When starting a new job, there is any amount of fear and trepidation. Meeting new people, encountering new situations and learning new skills can be very exciting and a little scary. But whether starting a brand new job or working in the same position for 20 years, almost everyone has a supervisor, often called a boss.

Bosses can come is all shapes and sizes, and not just demographically. Bosses can be compassionate or standoffish, friendly or aloof, lenient or tough. The ideal boss encompasses a balance between all of these qualities. But in too many cases, a mean boss comes along and blows other bosses out of the water.

What is a “Mean Boss?”

A mean boss is completely circumstantial and subjective. The mean boss that one person thinks is terrible, another may think is not so bad. But a few things are universal to describe a mean boss. First, a mean boss is usually tough, bordering on aggressive. The mean boss just seems to be mean-spirited and does things to hurt his or her employees, even if that is not actually the case. The mean boss never seems to take an interest in his or her employees, does not know their spouse’s or childrens’ names and does not offer positive feedback. The mean boss is overwhelmingly negative most of the time. But in many cases, a mean boss is simply bad because there is a personality conflict.

Understanding a Mean Boss

Supervisors are often under a great amount of pressure that lower level or mid level employees cannot always see. In sales professions, for example, bosses are expected to meet certain sales goals. If those goals are not met, the supervisor can lose his or her job. In those cases, supervisors are under pressure from their supervisors to push employees to succeed.

In other instances, particularly those where a boss has not always been so terrible, something may be going on behind the scenes. Trouble at home or other external pressures may cause a supervisor to lash out on his or her employees. For example, if a boss’ marriage is on the rocks, the boss may start working later hours and expect employees to do the same. If a boss is fighting at home with his or her teenage children, he or she may be more defensive at work and lash out. While it is important for work life and personal life to stay separate, it is not always possible to distinctly remove those two parts of one’s life.

Another explanation for a mean boss is that this managerial style is the only one he or she was ever taught. If a boss has risen through the ranks at a particular company and the managerial style is rather strict, that individual will only ever treat employees the same way. Often, bosses do not have a great deal of education in the psychology of employment and do not know how to relate to employees. If a boss has changed jobs from one style of management to another, he or she may not fully embrace the new environment.

What to do About a Mean Boss?

So what can be done about a mean boss? First, continue to produce great work. If the boss continues to refrain from compliments or kind words, ask his or her supervisor to address the issue. Do not complain about the boss to coworkers and other employees because that is inappropriate. Ask the boss’ supervisor for a meeting to explain the concerns. In severe situations, including those involving sexual harassment, lodge a formal complaint.

If that option does not seem feasible, there is always the old stand-by of ignoring the problem. And there is nothing wrong with that. If the problems with the boss are not enough to impact that quality of the work, maybe letting it go is the best option. However, it is so serious that it impacts the work environment, the quality of the work or the overall product, addressing the issues with the boss is the best option.

A word of caution though, being angry with a boss because of a small thing is not enough reason to lodge a complaint. Also, attempt to work through the problem first, asking the boss about him or herself and attempting to build a much needed rapport. In cases where having an ally in the office does not cool the bosses jets, either let it go to take it a step further. But do not, under any circumstance, go to the boss’ supervisor for spiteful reasons. That is petty and can result in termination of his or her employment.

Final Words

Dealing with a mean boss can make the entire workday miserable. But by staying cool under pressure and addressing serious situations, handling a mean boss is a snap.

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