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How your work life balance can survive a horrible, bully boss

Based on email I've received, a lot of you out there have horrible bosses. Today, guest blogger Rajeev Peshawaria
 weighs in on the topic. Peshawaria is CEO of the Iclif Leadership & Governance Centre based in Malaysia. He is the author of TOO MANY BOSSES, TOO FEW LEADERS: The Three Essential Principles You Need to Be an Extraordinary Leader. 


When “Horrible Bosses” opened in theaters, millions of Americans rushed to the box office, empathizing with the murderous frustrations of stars Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis.  While most of us would never consider actually killing our bosses, the unfortunate truth is that the majority of Americans can relate to the characters’ predicaments all too well.

We’ve all worked for at least one horrible boss – chances are, more than one – and I’ve seen first-hand the toll it takes on both you and your work and your home life.  What’s the best way to deal with a horrible boss, without putting your own standing at risk? 

  • Put it in perspective.  The truth is that, at some point in your career, you’re going to have a bad boss. If you’re stuck with one now, it’s probably not the first time – and chances are it won’t be the last, either. Understand that.
  • It’s not you, it’s them.  I’ve found that horrible bosses are the way they are because they don’t have a clear vision of the big picture.  They are clueless about what they want out of their own life, let alone what they want for the team.  They can be warm and friendly one day and cold the next, and a small disappointment can quickly become a matter of life and death.  Understanding that your boss’ behavior has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with their own lack of emotional intelligence can be incredibly liberating. 
  • Clarify your purpose and values. Since you can’t fire your boss, it’s imperative to develop a coping mechanism.  The trick is to get laser-sharp clarity on two things: what you’re trying to achieve in your life/career (purpose) and what you stand for (values).  By focusing on the bigger picture for yourself, you’ll be better equipped to tolerate your boss’ shortcomings.  
  • Lead up.  Horrible bosses are notorious for demanding high accountability, with little or no guidance on performance objectives and expectations.  So take the lead and manage up.  Have an ongoing and honest dialogue with your boss about your work and your deliverables. 
  • Be proactive. Keep your eye on the big picture, and be proactive.  The worst thing you can do is become reactive – it puts you at the mercy of your horrible boss. Bosses should not be allowed to control how you feel. Only you should control how you feel.