Do you have a bad boss? Or do you just have a difficult boss who challenges you for the right reasons? A “challenging” boss isn’t a terrible person or an inept manager; they just push you outside your comfort zone. A bad boss, by comparison, isn’t good for you or your career and isn’t helping you grow. Bad bosses don’t push you outside of your comfort zones; they just make you uncomfortable.
So, what’s the difference, and which one are you dealing with? Here’s how to tell.
How do you feel after a conversation ends?
You’ve had a difficult interaction and your boss is now walking away. How do you feel? Are you excited to get back to work? Do you feel as though you may have fallen short this time, but you know what to do going forward, and you can’t wait to take another shot? If that’s the case, you probably have a “difficult” boss. Yes, you tense up at the sound of her footsteps. But afterward, you feel motivated to impress her with your next attempt. When a bad boss walks away, you simply feel demoralized. You wish you could leave the office and not come back.
Do you have a roadmap?
A difficult boss may not seem to love your work, but she gives you a clear roadmap from wherever you are to a point of success. She’s like a demanding coach—she’ll make you run a hundred laps, but you know exactly why you’re running them. You know where you need to go, and you trust her to get you there. A bad boss just doesn’t love your work, period. He offers no guidance or direction and makes no effort to earn your trust or help you improve. If you follow where he leads, you’ll move in circles until the day you decide to stop.
Do you have support?
Your first attempt may have been a mess, but your second was an obvious improvement. How does your boss react? A difficult boss gives encouragement when it’s due (even if reluctantly). A bad boss gives nothing. In fact, he may give you the runaround when you ask for the minimum resources your job requires, including data, better tools, a raise or help with a problem.
Are you truly miserable?
Toxic or abusive relationships aren’t always easy to spot and stop right away. If they were, they would never happen. Instead, the true nature of the relationship slips in unnoticed and builds for a long time before it’s recognized and addressed. Take a moment to assess the situation objectively, without making any excuses for yourself or the other person. If you don’t like what you see, you CAN do better. Talk to the experts at PSU and start planning your move to a better job somewhere else.