THE BLOG

Bad Bosses Happen, But Suffering Is Optional

04/01/2015 06:17 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2015
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Talent leaves an organization when they're badly managed or when the organization fails to inspire them or provide room for new challenges and growth. You need to use your professional power and take control of your career trajectory. If you have a bad boss, suffering in silence (or out loud) is not a wise career strategy.

I encourage you to take your power back in your work environment. Here are techniques to rehabilitate or activate a new relationship with your boss. You also need to know when it's time to move on.

1. Don't Get Angry, Get Active!
Ranting and raving about your boss may be cathartic in the privacy of your own home, but hold your tongue and remain professional at all times in the workplace. Take the high road, never burn a professional bridge and channel your energy and your anger to create an action plan. Whether you spend this energy trying to connect with your boss on a new level or looking for a new opportunity, it's a better use of your valuable time and drive.

2. Leaders Control The Weather
When your boss is having a bad day, the mood in the entire office changes palpably. Will there be stormy weather or clear skies in the department today? You can usually read the boss barometer pretty quickly to check his or her mood.

While changing the mood of your boss may seem like an impossible task, know the power of positivity and how contagious it can be. Don't fall into the trap of commiserating with your boss and letting him/her dwell on what's upsetting in the first place. Redirect to something positive. An accomplishment you bring to the table is always a good subject and can change the mood from dour to productive quickly.

Be sure to smile and show open and positive body language (no crossed arms) to send the signal that you are powerful, positive and professional.

3. Know How to Communicate With Your Boss
Figure out your boss's work and communication style and deliver your message accordingly. For example, does your boss respond better to verbal or written communication? Does he/she need specific details or a big picture overview? Is she/he a planner or more spontaneous in implementing tasks?

Most conflicts in the workplace come from differences in personality, communication and work styles. Understanding how your boss operates may alleviate some of your stress and give you and your boss better clarity of expectations. So watch, listen and ask others who have institutional history to share their strategies for dealing with your boss.

4. Your Boss Is Not a Mind Reader
I am amazed at how many people complain about work issues that their boss is not aware of. If you have concerns, make them known and come to the table with solutions. Empty complaints are not well received, but any boss welcomes problems with suggested solutions. Even if your suggestion is not implemented it provides you with a valuable opportunity to be seen and heard.

5. Work Your Way Out of a Job
Managing up is essential so your boss knows the contribution you make in the organization. Don't wait for the annual performance review. Send a brief email regularly with bullet points about what you have accomplished as well as some stretch goals. Be clear that no response is required so this does not add to your boss's workload. This is a great technique that can lead to a promotion or expanded responsibilities. You must make your successes known for it's rare that a well-kept secret is celebrated.

While you are managing up, if you seek promotion or more complex work - be sure to make that known.

Channel your grit, ambition and determination and be sure your boss is aware of your future goals.

Find Advocates Beyond Your Boss - Some bosses won't ever serve as your mentor or sponsor so look beyond to find people who will support you on your professional journey. A sponsor will put their professional reputation on the line for you when you have earned it so you must make your value clear and well known.

If you seek opportunities in another organization - being your own best self-advocate is essential. Think like a PR agent and create and broadcast your professional brand so you are recruit-able beyond your current role and company.

Create a Followership - Bosses tend to notice people and actions that impact the bottom-line and raise the awareness for the organization (or the boss) to the outside world. Become the person who people follow in your organization and beyond. Use LinkedIn to write blogs, speak at your industry association meetings, and be known as a thought leader in your career field. Whether people are following the content you put out into the world, or internal colleagues are seeking you out for wisdom and counsel - your boss will notice.

Exhibit Stellar Leadership Behavior - Even if you are not the big boss, you may supervise others. Be the leader that coaches and mentors direct reports. Be an active listener and provide challenge and accountability for your team. Become a multiplier who helps others grow and develop and create a culture you would want from your boss. I have seen many a big boss learn great things from leaders on lower rungs of the organizational ladder.

Know When It's Time to Go - As hard as you may try, you may never click with your boss and it's important to evaluate what you need from your leader in a work environment. If your boss is squelching your creativity and career mobility, then seriously consider moving on. You should be looking for a boss who will optimize your strengths and give you an opportunity to take on new challenges, debate decisions, and invest in your role in the organization with direct buy-in and accountability.

The perfect boss may be difficult to find so while you are questing, capitalize on your expanded network within and beyond your organization to find mentorship, leadership, and the professional respect you deserve.

Interview Your New Boss - If you decide it's time to move on and find a new leader that will empower your career, by all means put them through their paces in your job interview. Don't assume that your next boss will be better. Far too many people miss out on questioning their prospective boss when they interview. Know what you are getting into and ask your prospective colleagues for feedback as well.

Here are some questions to ask during an interview:
• What is your leadership style?
• How do you mentor or sponsor your team members and encourage their professional development?
• Of all the people who have worked for you, who are you the most proud of and why?
• Can you describe a conflict between you and your team and how it was resolved?
• Why did the person who left this position move on?
• What are your future goals for the team and this role?

Don't ever relinquish your career power. Bad bosses and bad jobs happen but suffering is indeed optional. Activate your custom plan for success now!

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the second edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to AOL Jobs, CNN Money and the British online magazine - The Rouse. She is hosting a new webisode series called Thrive! about career life empowerment for women and hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life - check it out on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook,LinkedIn, and Twitter.