The National Boss's Day is celebrated in the US and Canada this Monday. While it is meant to show appreciation to bosses, it is one of those Hallmark holidays, and it is often either forgotten or consciously ignored by disgruntled employees.

But whether the holiday is observed or not, it is never a waste to take stock of your relationship with your boss, which might be driving your feelings about your job, your performance or even your self-esteem.

A healthy relation takes flexibility from both sides and strong people and management skills from the boss to be able to run the business and meet corporate goals without crushing anyone's individuality. It also takes understanding from a worker of the limitations of his boss's powers and mandates. Clashes might become inevitable in many situations. But the best relationships are often developed when different interests and goals are aligned so that the gap is as narrow as possible.

From a corporate point of view, a happier employer is more productive; and therefore companies are often keen to assess their staff engagement. Some good news came a survey in the US ahead of the Boss's Day that found a majority of 59 per cent of American workers saying that their boss is great and they wouldn't change a thing.

Even a larger majority of 78 per cent felt their boss would "go to bat" for them if their job is a risk. The survey was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of Adecco Staffing US on the occasion and surveyed a sample of 834 full or part-time employed Americans in September.

However there is the other side of the coin. Anyone who has been stuck with a bad boss in a job knows how frustrating this could be, particularly in this economy that limits staff mobility and external opportunities. If you're one of the less happy employees, you might need to look into a few points:

What is the problem?

Bad bosses do exist. But there are two points to consider before jumping into the conclusion that your boss is one of them: the first is what your points of concern or grievance are. If you're just vaguely unhappy with everything that your boss does and says, you might be driven by negative vibes, or politics, around the workplace or by your boss's inability to connect and engage. Be sure that your problems are yours, rather than fed to you by others who might have other reasons for rejecting the boss. If you are able to pinpoint valid and clear objections, move to the second point which is to define your share of responsibility in complicating this relationship. Even recognising that a minor change in your conduct could have made a difference may lead you to how to proceed with finding a solution.

The way forward

You've to find a way not only to co-exist with your boss, but to be able to enjoy your work and advance. The first option is to work out the problems, but if this solution has already been exhausted try to the ground rules that allow you some room to manage your work with as limited interaction as possible. This might be a tricky one as it depends on where you stand on the corporate ladder and how much support you might get to achieve semi-autonomy or to move to another position that is beyond the boss's immediate reach. If you succeed, however, then learn to disregard the portions of negativity, nagging, poor conduct, and so on that you'll be still forced to put up with.

How to communicate

Communication is prescribed any day as the best solution for all problems from marriage to business. However, when it comes to dealing with a bad boss, the level and content of communication need to be in check. Don't keep your grievances to yourself either. In every possible way, document your problems while you focus on the facts and seek solutions in a constructive way. Including a third party, such as a human resources representative, might be a good idea if confidence has already been lost between the two of you.

Open to a fresh start

Don't be carried away with your frustration and miss signals of improvement in your boss's conduct. If a supervisor's performance is consistently poor, they might be under pressure from higher management to change. This can only be accomplished if everyone around supports the improvement.

This might sound like too much to ask if problems run deep and hard feelings have accumulated. However, by doing so you're making the workplace more tolerable for both of you, and doing the right thing, both professionally and personally.


Dealing with a bad boss

  •  Focus on real problems and constructive solutions.
  • Seek less interaction if the relationship is unmanageable.
  •  Communicate appropriately.
  •  Be ready to forgive and forget.

Rania Oteify, a former Business Features Editor at Gulf News, is a freelance journalist based in Seattle.