A reader’s recent question about a resume-stealing coworker prompted a slew of other work- and career-related queries, and an unsettling amount of them involved terrible human beings doing terrible things at work. Here’s one about a topic close to our hearts: horrible bosses. Take a look:
OK, I have a question too. I’m a marketing associate at [a media company]. I’ve only been out of school for two years, and I really want to move up in my career. I’m not sure how to do that, because my boss is taking credit for my work! She literally–and repeatedly–takes the work I do and tells the executives that she did it. Not that she asked me to do it, but that she did it! Once she even told them that she had to do it because I wasn’t capable of doing it—and I was sitting right there! I’ve asked her about it, but she just said “that’s how the real world works.” I’ve considered talking to HR or her boss (or both), but I’ve heard a lot of conflicting advice about that. I work very hard and I really want to advance, but I don’t feel like I can if this keeps happening. Help!!!
That’s a terrible situation, Miserable. So terrible, in fact, that I’m willing to overlook your abuse of the exclamation point and give you some advice.
No, I don’t mean right now. I mean start looking for another gig ASAP, and tough it out with your crappy boss until you find one. And I don’t mean to be flippant. I’ve been in a similar situation, and it was wretched beyond belief. The reason my response is so short is because quitting is really your only option. I posed your question to our very own Todd Cherches, a man who knows a thing or two about horrible bosses. He summed it masterfully:
“One of a boss’s primary responsibilities should be to set his/her people up for success. Part of doing that is managing them, training them, coaching them, and leading them,” Cherches said. “This includes recognizing and rewarding them for their contributions by acknowledging their work and giving credit both publicly and privately where credit is due. Strong, confident, and effective managers/leaders take pride in the success of their people and are happy to sing their praises. It creates a win-win situation and is at the foundation of employee engagement.”
“But that doesn’t seem to be the case with this horrible boss. Her quote, ‘that’s how the real world works’ pretty much sums it up. But you know what? That is NOT how the ‘real world’ works—that is how it works in the world of this miserable tyrant. Since people like this rarely change their stripes, it’s probably time to move on to a new and better world. Based on my personal experience, going above their head or to HR with situations like this rarely works. It generally just leads to your boss finding out and then treating you even worse.”
And there you have it. Since you’re not going to be able to correct your boss’s bad behavior—and since your boss likely has direct control over whether or not you get promoted—you’re essentially in a no-win scenario. Find a new job and don’t look back. Consider this a valuable life lesson: now you can spot a terrible boss from a mile away.