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Career Q&A - High Paying Job but under a Nasty Boss?

I have a dilemma - my job pays me well now but the workplace culture gets me down because of a boss who talks down to staff and it’s pretty demoralising for everyone. What should I do? ~ Agnes, Supervisor

Having a negative workplace environment definitely hurts and that’s regardless of how much money you are paid and how wonderful the job role is. Even the strongest employees would struggle to perform and stay motivated under such conditions.

Such conduct from superiors impacts our personal values of how people should be treated. For those who place a high value on harmony and respect, being treated as such lowers self esteem and creates doubts about the suitability of the job.

On an organisational level, such conduct from superiors shapes our perception of how workplace fairness is being maintained. Dr Jeffrey Pfeffer, an expert in workplace health from Stanford University defines fairness and justice at work as one of seven factors that influence the work environment. When both personal and workplace fairness boundaries are crossed, the mood at the workplace becomes negative.

Managing a moody workplace and a difficult boss requires careful and considered decision making and is part and parcel of managing your career. Here are four things to try.

See the bigger hidden picture

Seek to understand what is happening with your boss by putting yourself in his or her shoes. Try to identify possible triggers and reasons for their behaviours - is the behaviour recent and caused by new work or family stresses? Or it is a typical communication style based on their personality? Seek to also identify their strengths and contributions to the organisation. Having a balanced and considered view of your boss could help you see the bigger picture.

Know the boundaries of your personal values

Identify the specific behaviours of your boss that frustrates you and ask what values they infringe on. Values are our beliefs and they shape us and how we see and react to things happening around us. Our values can be stretched out on a spectrum from what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Learn to identify your comprised values and define what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. That way, you can pinpoint how your boss’s behaviour affects you and how you should respond.

Do your part to improve the work environment

Barry Schwartz author of “Why We Work” argues that people enjoy their work because they feel that they are in charge. This sense of being in charge comes from having autonomy, discretion to execute, lead and develop. Instead of viewing this situation as negative, take it as a challenge to improve the workplace environment by doing your part. Every employee and supervisor can make a difference to those they work directly with. Seek to be a better colleague, a better supervisor and not adopt a nonchalant attitude towards the situation.

Review your dependency with your salary

When reviewing whether to stay or not, you will likely be counting the opportunity costs involved and salary is likely to be a big consideration. Your salary is important because it takes care of the practical aspects of living and providing for yourself and your family. However, many people often take this as a default reason to put up with anything at their workplace. Over time, this creates an unhealthy reason for work as people see themselves as working for money, with little or no regard for purpose and development of their work. To ease the internal dilemma between salary and workplace struggles, objectively evaluate how dependent your salary should factor in your consideration for a potential job change.

At AVODAH People Solutions, we provide career guidance services to people who are considering career changes, making a job change or currently in a transition to find a job. Share your career situation with us so that we can support you.


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