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By: Dr. John T. Self

How to Deal With a Bad Boss

I think anyone who has been in the business world longer than one job has experienced the wrong boss.

Oh yes.

By wrong boss, I mean one who has a different management style and/or with whom you can't communicate.

I remember one boss I had... She managed with the classic crisis management style. She would whirl around the restaurant like a leaf in a dust storm telling people to do this, go there, and clean that. She had a very difficult time with anyone who did not also have this Type A personality. How could anyone possibly be doing a good job without running around?

My style of management is the opposite. Calm, planned, and hardly ever Type A. Believe it or not, we had a hard time together. Actually, that's not true. I had the hard time. After all, as she reminded me, she was the boss.

This difference in management style would have been fine if she could have just seen that they can BOTH work. It is the effectiveness of management that should be judged, not how you get there, unless it is abusive.

The above experience went a long way toward my trying to look beyond the surface differences and get to the results part.

If you find yourself experiencing the same kind of clash, the best thing that you can do is to first talk with your boss. But, don't do it in an informal way. Don't do it casually right in the middle of something. Request a meeting that will be private with no interruptions. You want your boss to know that you are serious, that there is something that is bothering you, and you would like to resolve it.

Describe the situation to your boss, just as you see it, but do it with a twist. First, describe the situation to the boss, but do it with the assumption that your boss wants you to perform at your best. Do not criticize the way your boss runs the shift in any way. Start off with something like, "I know you want me to be the best manager I can be because you want your restaurant to be the best."
"I also want this to be the best restaurant and I want to be the best manager, but I'm concerned about our relationship and I'd like to talk to you about it."

Be honest about what is troubling you and agree on management development talks to discuss the pros and cons of doing things. You'll learn things here and, hopefully, if your GM has even a partially open mind, he or she will too.

If things go bad and communication is nonexistent between the two of you, go to your GM and say that you would like to request a transfer. You'll have to make the decision, based on your relationship with your supervisor (your boss's boss), whether you try to transfer out of your supervisor's area also.

Communicating honestly is the key in the long term, but I know it is tougher in the short run. Good luck and let us know how you're doing. Remember, you deserve the right boss.

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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