It's okay to want to leave a bad supervisor; just don't ruin your reputation on your way out the door.
Most people have worked for a bad boss or two during their careers. In fact, working for bad supervisors is so common that the phenomenon has even spawned its own bit of conventional wisdom:
“People leave managers, not companies.”
This refrain has been repeated so often that it would be easy to dismiss it as just another leadership talking point. Unfortunately, though, surveys consistently support the idea that workers often leave due to poor management. A 2019 survey found that 57 percent of workers had quit a job due to dissatisfaction with their bosses. In addition, 32 percent of workers had considered quitting because of their managers.
If you are unhappy with your company's management and considering a change, you are certainly not alone. Before you make a move, however, you should consider these tips that can help you dump your toxic boss without burning bridges on your way out the door.
Clear signs that you might have a bad boss
You may be wondering how you can tell whether you are working for a bad boss. While there are no hard and fast definitions to help you identify a problematic manager, there are some clear signs that can help you recognize those types of bosses. These signs include:
Being more focused on their needs than the mission or team
Ignoring employees' good ideas and feedback
An inability to think beyond short-term goals
Indecisiveness in the face of challenges
Emotional instability and outbursts
A tendency to criticize employees in public
An inability to effectively communicate ideas and goals
A failure to take personal responsibility for management failures
A lack of reliability and failure to follow through on commitments
Unwillingness to delegate responsibilities to subordinates
Any one of these flaws can be a sign of a less than effective manager. A boss who demonstrates several or most of these listed flaws is almost certainly a bad boss. If you are currently working for someone whose management style includes these undesirable traits, then it may indeed be time to consider a job change.
Why it is important to leave your job on the best terms possible
For some workers, moving on from a bad boss may seem like the perfect opportunity to finally vent all their frustrations. Many people may imagine themselves unloading their anger on a toxic supervisor as they are walking out the door for the last time. A growing number of workers do not even bother to provide their employers with any notice; they simply stop showing up. Unfortunately, those choices can sometimes lead to long-term negative consequences.
If you make a scene by telling off your supervisor before you quit, chances are that you will have just ruined any chance of receiving a favorable recommendation from anyone at the company. There is also a chance that tales of your outburst will spread to others in your industry. Most importantly, that type of behavior is unprofessional and may do lasting harm to your job prospects and reputation.
Tips to help you dump your bad boss while maintaining your professionalism
So, how can you dump your bad boss and avoid burning bridges? The following tips can help you do just that:
1. Document any toxic behavior from your boss
Even before you quit, you should be documenting all the negative events and behavior associated with your bad boss. That documentation should describe what happened, the date it happened, and who was involved. Keep this record at home, so that you have it available if your boss targets you for any reason prior to your resignation or exit for a new job. You may also want to have it available if your company provides an exit interview to departing workers, so that you can provide the information to human resources or your supervisor's boss.
2. Get references before you quit
When you have a toxic boss, it can be difficult to obtain the references you may need to locate another job. Some supervisors may become even more difficult to deal with if they discover that you are trying to “escape” their supervision. Of course, that raises an important question: how can you get references to provide to prospective employers?
Instead of asking your bad boss, try talking to another supervisor in the company, or a coworker who you trust and respect. You may even want to discuss the matter with someone in human resources. In short, find someone in the firm who understands your value as an employee and ask that person to provide a reference.
3. Do not complain about your current job during interviews
Have a ready answer to provide to interviewers when they ask why you are leaving your current job. That answer should not include complaints about your bad boss or current employer, since those types of complaints may just make you look like a disgruntled employee. After all, would you want to hire someone who uses his interview to complain about his boss?
It is also wise to avoid talking about your current job search with coworkers. You may be thrilled to share the news with them, but there is always the chance that word will leak to your supervisor and make an already toxic situation even more hostile.
4. Try to avoid quitting without notice
One of the easiest ways to burn an employment bridge behind you is to quit without providing at least some type of advance notice. Employers rarely forgive those who just stop showing up, since the costs associated with a no-notice resignation can be tremendously burdensome. Even if all you can provide is one week of notice, do your best to make that happen.
Make certain that you let your boss and coworkers know that you will do everything you can to help with the transition process. Offer to assist with training someone to take your place until the company hires a replacement. Be as helpful as you possibly can. While some bad bosses will never be able to resist the temptation to react negatively to your exit, you will at least have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you maintained your professionalism.
5. Do not jump out of the frying pan into the fire
Finally, make sure that you have thoroughly researched any new position before you quit your existing job. Find out all you can about your next boss and their management style to ensure that you are not potentially replacing one bad boss with another. If possible, ask other employees about the work environment or check for company reviews on Indeed, Glassdoor, and other job sites.
If your supervisor's management style is unbearably toxic, it is only natural to look for a better job and work environment. When you decide to make that move, however, be sure to use these tips to help you dump your bad boss without burning bridges behind you.
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