Is your boss a tyrant? There’s no need to sit around and watch as they prove destructive for your company. Fortunately, modern restructuring of traditional workplace values has provided any individual with the means necessary to speak out against a bad boss.
This article assumes that you’ve already done the research necessary to prove that your boss is objectively harmful for the company and for your team dynamics. I’ve written a piece about this, and I recommend reading it before this post. Take your time, I’ll wait.
Now then, I’m not suggesting that you immediately leave your job or try to get your boss fired; in this scenario, especially with the imbalance of power at work, it helps to be patient and take a very gradual approach. Generally, it pays to put in the effort to try to maintain your relationship with your boss; after all, they should be invested in the success of the company.
Some companies may already have measures in place to give management feedback. The idea behind these systems is to provide staff—and middle managers—the means to inform executives of their concerns, anonymously if necessary. Other companies have instituted “blind review” processes, in which any new project is presented to team members without knowledge of who submitted the idea, giving them the opportunity to criticize the plan without fear of reprisal.
While these methods are effective, it is perhaps more likely that, if you are in a situation with a bad boss, no such systems are in place. Often, just hearing from employees that there are concerns about their management styles can be eye opening for them if they’ve been previously unaware of their behavior. That said, any decision about personally approaching a boss with criticism should be carefully considered. After all, you’d ideally like to preserve your relationship as well as possible, and any conversation in this vein should ideally be well thought out and nonconfrontational.
If you feel uncomfortable approaching your boss, appeal to either their supervisor or an HR professional, presenting well-thought out objections to their behavior. This may seem like an obvious next step, but the key to success here is patience—allow some time for change to occur. If the behavior continues three weeks to a month following your notice, there are other options to consider.
The next step is to get a sense of whether your coworkers feel the same way as you. This can be a tricky thing to evaluate; if you gather up a group of coworkers and ask them for concerns about your current boss, they may take this as an opportunity to air all of their grievances—incensed by their coworkers—and focus on small, irrelevant details instead of larger communication problems that should be fixed. Instead, ask them personally, and once common concerns have been discovered, approach your boss as a group to make them understand how their behavior is affecting their subordinates. Whatever you do, stay measured and collected—a boss may be put on the defensive if they feel they are facing down an angry mob. Make the meeting a conversation rather than a confrontation.
If none of these approaches work, it may be time to escalate further. If your boss has been unwilling to listen to you, your fellow employees, or an HR professional, it may be time to take action to rectify their behavior and remove them from their position if necessary. This is, of course, incredibly risky, and in some cases, it may be better to simply find a new job or change departments. Understand that, if you choose to take action to discredit or fire your boss, you will likely suffer the brunt of their ill will, even if other employees agree with your assessment of them.
For that matter, proper preparation is key. Evidence and documentation go a long way towards proving that a boss is mistreating employees, as does the support of coworkers and their testimony. Furthermore, you should search for other jobs, as trying to get a boss fired may lead in your removal, even if you’re correct about their behavior. Sometimes, upper management may take their side for personal reasons or out of the sincere belief that they are competent at their job.
Consider company values when attempting this. If a company truly cares about its employees and is willing to hear you out, you might have a chance of success. However, if they are not willing to foster a culture that values a comfortable and communicative working environment, any plan to displace a poorly performing boss may very well backfire on you.
While the approach here is similar to others that we’ve talked about—it involves going to a higher up and presenting your concerns—this is a much more formal affair that involves the extensive presentation of evidence to anyone with the capacity to act on your findings. This is the business equivalent of all out war, not to be attempted unless all other options have failed.
If you succeed, then you’ve done the company a great service in removing or changing the behavior of an individual that has hurt team performance. If you fail, it could make the problem worse, so be prepared to quit on your own terms if the situation goes south.
With any luck, you’ll never have to consult this article for guidance. However, business, much like every other part of life, is inevitably filled with people that you don’t see eye to eye with. Some of them may even be in charge of you. This puts you in a difficult situation, but not one that you are powerless to do anything about. Stay smart, and know that anybody has the capacity to change their workplace for the better.