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How to cope with a bad boss

How do I cope when I’ve got a really bad boss, and how should I respond when I frequently get told to just f******g do it (JFDI) by my boss or their boss?

Sadly, this is a question that I get asked on a semi-regular basis, and my answer is, it depends.

One of the first steps is to take personal responsibility for understanding the purpose of what it is you are being told to do. And let’s be clear here, if you get a JFDI, it’s a direct instruction as opposed to a request.

We should, if possible, take personal responsibility for asking questions about the task in a constructive manner so that we can better understand what it is we are being told to do and, ultimately, what it is designed to achieve. This potentially does a number of things;

  • It enables us to complete the task as effectively as possible.
  • It helps us accept a task that we may not 100% agree with.
  • It means that we won’t flounder or appear incompetent as a leader when we, in turn, have to delegate parts of the task to our team.

Sometimes, this approach will give us and our teams answers and clarity, and sometimes, it won’t.

If we’ve tried to understand and challenge constructively and the response is still JFDI, then the best response is often just to get on and execute the task. We could continue to fight or moan to anyone and everyone that will listen, but in doing so, we are simply delaying the inevitable and allowing ourselves to be negatively affected by the situation. Far better to get the thing done as quickly as possible and then get back to other tasks that you and your team enjoy more and those tasks that you have more freedom and autonomy over.

But what do we say to our teams in these situations?

The answer here, again, is it depends. And it really depends on your personal values and the broader relationship you have with your boss and the organisation.

Personally, in a situation like this, where I have tried to seek understanding from my boss, I would say something like this.

“Look guys, we’ve been told that we need to just get on and do this. I’ve expressed my concerns and tried my best to gain more understanding of why, but I’ve not been given anything else. That being the case, let’s just get it done asap so that we can get on with X.”

One final JFDI response to consider.

If this is the general leadership style that you experience from your boss – or indeed the organisation – and you’ve tried the steps above for a decent amount of time…it may be time to consider your future. Is this really the right organisation for you?

Can you be the leader that you want to be working for this particular boss? And perhaps more importantly, what impact are they having on your life and well-being?

So, what about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience in the comments below.

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