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June 29, 2011
BossZilla: Five Tips for Surviving the World's Worst Boss
The cold, hard reality is: you are stuck.

Perhaps there aren’t any potential job leads on the horizon…or maybe you don’t have the financial resources or comfort zone to leave your current job. But there is that one thing that makes you dread heading into the office day after day to earn that paycheck:

BossZilla is waiting for you.

Ever have the experience that your direct supervisor or organization leader is just The. Worst. Person. Ever? Many of us have. So what do you do? How do you make it work while you are trying to make your own ends meet?

Good question. Here are five tips for surviving staying on the job in what you might otherwise call "combat conditions."

1) Evaluate the costs of staying. Yes, if you are tight on money and this is your only income, this is a tough decision, but sometimes, when you start looking at the emotional or mental costs of what this bad boss is doing to you day in and day out, you might want to reconsider. Then there is the physical impact that a high-stress environment might have on you…and your family. While we normally always want to come out ahead, sometimes taking the loss and leaving a job to save our sanity and our health outweighs the paycheck. Only you can make that decision.

2) Grit your teeth and give them what they want. This takes a bit of swallowing one’s pride, but we’re talking survival here. Don’t give in to your impulse to make a heroic stand. Instead, give them what they want. Think about what the means to the end is in this situation. You need a paycheck and you do what is needed to get that paycheck. Nevermind the other garbage in between. This is easier said than done, but keeping this mindset can help you make it through each day.

3) Go get counseling. Big surprise: Bad bosses are traumatic. The damage that they cause now can actually impact how you relate to others in the future by building up distrust and misgivings. I once had a boss who sexually harassed me and was also extremely threatening and belligerent. When I finally mustered up the courage to get the heck out of that environment, I ended up withdrawn, scared, and very timid. It took months to come out of the very dark place to which I had retreated…counseling could have helped me keep my head above water in that situation. Having this little extra help can also provide you with a better perspective so you can clear your head of the poison being spewed by the boss.

4) Set the wheels in motion to get out. No one deserves to be berated, abused, or anything else that BossZilla can throw at you. Do an analysis of the situation. Sometimes, if there is a human resource manager available at your company, you can bring the bad boss issues to their attention, but there is always the risk that you could be terminated instead. The most important thing at this point is not to freeze like a deer in the headlights. Instead, a horrible boss and the company that retains people like that should act as a clarion call for you to keep things going swimmingly at your current position while you start throwing yourself into a concentrated effort to find alternative employment. Then get the heck out.

5) Excellence = Teflon. Your job isn’t to make the boss look bad, but if you always excel in your work by being pleasant, having initiative, and doing good work, you may later end up earning compliments from your colleagues, co-workers, subordinates, and other industry partners. Not only is this a good way to build yourself a strong professional profile, but it can also deflect anything negative that BossZilla might say about you. In the end, they look small, angry, and ineffective.

Remember, trying to get the other person fired is a tough task and often backfires as BossZilla has likely laid traps for anyone who might try to go around them. Instead, it is always a good idea to document everything that this person does to you that are violations of office policies and procedures in case things really take a turn for the worse. That way, you can cover yourself while you are actively finding a way out of the organization.  

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Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Careers, which specializes in mid- to upper-management résumés. She is an active volunteer in her community and donates her time teaching a résumé writing class at the Oregon Employment Department every week to help empower unemployed professionals and workers.
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