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Managing Bad Bosses

Here are some suggestions:

Sit Down for a One-on-One Chat

If your boss falls into one of the bad boss stereotypes and is making your work environment unpleasant, the best thing to do is privately talk to them about it rather than file a complaint with someone higher up.

"The last thing one should do is go outside the chain of command to the human resource department or the boss's boss without having tried to solve it oneself. It is certainly going to make for bad blood between the employee and the boss," warns psychology teacher Susan Herschorn.

Mallary Tytel, a boss herself, agrees. She is the president and CEO of a human resource development corporation. "I would take it personally that you didn't approach me. Going to my boss is akin to snitching or tattling and it's not being honest," she says.

So, be straight with your boss. Set up a private meeting where you can bring up the behavior you have a problem with.

"Just say, 'I recognize there's a problem here and I'd like to solve it.' A direct non-confrontational, non-accusatory posture is the way to do that," Tytel says.

Several things can happen after a one-on-one chat with the head honcho. It is most likely that the boss will negotiate a solution, like a department transfer, to create less tension between the two of you. There is also the possibility that not having realized they had been acting inappropriately, your boss may be grateful you brought it to their attention and will take steps to correct the problem behavior.

Or if your boss is totally unreasonable, they will be offended you questioned their authority and will do everything possible to make your life even more miserable, according to Weiss. This last scenario is least likely to occur, so don't let it scare you out of trying to talk things out with your boss.

Visit the Human Resources Department or Your Boss's Boss

If it has been a while since you've met with your boss but nothing has changed, you can try a more serious recourse.

"You may want to speak with someone in human resources," suggests Tytel. "Make an appointment to talk about the situation and get some advice on how to handle your boss." Human resources employees are trained to give this sort of counseling and will probably be able to help you improve the relationship with your boss.

If you follow their advice and your boss is still unbearable, then it might be time to make a formal complaint. The procedure for filing a grievance may vary from place to place, so it's important to find out what your company's policy is. You can look it up in an employee handbook or you can ask the human resources department.

Either way, it usually involves meeting with your boss's superior or someone from human resources and talking about the problem so they can investigate the situation and try to settle it. Keep in mind there is always the risk that your boss will be upset you snitched, which could make your relationship worse instead of better.

Despite the possible negative consequences, you should never hesitate to file a complaint if your boss engages in illegal activity like drinking on the job, embezzling funds, harassing you or a colleague or making racial comments.

"There are instances that can jeopardize someone's safety and well-being or when people break the law. You need to absolutely report that," points out Tytel.

Jump Ship to a New Employer

The problem with your boss might persist even after following all these steps. In that case, you can just give up and wait for your boss to leave. Otherwise, if your work environment starts taking a toll on your health and sanity, you can always abandon ship, says Weiss.

Pittarelli agrees. "If you can't sleep at night because your boss is horrendous, then I think it's time to go."

Most companies require you to give a reason for quitting in an exit interview or a letter. Pittarelli suggests you be polite, stating simply that you have a problem with the management, rather than blurting out that your boss is a control freak or incompetent.

This way, you will get the message across that your boss's behavior needs work without burning bridges you may need in the future. After all, you might need a reference from your boss or their colleagues for your new job. Always keep things clean so you can build a great resume and find an employer that treats its workers right.