How to deal with a manager who hates you

Sometimes it’s your boss, sometimes it’s you. Columnist Rob Enderle writes that it’s important to figure out why you and your manager don’t get along. Then you have to decide if it’s something you can fix or if you simply need to get the hell out.

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Last week I discussed 15 ways to not get fired from your dream job and I actually got a decent amount of thank you email. One email, however, got me thinking. It was from a guy who was not getting along with his manager -- and man I’ve been there. I had this one manager who was a nightmare and I kind of went a little off the rails myself. Now when I spoke to others who had worked for him, something I should have done before I took the job, I found that not only wasn’t he a good manager, he was harsh to employees who aggressively wanted to advance, particularly if they were women.

We went sideways on two things. First, he ordered me to falsify quality records (which, as an ex-auditor I’d never do, no matter what). Then second, he gave me a bad review because I was new to the department. His argument was that new people didn’t know the job; therefore they should be reviewed down. Turned out I knew the rules better than he did and got this overturned, but he had it in for me after that.

[ Related: 10 Tips for Dealing with a Bully Boss ]

There was another manager who was excessively hard on me, but I actually learned a lot from him. I would never willingly work for someone who was so abusive again, but I don’t view the experience as wasted because he actually forced me to improve my work quality.

In that first case, looking back, it was a time at the firm when there was a lot of dead wood, folks who simply had decided to keep their heads down and work till pension (which didn’t work out that well given that the firm killed the pension program just before I left).  

Over the years I’ve gotten a lot better at working with managers. In general, I’ve had managers who were good and few who were spectacular.

[ Related: 11 Profiles in Bad Leadership Behavior ]

So here is my advice when you feel your manager has it in for you.

Figure out the ‘why’

This is important because it predicates what you do to fix the problem. To do this you have to at least consider that you may be the problem. I’ve been brought in several times where the employee thought their manager had it out for them, but the reality was that the employee just wasn’t doing the job they were hired for. They worked hard, often were helpful to other groups, but didn’t actually get the stuff they were hired to do done.

Little things like showing up late and leaving early can look like disrespect. Some of the nastiest problems result from folks who don’t realize they have a prejudice working for a someone they have been raised to feel superior too.   It might not be sex or race, it might be that they didn’t have what the employee thought was the appropriate university degree. However, this is the employee’s problem to fix.  

I’d begin by tracking down some of your manager’s ex-employees and ask how they did with your manager. If they had issues like yours -- particularly if they claim abuse, but have done well subsequent to leaving -- get out, don’t try to fix it. You can’t fix a bad manager. Working for a bad or abusive manager is just waste of your time. I would suggest, upon your exit interview, formally calling out the abuse because that may help your ex-coworkers and you aren’t going to get a good reference regardless of what you do.  

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