5 Lessons I Learned From Bad Managers


Big city, new job: bad manager?

Let’s be real. Everyone will have at least one bad manager in their lifetime. Having only one is what would be considered a miracle.

It’s a frustrating experience, to say the least, yet it’s one that has a lot of value. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned through my bad management experiences.

Be more assertive.

No one is going to save you from your situation. If you’re like most people you have no way out of this situation other than quitting your job and that just isn’t always the best solution. So speak up. Tell your mentors that you are having a hard time and that you need advice. Figure out what your options are to make your situation more tolerable. Figure out what you need from your boss to do your job better and discuss your expectations with your manager. Ask what hers are. And when you aren’t given clear answers, let it be known.

Seek advice and feedback constantly.

This is important no matter what position you’re in or what kind of boss you have. However, this is even more important if you have a manager who doesn’t set clear expectations, communicate effectively or regularly review your work. The last thing you want is to be surprised with a less than stellar review when you believe you have produced high-quality work. By establishing a consistent and informal communication process (e.g. monthly checkpoint meetings) you can minimize the risk of any surprises.

Take mental health days.

I like to call them staycations, defined as vacations in the comfort and peace of one’s own home. Activities completed during a staycation usually include pampering, crappy TV watching, napping, junk food eating and web surfing (or is that just me?). Depending on the number of vacation days you have, be sure that you schedule a few of these throughout the year. This allows you to recoup and reenergize so that you can maintain a positive and professional attitude at work. Staycations are necessary for me at least a couple times a year, even more so when working for a horrible manager.

Observe everything.

You, too, will be a manager one day, if you aren't already. Deciding the kind of manager you want to be starts today. Ask yourself questions after you interact with your manager. What is it that you don’t like about his style? What things do you wish she would do more of? How does he communicate? What would you do differently? While it likely won’t guarantee that you’ll be a perfect manager, it’s never too early for self-reflection.

Appreciate the great managers.

They say you can enjoy sunshine unless you experience rain. The same thing applies in the workplace (not literally, of course). I’ve had more than my fair share of great managers, but having experience with bad managers helped me understand what I appreciated about my great managers so much more. I even suggest that you let those managers know how much you appreciate them. They’ll be happy to receive the positive feedback.

What have your experiences with bad management taught you?

Proud alumna of Howard University, Nikita works for a large professional services firm in Washington DC. She’s an avid reader, an advocate for young women and girls, and a Twitter addict. Most importantly, she’s your typical twenty-something trying to leave her footprint in this world.


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