Before I launched my own business, I worked in the corporate arena for 18 years, and had many bosses during that time. Several were few truly fantastic, inspiring leaders and managers. But most were mediocre, and a few were absolutely terrible. One in particular comes to mind – an individual who was hired to lead a division but simply didn’t have the experience or know-how to do it. And worse, he didn’t have the personality, demeanor or willingness to learn that would have buoyed him through the tough times or support him during his steep learning curve. His extreme arrogance and disregard for others, and his pomposity kept him on downward spiral from the day he started. He was ultimately fired, but during his stay at the company, things went badly – for him and for all of those underneath him.
I remember one particular incident when we both needed to attend together an important meeting held by one of his senior peers. My boss and I were talking in his office before the meeting, and he simply kept talking, even though the meeting was starting on the other side of the building at that time. He just didn’t care – he thought he was more important. I reminded him we had to go (knowing that the leader holding the meeting was a stickler about respect and timeliness), and he said he didn’t care. At that time in my life, I didn’t have the backbone I needed to stand up for myself and thrive through corporate politics, and I felt I couldn’t just get up and leave. So we walked in to the meeting 10 minutes late. The Senior Vice President giving the meeting was absolutely furious, and dressed my manager down in front of the whole assembly. Unfortunately, it didn’t just reflect poorly on my boss - we both look very bad.
In my work now coaching emerging and established leaders, many of whom are dealing with similar situations, I’ve seen that there are three essential behaviors that will help you keep your good reputation intact, and support you to honor your own values and become the respected, inspiring force in your organization that you long to be:
Stand Firm In Your Integrity
If I were to go back and live all my corporate years again, knowing what I know now, and being the person I am now, I would do it all very differently. I would rise up, speak up and stand up boldly for myself, during all those times I stayed silent. And I would stay resolute and firm in what I valued and believed in, not caved. I would have honored my own standards of integrity, and spoken up in support of them, bravely.
In the case above where my boss didn’t care that he was making us both late to an important meeting, I should have said this (and would now):
“Stan, I hate to cut you off, but I don’t want to be late to this meeting. It’s important to me to be respectful of other people’s time, and I also don't want to miss any of the information shared at the meeting because it impacts my work.”
Now, at age 56, I wouldn’t care at all if my boss (especially a bad one) didn’t like that. Tough. That’s who I am, and if I’m to thrive in my work, I have to be able to honor in my words and action what I believe in, and support my own non-negotiables and standards of integrity. What about you?
Don’t Backstab Or Condemn, But Separate Yourself From The Behavior
When you have a terrible boss like this one above, you feel trapped. You hate how he behaves, but you feel you can’t do anything about it for fear that you’ll be punished. What happens when people have so much fear and anxiety but feel they can’t talk directly to the person causing it? We “triangulate” – we find another party we can vent our anger and anxiety to. In cases like this, for example, employees backstab their bosses at every turn, condemning them and hating on them for all the behavior we hate.
The problem with backstabbing is that it doesn’t address the problem – it only exacerbates it. Instead of figuring out how to deal with your challenges in an empowered way, you spread the toxicity by sharing it with others. In effect, you broadcast your own misery and disempowerment, and that doesn’t help you or the situation.
Instead, you need to find empowered ways to separate yourself from the very behavior you reject. If your boss is always late and you hate it, focus on being on time and early wherever you can. If your boss treats everyone disrespectfully, you make sure that you are respectful, caring, courteous and empathetic to everyone you deal with. If your manager can’t do the work he’s assigned and blames everyone else for what goes wrong, make sure that you do the opposite - perform your responsibilities and do your work in a stellar fashion, and support your team to the utmost. Live the behavior you want to broadcast.
Awful behavior can’t be combated effectively through backstabbing and clandestine condemnation. To be the person you want to be, you have to shine your light brightly and remain steadfast in your commitment to the brave, positive and uplifting behavior and language you want to be known for.
Align Yourself With Uplifting, Empowering Leaders
If your boss is terrible, find other mentors and sponsors in the organization whom you admire and trust, and support them. (Sponsors are mentors who have influence and power to help you when you’re NOT in the room.) Find ways to their advance their goals and work while doing your own. Volunteer for a great project in their department, get in their sphere socially, and demonstrate your great potential to them. I don’t mean you should man a campaign against your boss. I mean – if you want to soar like an eagle, you have to first identify the right eagles to associate with.
I’ve seen over and over that when we are able to remain true to our own standards of integrity, stay steadfastly committed to being who we want to be, and gain powerful support of others who are both influential and like-minded in their goals, actions and standards, we can thrive through the toughest of times, even horrible bosses who don’t care who they bring down.
Read the original article on Forbes.