try to control situations. Instead, you want to be flexible in your optimism particularly when your bad boss is dragging you under, but not when clear sight or owning up is actually required.
  • Minimizing the impact of your bad boss – Dealing with negative people in our lives isn’t easy, but our best options are to modify the situation, attend to it differently or change its meaning. Rather than trying to avoid our bad boss, these techniques neutralize negativity by extending empathy, compassion and openness to the person who is lashing out. It’s a simple fact that dire interpretations create dire emotions, whilst charitable and optimistic interpretations breed positivity.  Try to modify the situation by experimenting with how you act when you’re with your boss. Think of it as a series of tests for cause and effect – of when I do this… that happens – in which your goal is to find the responses which bring out the best in your bad boss.
  • Practicing kindness – Probably the last thing you feel like doing with a bad boss, yet practicing kindness – even when it’s unpleasant or we expect to receive nothing in return – is in our own self-interest. Being generous and willing to share helps you to engage in seeing others more positively, feeling more connected and being more grateful. It also makes us feel more advantaged by comparison (e.g. I’m glad I’m not so overwhelmed by my job that I’ve forgotten how to smile) and highlights our abilities, resources, and expertise to create feelings of control over our lives. Best of all, it can jump-start a cascade of positive social consequences influencing others to like you, to appreciate you and to reciprocate when you need kindness.  If you can’t do something kind for your bad boss then at least do it for a colleague who may also be suffering!
  • Telling your boss – If you really want to a have a healthy conversation with your bad boss about how unhappy they’re making you then you have to make them feel safe first.  This can be achieved by finding a shared goal so that both of you have a good reason for talking and by showing respect during the conversation.

Barb told me that a few years ago she came across a greeting card that read: “Life gives us negativity on its own. It’s our job to create positivity.” She said she liked this phrasing because it reminds us that positivity is a choice – even with a bad boss – a choice we all need to make again and again, day after day.

As a result of all she taught me, I’m particularly careful to gauge the balance of positivity to negativity in my life by using her free five minute Positivity Test online. When I find it falling below three to one I use many of these strategies to improve the way I’m feeling about work.


Ready to rid the world of bad bosses? Join us on October 16th, National Boss Day. Follow us on Twitter @TellYourBoss for updates and to join the revolution.

Image by: net_efekt via Compfight