For most people, job stress is the most significant form of stress they have. The American Institute of Stress reports that 80% of workers feel stress at work, and four out of 10 workers say their jobs are either very stressful or extremely stressful. This stress in the workplace originates from job security, workload, work-life balance, and, of course, people issues.
In virtually every business environment, interaction is key to successful day-to-day operations. We interact with clients, co-workers, and our superiors. When we have an exceptional boss or manager, it makes life at work a bit easier — guards are down for the most part, and everyone is able to be on the same page.
On the other hand, having a bad manager or boss can result in higher levels of work-related stress and lower levels of employee satisfaction. Data published by Inc. indicates that a shocking 75% of employees report that their boss is the worst part of their job, and 65% say they’d take a new boss over a pay raise.
Sure, good employees make every effort to perform their best in any situation. However, employees are also conditioned to follow a leader, and when that leader is a mess, an employee may follow right behind. Harvard Business Review published the results of a study of 30,000 managers. The results indicated that over and over again, some 300,000 employees cited the same flaws among their bosses.
Let’s take a closer look at those flaws and how you can get a handle on each situation.
1. Your boss fails to inspire
Oftentimes, when people think of a bad boss, images of a tyrant in a business suit yelling, “Do this now or you’re fired” at his or her subordinates may come to mind. While a bully does make a really bad boss, this was not the top reported complaint among workers.
The No. 1 complaint among employees pertaining to their bosses was a boss who failed to pump them up, failed to get anyone excited about the work they were doing, and neglected to make employees feel as if what they were doing was important. “Again and again failed leaders were described by their colleagues as unenthusiastic and passive. This was in fact the most noticeable of all their failings,” said Harvard Business Review.
What you can do: If your boss is a “monotonous Mikey,” or even if he or she makes you feel unimportant, it’s best to look for motivation and affirmation elsewhere. Particularly within yourself, but you can also find support and encouragement from your coworkers and family members. Also, keep in mind that numerical data and metrics generally paint pretty accurate pictures — use those numbers to guide you and motivate you, as well.
2. Your boss is OK with things being “just OK”
“So we’ve been meeting our monthly goals for the past two years — let’s keep meeting those goals,” your boss says to you in a team meeting. A boss who doesn’t reach for better or encourage his or her employees to try and do better is settling for “just OK.”
“The poorest leaders did not set stretch goals, inadvertently encouraging mediocre performance by letting people coast along doing less work, less well than their counterparts working for better managers,” according to Harvard Business Review.
What you can do: If you’ve been meeting your goals with one hand tied behind your back, so to speak, set new goals for yourself. It’s highly unlikely that any of your superiors will complain about you doing “too well.” Setting new goals is essential, because without something to look forward to, people can easily lose interest in what they’re doing.
An old saying advises that “When you think you’re ripe, you’re rotting. But, when you think you’re green, you’re ripening.” No matter how skilled you are at something, you always have more to learn. The moment you forget that, you are asking for trouble.
3. Your boss fails to provide clear direction and vision
“Poor leaders have a murky view of the future, don’t know precisely what direction to take, and are (not surprisingly) unwilling to communicate about the future, leaving their subordinates with no clear path forward,” says Harvard Business Review.
For employees who thrive on rules and structure, a boss who fails to provide adequate direction can be exceptionally challenging to deal with. Without clear direction, employees are left confused, frustrated, and unable to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities.
What you can do: If you don’t know, ask. It’s generally best to keep your questions as clear and direct as possible, and of course, keep your frustration in line and be respectful. Do the best with the answers you receive and try to learn from others around you while still doing your best work possible.
4. There’s no “boss” in the word “team”
The worst leaders view their colleagues as competition, rather than teammates. These leaders do not have good working relationships with others, and if they do, they are rocky at best. They are also focus primarily on themselves — they are poor coaches and mentors, as their focus is on how upper management views them, as opposed to the successes and futures of their subordinates and of the team as a whole.
What you can do: Track and document your accomplishments. Include the details of each project, its requirements, and anything you did that went above and beyond the standard. Also, keep in mind that the only person you can control is you — although it’s easier said than done, don’t let it get to you, and also, always take the high road, no matter what happens at work.
5. Your boss talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk
“Saying one thing and doing another is the fastest way to lose the trust of all your colleagues. The worst offenders here also pose a wider threat as dangerous role models — creating the risk that their organizations will degenerate if others behave as they do,” per Harvard Business Review.
This type of boss makes commitments that he or she doesn’t keep. In many cases, he or she either forgets, realizes keeping the promise is unfeasible, or doesn’t deem the commitment important enough to follow through. Sometimes, complacency or an “I don’t have to answer to him or her” attitude causes a boss to break commitments.
What you can do: Be someone people at work can count on to get things done. Even if your boss breaks his or her commitments, you won’t, and if you say you’re going to do something, it will be completed. Also, take everything day by day and rely on yourself and others who you know will get the job done.