Stanley Bing recently updated his 1992 book, Crazy Bosses. In fact, there are several popular books that address wicked, mean, dysfunctional bosses.
But what if your boss isn’t that bad? What if all your boss needs is a little supervisory skills training?
You have come to terms with the fact that your boss will never be the leader he appeared to be during the interview. You reluctantly realize your boss prefers golf or shopping to mentoring you. She stole your ideas. He even assigned you a couple of high-profile controversial projects that went bad. Naturally when this happened he went missing.
But will a book like Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Boss? help you out? Wouldn’t it just be easier to anonymously slip her a copy of Super Skills for Supervisors?
How many times, as HR practitioners and service providers, have we witnessed someone working in a position without the necessary supervisory competencies? How many times have we questioned why some leaders get the roles that they do? It should not surprise us then, that at least once in our lives, we will be the victims.
How can you tell if your boss is “mean,” “dumb,” “toxic,” “out to get you,” or if he simply never had the advantage of Supervisory Skills 101? We all know that promotion to supervisor is often a reward for a good worker. Remember that the "Peter Principle" suggests that people are often promoted to their level of incompetence. The Principle is still alive and well in corporate America!
Here are a few clues that your boss could use some basic supervisory skills training.

 He ignores the classic, time honored cliché, “Praise in public, criticize in private.”
 She gives you assignments and doesn’t follow up.
 He doesn’t support you when something goes wrong.
 She thinks everything is fine when it isn’t.
 He constantly claims that he is empowering you, but isn’t.
 She micro-manages and needs to know everything.
 He acts paranoid.
 She jumps to conclusions.
 He doesn’t know how to plan, prioritize or organize.
 If it isn’t her idea, then it can’t be good.
 He implements two-faced attacks.
 She tells sarcastic jokes or teases.

Now that you have come to the conclusion that your boss doesn’t lie awake at night thinking about how to torment you, is there anything you can do? One activity that may be a cathartic experience is to make a list of supervisory skills you think are missing. Next, rank the list from most annoying to least annoying. Pick the top two or three worst offenses. Recognize that these are your hot buttons and start developing a strategy. Don’t wait for these things to happen again without having a plan. The worst thing you can do to do nothing, hoping the problems will get resolved. Don’t sacrifice your health or self-esteem.
Polite confrontation should always be your first move. However, someone lacking supervisory skills may not recognize your attempt and this tactic may often backfire. Limiting contact may help you personally but isn’t usually a good professional move. However, putting some distance between you and your supervisor might be a temporary solution.
Here are a few other suggestions:
• First, find someone you can trust for a sanity check. It is probably better if this person does not work in the same environment as you.
• Second, make a pact with yourself that you will use the time to adopt good supervisory skills yourself.
• Third, remember that the best employees don’t always make the best supervisors.
• Fourth, do not fret if you have experienced total meltdown with this person; it is time to try a new strategy: forgiveness. Regain your strength and move forward with confidence and professionalism.
• Fifth, start identifying other sources of positive reinforcement for doing your job to the best of your abilities. We all want approval and recognition for a job well done.
Finally, read and learn from the experts. Just make sure you are reading the right material. If you have decided that your boss simply lacks supervisory skills, try Managing Up: How to Forge an Effective Relationship With Those Above You.


Stanley Bing, Crazy Bosses: Fully Revised and Updated, (Harper Collins), 2007

Gini Graham Scott, A Survival Guide for Working With Bad Bosses: Dealing With Bullies, Idiots, Back-stabbers, and Other Managers from Hell, (AMACON), 2005

Jean Lipman-Blumen, The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians – and How We Can Survive Them (Blumen), 2006

Marilyn Haight, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Boss? 13 Types and How to Survive Them (Infinity), 2005

Frank Buchar, Super Skills for Supervisors: A Narrative Approach to Developing Supervisory Skills. (Buchar), 2005

Roseanne Badowski and Roger Gittens, Managing Up: How to Forge an Effective Relationship With Those Above You (Currency), 2003

Author's Bio: 

Terra Vanzant-Stern, PMP, SPHR/GPHR has 20 years experience as an HR Practitioner. She is President-Elect of Colorado Human Resource Association and Examining Chair of American Society of Quality - Denver. She also serves on the Education Committee of Colorado Business and Ethics Alliance. She may be contacted at