This Is Not The Boss I Ordered

How to navigate a boss who lacks leadership skills and to know when it's time to go. 

by Caroline Dowd-Higgins • Member { View Profile }
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name (

What I have seen over and over again in my consulting practice is that many naïve bosses simply don’t know what their team needs. So take the boss by the horns, as it were. Have a frank conversation with your boss and tell him what you need. Tell her what your purpose is on the team, your goals, and the culture you believe will enhance productivity. If you can clarify your aspirations for the future of your organization and be a solution provider, instead of a complainer, then your boss may learn from you and appreciate your leadership insight.

Of course that Utopian concept doesn’t always work and sometime bad bosses are also jerks. If your boss is beyond repair and you have an unhealthy work environment that prohibits you from doing your job successfully, you may want to consider moving on. After all, you deserve to work in an environment where you are valued, appreciated, and recognized for your accomplishments. Having a boss who will mentor you, or even sponsor you would be an added perk but you may need to work elsewhere to find this.

So start a stealthy job search since you are much more employable when you are currently employed. No matter how bad it gets, your bad boss is not worth being unemployed for so stick it out until you find a non toxic environment and let their shenanigans roll off your back.

Don’t Diss Your Bad Boss

As tempting as it may be to announce to the social media masses what an ass your boss is, take the high road and keep all communication professional. The network is small and you will need a recommendation from your current boss if you move on. Never throw your boss under the bus and develop talking points for why you are looking to move on. In many cases, a bad boss’s reputation is far reaching so you need not say a word in order to be understood by a prospective employer.

When you are on the job hunt be sure to interview your prospective bosses wisely. Don’t assume that your next boss will be better. Here are some questions to ask during an interview:

·         What is your leadership style?

·         How do you mentor or sponsor your team members and encourage their professional development?

·         Of all the people who have worked for you, who are you the most proud of and why?

·         Can you describe a conflict between you and your team and how it was resolved?

·         Why did the person who left this position move on?

·         What are your future goals for the team?

Know When It’s Time to Go

If your new boss passes these interview questions with flying colors then you may be lucky enough to land in a healthy new work environment with a great boss who will give you an opportunity to grow and prosper. But if the new boss seems worse than your current boss, it may be a deal breaker and force you to extend your job search for a better fit. It’s worth waiting for a functional boss so never underestimate your boss’s role in your success and happiness in the organization.

You should be looking for a multiplier boss who will optimize your strengths and give you an opportunity to take on new challenges, debate decisions, and invest in the organization with direct buy-in and accountability. The perfect boss may be difficult to find so in the meantime capitalize on your expanded network within and beyond your organization to find mentorship, leadership, and the professional respect you deserve.

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