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How to Cope with a Bad Boss in a Dysfunctional Culture

When this happens it has a tremendous impact on a person’s engagement at work and also on their wellbeing and I have noticed it come up again and again in a range of contexts. It’s the double whammy that causes the problem I think – a great boss in a poor culture is often fine and the impact of a bad boss in a good culture can be managed much more easily.

When it happens it is not a good place to be. Your mindset could be one of feeling stuck, that you have no influence and that it is impossible to change. If this sounds familiar, there are things you can do though to unstick yourself, shift your mindset and create some momentum:

  1. Remind yourself that other people’s behaviour is not your responsibility, it’s theirs. You didn’t cause it and you can’t change it, only they can.
  2. Use the circle of influence and circle of concern (Steven Covey) to work out exactly what you can influence about your situation and what you can’t. Ask yourself if you do the things you have identified that you can influence, will this make a positive difference or could it make it worse? What are the risks and benefits to you, your career, your family.
  3. Find someone you trust to talk to about this and work it through. Consider someone who will support you to look objectively at your situation rather than join you in it. Consider a trusted colleague (not necessarily in your department or even organisation), a Mentor, Employee Assistance if you have it or a Coach.
  4. Build your professional network. Make an effort to build relationships with a range of people both inside and outside of your organisation over time, who you can both add value to, who you can learn from, who you can help and who could be a resource for you you one day.
  5. If there is no influencing this situation and you feel stuck, make long term career goal at least 5 years ahead (it’s not a bad idea to do this anyway). Then work out where you need to be in 3 years, 1 Year and 6 months from now to be on track to reach it. Once you have this begin to take some actions, one step at a time towards your first goal. Ask for help from the people you have identified that you trust (see points 3 and 4).

If you have experienced this and have some tips to add, or a specific question I would love to see your comments.

You can contact me on or +61 421 775 924


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