Are 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.
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.
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:
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.