At least half of workers have left a job “to get away from their manager,” according to a Gallup report from last year. If you’ve had a bad boss at some point in your career, that won’t come as a surprise.
It’s hard to enjoy your work when you hate your manager. You could have an office with a window, a cereal bar, and a ball-pit filled with stock options and free candy, and you’re still not going to love your job if your boss drives you crazy on a regular basis.
In fact, managers are such an integral part of our work experience, sometimes it’s hard to separate your actual job from your working relationship with the boss. It’s worth figuring out, though, because the fix for your situation might look very different, depending on whether it’s the gig itself or your supervisor that’s the issue.
A Few Signs That Your Boss Is Actually the Problem
1. He micromanages you.
Ideally, managers should tell workers what need to be done, provide a clear framework for success and the means to achieve it, and then get out of the way. But you couldn’t prove that to the micromanaging boss, who never met a detail he didn’t want to supervise.
Micromanagers suck the productivity right out of the work environment by keeping tabs on every little thing their employees do. In their minds, they’re making sure things are done right; to their employees, it’s clear the boss would be happier cloning himself and dispensing with all these incompetents who work for him.
Not exactly a situation that inspires anyone’s best work.
2. He’s never around when you need him.
Equal and opposite from the micromanager is the boss who’s completely inaccessible. Whenever you have a question, concern, or idea, his door is always closed. He might not even be behind it.
Of course, everyone’s busy, especially as their responsibilities multiply. But a good manager should make time to connect with his reports one-on-one, so that they can communicate effectively about what needs to be done and how to do it. Otherwise, you’re left guessing.
3. He’s a bully.
Unfortunately, we don’t leave bullies behind when we leave school. Sometimes, they follow us into the work world.
Workplace bullying comes in many variations, but perhaps the worst is when the boss is the culprit. If your manager screams, belittles, intimidates, or undermines your work, you might be dealing with a bullying boss.
4. He’s inconsistent.
If only you could pick one of these bad-boss archetypes – but maybe your problem is, your horrible manager resembles all of them, depending on the day.
Another variation: He’s not as bad as any of these, but he’s totally unreliable. You never know on Tuesday whether Monday’s plan is still in effect.
5. You don’t have trust.
This problem doesn’t even require a monster boss; sometimes, you just don’t connect. If you don’t trust your boss to have your back, it doesn’t matter whether the problem is him, you, or the relationship. You won’t be able to get stuff done.
What to Do If Your Boss Is the Issue
If you do determine that your job problems are actually boss problems, you have a few options at your disposal:
1. Repair the relationship.
Sometimes, it’s possible to salvage a damaged relationship with your manager. It’s worth it to try. The worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t work, but you’ll at least have the satisfaction of knowing that you did everything you could.
Over at the Harvard Business Review, Dorie Clark offers tips on how to mend things with your manager, starting with acknowledging your own culpability. (No one said it would necessarily be fun.)
2. Make a sneaky switch.
If you work at a company with multiple departments or offices, sometimes you can escape your bad boss without even rolling over your 401(k), just by switching teams or departments.
Most companies maintain a list of job openings on their corporate site, but you can beat the rush by networking your way into an open position before it even hits the internet. The key is to strengthen ties to other groups before you need something from them (e.g., a recommendation for a new job within the company).
Start by looking for opportunities to work with other teams on new projects, and help out where you can. You’ll develop new skills while you’re making connections.
3. Start looking for a new job.
Regardless of what else you decide to do, it’s a good idea to keep your resume up-to-date and your ear to the ground. If you’re having trouble with your boss, there’s a chance he’s having trouble with you, too.
Either way, it’s always better to be prepared to make a leap to a new gig on relatively short notice. You never know what the future might bring.