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Eight sticky boss situations

By Anthony Balderrama
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If you're more excited that your boss is out sick with the flu than you are about your new raise, you're in good company.

In workplaces throughout the country, difficult bosses are ruining morale and making life just downright unpleasant. Whether they refuse to give you time off or they expect you to be their mother, bad bosses can put you in an awkward position.

You need an escape plan when you find yourself in these sticky situations. Communication is key, according to Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., author of "A Survival Guide for Working with Bad Bosses: Dealing with Bullies, Idiots, Back-Stabbers, and Other Managers from Hell."

A direct approach will save time and anxiety for both you and your boss. You can't resolve anything if you keep your concerns to yourself. Believe it or not, your boss might not realize his demands are making you miserable. Just letting him know how you feel could solve your problems.

Here are eight (unfortunately) common workplace situations that bosses often put employees in and advice on how you should handle them:

Sticky Situation No. 1: You are not a personal assistant, but your boss continually asks you to pick up her dry cleaning.

How to Deal: "You might want to discuss the situation in a diplomatic way and let your boss know that there is priority work you're not able to do while you're picking up her dry cleaning," Scott suggests. Expressing your desire to become more involved with important, work-related projects should gently remind your boss that you were not hired to organize her personal life.

Of course, if your boss' demands are an indication of a deep-seated and unalterable power struggle la "The Devil Wears Prada," you'll need to decide if you're willing to accept that her requests are part and parcel of your workload ? whether in the job description or not.

Sticky Situation No. 2: Your boss frequently loses his temper and yells at you in front of your co-workers.

How to Deal: Again, Scott recommends you discuss your boss' behavior openly with him. Allowing your emotions to surface will only intensify matters, so it's best to be calm and collected when you enter this conversation. Ask your boss to identify examples of things you do that trigger his temper, "so you can determine whether you're making mistakes or if your boss is yelling at you for no reason," she suggests.

"Often when a boss is ... abusive, you'll find a code of silence and submission that helps everyone get along," Scott writes in her book. If a discussion with your boss does not lead to change, you'll need to decide if you want to join your co-workers' code of silence or voice your concerns to a supervisor.

Sticky Situation No. 3: While your boss kicks back in her office making personal calls, you're doing both your job and hers. When the time comes to present projects to senior management, your boss takes credit for your hard work.

How to Deal: Scott suggests a couple of ways to get credit even if your boss refuses to publicly acknowledge your contributions. One way is to casually mention your involvement during meetings with senior management. You might also consider keeping leaders informed of the work you've done by copying them on memos over the course of a project. (This does not mean CC-ing everyone all the time!)

Sticky Situation No. 4: Your boss subtly hits on you, but you know he would deny his actions if you mentioned they were upsetting you.

How to Deal: "Clearly stating that you're in a relationship might be enough to get your boss to back down," Scott explains. If that doesn't work, try explaining to your boss that his behavior has made you uncomfortable. "In short," Scott writes, "speak up to stop the behavior sooner rather than later."

There's no excuse for sexual harassment. If your boss' conduct continues, you should make a written account of each incident as it occurs, discuss the situation with your boss' supervisor, and consider making a formal complaint with human resources.

Sticky Situation No. 5: Your human resources department encourages employees to use their vacation time, but your boss grumbles angrily every time you ask to take time off.

How to Deal: "Bring this out in the open to clarify what the policies are," Scott suggests. A frank conversation with your boss might reveal that she feels your vacation requests coincide with the company's busiest and most demanding periods. "Negotiate time off for when you're not needed," she recommends.

Sticky Situation No. 6: You receive your annual bonus and are distressed to find it's significantly lower than your boss has verbally promised.

How to Deal: There might have been a misunderstanding; discuss the matter with your boss before jumping to any conclusions. If your boss can provide a reasonable answer -- perhaps the company is going through difficult times and bonuses are lower than expected across the board -- it might be best to overlook the discrepancy. But if you still feel you are owed a larger bonus, you will need to decide whether it's worth rocking the boat before going above your boss' head to resolve the matter.

Sticky Situation No. 7: Your boss continually solicits your advice regarding his personal problems.

How to Deal: "This is about setting boundaries," Scott states. Look first at your own actions to make sure you haven't unwittingly implied to your boss that you're an available confidante. If your behavior isn't what needs altering, Scott recommends you draw a boundary by suggesting a more appropriate person for your boss to take his problems to, such as a family member or friend.

Sticky Situation No. 8: You suspect your boss of unethical and potentially illegal business practices.

How to Deal: This is one situation where you probably don't want to confront your boss directly, Scott advises. Document any evidence you find before informing the company of your boss' actions. "If you think your boss is committing crimes, it can be a crime to keep working there or to fail to report what you suspect to the authorities," Scott writes in her book. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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