7 ways to deal with a horrible boss

Ashley Mateo, SELF magazine

Jennifer Aniston plays a mean, man-eating manager in Horrible Bosses, but we all know America's favorite Friend is all sugar. What if your boss really is that brutal? Stay on their good side with these fail-proof pointers.

In Horrible Bosses, three friends fed up with their employers conspire to get rid of each other's awful bosses, permanently. It's a dark, screwball comedy where Aniston steps away from her typical rom-com role to get raunchy, and Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day and Jamie Foxx promise one hilariously misguided murder plot after another. Watch the trailer:


Your overbearing boss may not be blackmailing you into an affair or physically forcing you into alcoholism, but there are managers out there who just don't know how to treat the little people - even when those are the ones who keeping things running smoothly. Feeling under-appreciated, or even abused? We talked to Anita Bruzzese, author of 45 Things That Drive Your Boss Crazy, to find out how you can make your workplace a happy place.

"I don't want to trivialize what it's like to have a horrible boss. I think there are few things in life that are worse than having a horrible boss, including having a toenail fungus," says Bruzzese. "But I do think there are ways to make it more bearable, and that's what many of us have to do until the economy improves and we can all leave our bad bosses behind in the dust." Try these tactics to stay on your supervisor's good side.

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What can you do if you have a horrible boss? How can you make the best out of a situation where your supervisor is just not on your side?
In the short-term, I'd enlist some co-workers for some help. Not to murder the boss, of course...but to help watch your back for when the boss is out for blood, or just to go to lunch together and tell bad "knock knock" jokes. Go for a walk on your lunch hour just to break the stress. It's all about changing your perception of your job and how you want to live your life. For long-term help, I'd find a mentor who can give you professional advice or ask to cross-train in another department to get away from the a--hole boss for a while. The key is to take back control of your life and not to end up in a jail cell for offing your manager.

On the other hand, what if your boss is too friendly? How do you maintain a separation between a professional relationship and a personal one?
I think many people are so grateful the boss isn't making their lives miserable that they don't stop to think about the consequences of having the boss get too close. But such a relationship can be just as damaging, if not more so. Such a boss can become really possessive of your time because they feel so personally invested in you. You may begin to make career decisions based not on what you want or need, but what you believe the boss wants or needs.

A key here is to really try and put up some boundaries. That means you have separate private and professional social networking accounts, and let voicemail pick up your phone after hours when the boss calls. I wouldn't respond to personal e-mails or phone calls right away from the boss, but still respond in a timely way to work-related messages. You don't want to be a jerk about it, but there are lots of subtle ways you can let the boss know that you're keeping some things private. So, for example, I wouldn't broadcast your weekend plans at work in front of the boss. It's your responsibility to draw that line in the sand.

How about if your manager is usually pretty decent, but when they get stressed, they take it out on you? Is there an appropriate way to get them to stop using you as their scapegoat?
While your first reaction might be to egg the boss' car, you can't become angry. You've got to learn to think on your feet. When she first starts yelling or blaming you for something, take a deep breath and stay calm. You can ask questions to try and get at the core of the problem and ratchet down the emotion. Try saying something like: "Are you saying the delivery was late? Can you tell me who you talked to so I can trace the records and find a solution?" Don't tell the boss she has an attitude problem unless you really want to make some new friends in the unemployment line.

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If your supervisor is unhappy with you and telling other people about it, how can you protect your reputation?
This is when it pays to have built up your reputation capital. If you haven't done it, then you may have to take it on the chin until you do. But here's the key: You should be working on your professional reputation one layer at a time, so that when someone like your boss does take a potshot at it, it still is standing in pretty good shape.

That means you have a blog that shows off your professional expertise; you belong to industry associations where you are a board member or help organize seminars; you provide interesting industry links on Twitter; and post insightful comments and answer questions on LinkedIn. You are a vital part of your professional community and work to build your network so that when one boss makes spiteful comments, it barely makes a dent in your reputation.

Say you messed up at work. What's the best way to make amends and get back on track?
Sincerely apologize right away to those who were affected. Tell them how you're going to fix the mistake - if you can - and the lessons you've learned from it so it doesn't happen again. Then, you're going to have to just suck it up and show that you can be trusted again. There is no rule that says others have to forgive you, so forgive yourself, learn your lesson and move on.

When you need to talk to your manager about something important - a promotion, or maybe a raise - what's the best way to have that conversation work out in your favor?
Do your homework. No one is going to give you a raise or a promotion just because you're putting in extra hours these days and working really hard. Everyone is doing that. You're going to have to show how you're helping the company's bottom line. For example, maybe you found a glitch in the system that was costing the companies thousands of dollars a month. Or you brought in new customers. You've got to have the evidence that you're making a difference. One other thing: Don't back the boss into a corner. Present the reasons you believe you deserve a raise or promotion, then give the boss time to think about it. Don't threaten to leave if you don't get what you want, unless you're ready to back it up and walk out the door. And, in this job market, that's something you may want to think twice about.

What's the number one piece of advice you can share in order for someone to stay on a boss's good side?
If it's important to the boss, it should be important to you.

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