Your relationship with your boss can make or break your experience at a job. When you're starting with a new company or undergoing a management change, you hope that you'll get along with your new supervisor. But sometimes, you'll get a boss who just doesn't have his or her employees' best interests at heart, which makes the workplace dynamic strained at best and downright miserable at worst.
The good news is, you'll be able to tell almost right away if your new boss is going to be difficult to work with. Here are a few telltale signs of a bad manager, and how to confront his or her behavior in a respectful, professional manner.
They don't make you a priority. Does your boss take phone calls or allow others to interrupt when you're in the middle of a conversation? Business consultant Dianne Sikel said bosses who regularly put their own employees on hold for other people or tasks don't value their staff's time.
"This says a lot about how the communication level is going to be later, especially when facing workplace issues and challenges that need his or her assistance," Sikel told Business News Daily. [Why You Should Confront Your Abusive Boss]
They take all the credit. In an ideal workplace, every employee on a team is recognized for his or her efforts and contributions. A bad boss will consistently try to take credit for what others have done, especially in front of his or her own boss.
Shannon Barnes, the people business partner at people development company Insights Learning & Development, said this person will often use "I" instead of "we" when talking about team accomplishments. These bosses are also more likely to interrupt you when they are talking in a meeting, to "show off" or look smarter than their team members, Barnes said.
They don't listen to you. A good boss will take others' ideas into account when trying to complete a project or solve a problem. A bad one, on the other hand, will continually shut down input from team members and insist on doing things his or her own way.
"When ... you provide your boss with a great recommendation but it falls on deaf ears, you might start wondering what you're there for," said Jason Hahn, client services manager for recruitment and talent management company Alexander Mann Solutions. "It can be difficult to keep delivering when what you deliver is ignored."
They micromanage. Many employees find micromanagers to be frustrating and overbearing. You can try to discern whether your new boss will be breathing down your neck by asking questions about the type of communication he or she expects when handing out tasks, said Vincent O'Connell, the Asia regional director for consulting firm Globecon Institute.
"If the boss states that he or she expects frequent updates and is always wanting to know the exact details of what you are doing, then he or she is demonstrating a penchant for micromanagement," O'Connell said.
They're not respectful of your work-life balance. Personal situations and obligations are bound to conflict with work, at least once in a while. How does your boss handle it when you ask to adjust your schedule or take some time off to deal with something outside of work? And does he or she regularly expect you to drop everything for work?
Bad bosses are less likely to show compassion for any personal issues going on in their employees' lives, and are quick to request that an employee work overtime with little advance notice, Barnes said.
They make you feel stuck in your job. A boss decides when and how an employee's career will progress within the company. It doesn't bode well for you if you're trying your hardest but your boss doesn't seem to take notice or want to help you get ahead.
"You're taking on more responsibility, you're taking courses and challenging yourself, but you seem to be stuck in the same spot," Hahn said. "That's a sign that your boss doesn't have your best interests at heart. Developing your career is ultimately your responsibility, but a manager also has a duty to help you progress when you deserve it."
Confronting a bad boss
If you've experienced any or all of the above situations, you might think it's time to start looking for a new gig. However, Hahn advised trying to overcome the situation first.
"There will be times when a bad boss can ruin your time at a company and result in you leaving, because [managers] do play a huge role in your day-to-day life and career," Hahn said. "But if you truly love the organization and what they do and stand for, you should make every attempt to find a way to make it work and not let one person ruin it for you."
Barnes said the first step should be to speak with your boss about the problematic behavior, rather than going straight to human resources to complain. Of course, you can't just barge in and scream at your boss — you'll have to be calm, rational and professional about it.
It's a good idea to write out your strategy and talking points ahead of time so you are prepared for the conversation, Barnes said. This will increase your confidence and ensure you don't get distracted if your boss tries to make excuses or becomes defensive. You should also try to speak with your boss as soon as possible after an incident occurs.
"Provide the boss with feedback as close to an event as it happens," Barnes said. "Share the specific details of what happened, let them know how it made you feel, give a clear suggestion of what you would like him or her to do differently in the future and, finally, ask for their commitment. Any boss who is a good leader will definitely take the feedback to heart."
If speaking to your boss doesn't result in any positive changes, let him or her know that you would like to schedule a meeting with HR to help share your perspective in a neutral manner, Barnes said.
Hahn noted that it's best to try to see things from your boss's perspective and encourage an open dialogue about the situation. But if you're not seeing any difference in behavior, you may need to take action.
"You need to decide if the situation is workable and if there are others in the organization who can support you without you going over your boss's head," Hahn said. "If you do see the signs of a bad boss and it is time to leave, you need to take your career into your own hands. We're living in a market that favors job seekers again, and ... you have the power to go out and get a role you deserve with a good boss."
Updated May 29, 2015. Additional reporting by Business News Daily senior writer Chad Brooks.