Yes, your boss is a tool, but here's how to make that headache situation work FOR you.
Is your boss the worst? Do you come home stressed out and ready to quit each day?
Let's face it, in the modern work world, with its "work 'til you drop" hyper-competitive agenda, ending up with a boss you kind of hate is fairly common.
Of course friends you complain to say things like, "You should just be glad you have a job at all!" But you know that toxic dynamic is eating at you and affecting your life in a negative way. You're proud of the hard work you do at your job but that doesn't change the fact that you didn't sign on to just be some big-wig's whipping post — it doesn't change your dwindling career happiness.
You show up each and every day. You do your best to work efficiently and you know you're dang good at what you do. And still, there's that one guy (or gal) who just can't seem to lay off.
You know, logically, that there are positives in the situation, but it's awfully difficult believing that when your boss' acidic comments rain down on you non-stop. Whether your boss is overtly an ass or an expert at passive aggressive ass-ness, we've all been in that place when we feel unappreciated and, worse, absolutely powerless.
Here's how to reframe that situation, totally change the game and take your power back with 4 simple practices (and they DO take practice):
1. Stay true to yourself
Take a moment and write down some things you absolutely love about yourself (personally and professionally). If you need help, ask your friends to reflect your greatness back to you. Whatever is on the list: creativity, compassion, strategic thinking, strength, humility — those skills are part of who you really are. Yes, you're frustrated, exhausted, and depleted, but it's important to remember your unique strengths when you feel weak or put down. Focus on your strengths every day. The more you pour your energy into them, the more they become recognized by others (even if your boss never sees those attributes). So celebrate those strengths in yourself first.
2. Use every opportunity to practice who you are
Patience isn't just granted from some divine being, it's developed through numerous opportunities where patience is undoubtedly required. The same is true of each and every one of those qualities you already possess. Once you're calm, cool, and collected think about past tongue-lashings from your boss and determine how each of those experiences might have served as an opportunity to practice creativity, compassion, strength, or humility. Now visualize what a future blow-up might look like — how will you handle it differently? The brain doesn't know the difference between what's happening in real-time and what you're imagining, so start training your mind with some big wins for yourself and you'll begin to show up in interactions with your boss differently.
Not ready to face the boss again head on? Indirect practice is an option. If being compassionate matters to you, for example, practice that at work in general. Instead of venting about your boss to others, get outwardly curious and ask yourself, "What happens to a person that makes them lose all compassion for others? How sad that he's been through something so hurtful, that he's like this." Through this lens of compassion, perhaps you'll see how hard your boss's boss is on him, realizing what a difficult position that is answering up while managing a team below you.
Perhaps, there are things at stake you're not privy to that make his job tougher than it looks. Add these realizations to the dialogue; give others the same opportunity to change their painful perception. In doing this, you become more of who you already are and you establish a very positive reputation with the right people. Which brings me to the my next point ...
3. Surround yourself with people willing to grow and evolve
Misery loves company. So, when you show up with more compassion towards "the common enemy" (a.k.a. your boss) expect some backlash from colleagues who have no desire to change anything, including no desire to see you break free from the situation. They're looking for validation that they're right — he IS an ass. They may even call you a suck-up or a sycophant. Let them have their old, hurtful story while you build a more positive one for yourself.
Also, stay on the lookout for people willing to step into a helpful story with you. These new friends may become some of the best advocates you have over time because they're willing to let circumstances change.
4. Prepare yourself for big changes
When a wounded animal acts out of fear or hurt, you don't blame the animal and you certainly don't take it personally. Once you're really adept at using your painful situations to build yourself up (it was never your boss' job to do that, anyway) you stop taking other people's behavior personally. Your defenses come down and your energy opens up to the work you really want to do. No one is ever creative or productive when they're feeling defensive and worn down.
As you change your own energy and mindset in the situation, you open the floodgates that improve your output, build a strong reputation and/or portfolio, and create momentum in your career (with our without your boss's support). Be prepared for promotions or other job opportunities to come out of nowhere.
You're showing up differently now and people flock to positivity.
As long as your boss is to blame for your soul-sucking professional life, you're relinquishing power to him — you're letting him determine not just your work experience, but your life experience, as well. The moment you say, "I get to choose what I build in myself," you rewrite the story and you take back control.
Pick traits you want to build. Build those traits with gratitude. Then wait for miracles to happen simply because, after all this time, you're back in the driver's seat, baby!!