What To Do If You Work For A Jerk?

Apr 29, 2016 1 Min Read


Understanding the real issue and learning how to deal with it

Mike used to love going to work each day. He was in a role in which he could use his talents to make a difference in the world by helping people.

During team meetings, he would eagerly participate with his teammates and offer up ideas about how his company could work smarter, but most of those ideas were quickly rejected by his boss.

Soon, he noticed that one of his ideas was adopted by the company, and his boss took all the credit. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated event.

Not only that, his boss would openly complain in front of other executives about the lack of talent on his team, and how he was the only person in the department who came up with great ideas.

Needless to say, it didn’t take Mike long to start slacking off. He started looking for a new job six months after he was hired.

Introducing the disagreeable boss

Unfortunately, for many people, work has lost its lustre. Employees who were once motivated to come in early or stay late now have a tendency to take off early, show up late, or even call in sick.

Is this trend simply a sign of a career slump, or is there a reason employees seem to be getting the corporate life sucked out of them?

You would think long hours, low pay, and bad work assignments are the leading causes of career blues. Naturally, these grievances are enough to cause any employee to grumble.

But a survey by VitalSmarts reveals that these grievances are actually the least common concerns among employees. More than 50% of survey respondents listed a disagreeable boss as their No. 1 reason to want to pack up and leave.

These disgruntled employees aren’t just daydreaming about leaving—they’re doing something about it. In fact, two out of every three people who are bugged by their boss are actively seeking alternative career options.

If you’re feeling stifled by your supervisor, leaving the office may feel like the cure. But what happens when you stumble into a new office with a new boss—only to discover that, once again, you work for a jerk?

Even though the grass seems greener on the other side, the problem may not be with the disagreeable boss—despite the fact that he or she could use a personality adjustment.

What is the real issue here?

The problem could, in fact, be an employee’s unwillingness or even inability to candidly share concerns about his or her working relationship with the boss.

The survey revealed that only one in five people have even attempted to fully lay out his concerns with his boss.

It’s no wonder people aren’t enjoying their careers as much as they could be. When you can’t approach your supervisor, work suddenly feels less enjoyable and productive, and more like detention.

Our research team has determined that most people don’t know how to candidly and respectfully express concerns to anyone, let alone a person of higher power or authority.

It turns out that when it matters most, most of us do our worst at communicating our concerns. Disturbingly, almost two-thirds of survey respondents admitted they will quit before ever really speaking their mind.

However, a disagreeable boss does not have to be the ticket to a dead-end career. With the proper set of skills, any employee can turn a less-than-pleasant working relationship into one that will restore a desired level of respect and civility.

In fact, survey respondents who stated that they do speak up and feel skilled at holding what we call “crucial confrontations” with their bosses, were more satisfied with their current jobs and less likely to look elsewhere.

They were also less likely to bad-mouth the boss to others or to work around the boss’s weaknesses.

Learning how to communicate effectively

So, if you begin dragging your feet on the way to work because your boss is disagreeable—maybe even a jerk—use the following skills to successfully confront your manager and begin the path to career revival.

1. Work on you first, the boss second

Get your emotions in check by looking for how you may be adding to the problem. It isn’t that the boss doesn’t have faults; it’s that most people tend to exaggerate their boss’s problems and ignore how they may be contributing.

2. Hold the right conversation

Most people think they are giving their boss feedback, but fail to get to the real issue that concerns them.
If your fundamental concern is that your boss doesn’t respect you or that you don’t trust your boss, find a way to discuss that issue without skirting around it.

3. Start with safety

It can be tough to tell your boss you don’t trust him or her. But it is completely possible to do so without rupturing the relationship if you can help your boss feel safe.

People feel psychologically safe when they know you care about their interests and respect them.

Start with: “I have a concern I’d like to discuss. It’s important to me, but it’s also something I think will help me work more effectively. May I discuss it with you?”

4. Facts first
Don’t start with harsh judgements or vague conclusions like, “I don’t trust you,” or, “You’re a control freak.” Instead, start with the facts.

Strip out any judgemental or provocative language and be specific. For example, “After you told me you brought me up for a promotion in the human resource meeting, two people who were at that meeting e-mailed me and asked why you hadn’t recommended me for it.”

Joseph Grenny is New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and social scientist for business performance. His passion and expertise is human behaviour and its impact on business performance and relationships. He is a contributing columnist for BusinessWeek, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review. Joseph is also the co-founder of VitalSmarts, an organisation committed to teaching others how to effectively change human behaviour. To engage with him, e-mail us at editor@leaderonomics.com. For more Be A Leader articles, click here.

Reposted with permission on Leaderonomics.com.

Share This


Prethiba is passionate about impacting people through the written word. She believes that our lives are solely written by us, and thus the power to change for the better lies with us.

You May Also Like


Dismantling Global White Privilege | Chandran Nair

Join Roshan Thiran (Founder and CEO, Leaderonomics) and Chandran Nair (Founder and CEO, GIFT) as they discuss Nair's book, 'Dismantling Global White Privilege : Equity for a Post-Western World'!

Apr 03, 2022 38 Min Video

Be a Leader's Digest Reader