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If you have a bad boss, you need to be able to take action to fix the situation. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
If you have a bad boss, you need to be able to take action to fix the situation. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

MANAGEMENT

How a bad boss can stunt your career Add to ...

After accepting her first job out of university at a publishing company in Toronto, Jordan quickly realized there was something off about her new employer.

The first red flag was raised within three months, when the company’s art director was publicly fired in the middle of an open-concept office, and a number of other employees subsequently volunteered their resignation.

Soon, public fighting and firings became the norm.

“It was really crippling to us, because no one wanted to be that person who got fired in front of everyone, but it happened on multiple occasions,” said Jordan, who asked that her surname not be used to protect the reputation of those who were fired. “During one [argument] a book was thrown, and had I been sitting at my desk I probably would have gotten hit.”

Before long, Jordan said she, too, was the target of abuse from her manager, who belittled her contributions to the company. She started looking for another job, but after being called “stupid” and “useless,” Jordan said she lacked confidence in subsequent interviews.

What Jordan learned the hard way was that while a good manager or boss can help nurture an employee’s career, a poor manager can stall or even stunt career growth.

According to a 2013 study of more than 2,000 Americans aged 18 and older by Glassdoor, a California-based jobs and career website that allows employees to anonymously rate their employers, two-thirds of employees believe their boss has an impact on their career. More than half (52 per cent) said their boss had had a positive impact, while 20 per cent said the impact was negative.

Allyson Willoughby, senior vice-president of human resources for Glassdoor, said the consequences of poor management don’t just hurt the employee.

“For every employee you lose who is someone you didn’t want to lose, there’s a direct out-of-pocket cost in finding a new person,” she said.

Poor managers can also prevent good employees from reaching their full potential, which has a negative impact on both employers and employees. “If you have a bad manager and you’re a great employee and you never get put up for promotion or you never get recommended for a salary [increase], when you leave that company, you’ll actually be behind where you should be,” Ms. Willoughby added.

Such was the case with Jeff, who began his career working for a politician almost four years ago. Before accepting the job, Jeff said he felt “confident and driven,” but as time went on “the wind has been taken out of the sails,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’ve developed the skills I need to move on.”

When Jeff was hired, he said he was assured he would be consulted on the direction of legislation, but soon found himself “confined to basic administration.”

Though he often asked his boss for more responsibility, he said he had to be cautious when making complaints, given how tight-knit the political community is. “If I spoke up more to him, not only would that burn me in his office, it would burn me in every office [in the political community].”

Jeff had always aspired to work in politics, but he has since switched to a job in the private sector.

Those working for a poor manager often feel powerless, but Liane Davey, vice-president of global solutions and team effectiveness at Knightsbridge Human Capital in Toronto, believes it’s far too easy for employees to cast themselves as victims.

“My experience is that a huge number of the people who are complaining about that have become victims, and are as much to blame for the bad relationship as the boss,” said Ms. Davey, the author of You First, a book exploring how individuals can address problems within a team environment.

“I’m pretty passionate about the fact that so many of our bad bosses are bad bosses because they’re in bad relationships, and that’s a ‘takes two to tango’ kind of problem.”

Ms. Davey advises those who feel they’re in an oppressive work environment to address the problem head on, by discussing the problem with human resources, taking it to the manager’s boss or learning how to cope by finding other kinds of support.

“If you’re just sitting around waiting for somebody else to notice your boss is a moron, it could be a long time,” she said.

In spite of her negative experience, Jordan is inclined to agree.

Though it took her a year to land a new job, the company she left has since gone out of business and she said her new employer couldn’t be more different. In the three years she has worked there, she has been promoted twice.

“Luckily, it turned out for the better. Everything happens for a reason, and this happened so I could learn from it.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

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