Close icon

Your RT Career

Coping with a Bad Boss

How to Cope with a Difficult Manager

A recent survey conducted by the staffing services firm OfficeTeams® found almost half of respondents reported working for an unreasonable manager at some point in their careers. Another survey by Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, found employees who have bad bosses spend about six hours every weekend worrying about them – and that’s on top of the 13 or so hours they already spent every workday doing the same thing.

Clearly bad bosses are bad for our psyches and our health! Improving the situation begins with understanding just why your boss is bad. Here are five common types and what you can do to cope with them —

The Micromanager

This type of boss has to be in control of everything and thus has great difficulty delegating tasks or trusting that those tasks will be accomplished appropriately when she/he does delegate. This boss doesn’t want to hear your ideas either and could care less about helping you reach your full potential.

How to cope:   Micromanagers often have problems trusting people, so earn that trust by coming in on time, working steadily throughout the day so treatments are not missed, and meeting deadlines when you’re assigned to special committees or projects. Be diligent when documenting patient care so it will be clear that you did what you said you did. Be sure to retain any emails or other written communication between yourself and your boss so you will have something to point to should any questions come up about your performance.

The Poor Communicator

This boss is the polar opposite of the micromanager. She/he provides little or no direction on anything – just expects you to know what she/he wants and get it done. For the most part, you’re left guessing about what the heck the boss wants you to do.

How to cope:   Ask questions upfront whenever you’re assigned a task that’s outside your comfort zone and keep asking until you get the answers you need to do a good job. If your boss appears exasperated with you for asking so many questions, simply explain that you want to make sure you understand the assignment before tackling it so that the outcomes will be favorable. When the task involves direct patient care, play the patient safety card and emphasize that you feel obligated to ensure the highest quality of care.

The Bully

A boss who belittles you in front of other staff members, who uses a threatening tone when asking you to do something, or who attempts to intimidate you by suggesting your job could be on the line is nothing more than a bully. And like all bullies, they are often operating out of fear of their own inadequacies.

How to cope:   First and foremost, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. A bully will never respect someone who cowers in front of him. But be sure to do it in a calm and respectful manner so there will be nothing in your behavior the boss can complain about to his superior. Once a bully sees that you are sure of yourself and not going to back down, this type of boss will usually learn to respect and trust you.

The Saboteur

This type of boss is quick to lay the blame on others when something goes wrong and just as quick to take all the credit when something goes right. She/he undermines the efforts of others and places all the emphasis on herself.

How to cope:   Share your successes at work with others on the health care team so they will know you’re doing a good job. To avoid getting blamed for something that goes wrong, retain a paper trail of emails or other written communication to use as Exhibit A should your boss start pointing the finger at you when outcomes are less than stellar.

The Incompetent

This boss may be perfectly nice and easy to get along with, but just doesn’t get their own job done. In fact, you’re left wondering how the boss ever got the job in the first place.

How to cope:   If your boss’s lack of leadership or direction for the department is painting RTs in a bad light in the facility as a whole, try to help him/her get better at their job by offering to take on tasks that could be delegated to a lower level employee. Your willingness to step in and lend a hand will be noticed and could bode well for your next career move.