No Such Thing as a Happy Bus Accident

Would you rather be underpaid but happy  – or paid well but miserable at work?

Tough choice?

Not for people who are clear about their priorities.

If you have a terrible boss, the best thing you can do for yourself (and those who listen to you) is to find a new job. It’s true that many people tough it out. They think that while they have a terrible boss now, at some point, things will get better.  But ‘happy accidents’ don’t really happen; your terrible boss won’t get hit by a bus on the way to work any time soon. While you are waiting for that to happen, you have  taken what control you DO have,  the ability to choose who employs you, and thrown it away.

It’s hard to work for someone you don’t like and who is deficient in many of the skills critical to managing others. But most of us have some things we are good at and other things we are not good at. To be successful, it pays to focus on what you are good at. And to be successfully managed, it pays to focus on what your boss does well.

Make a list of the things your boss does well as well as the things your boss doesn’t do well. Then talk to others who work for your manager (or who may have worked for your manager in the past) and ask them to contribute their perspective to your two lists.

Now focus on how you can get more of what your manager is good at. While the boss can go to training and develop new skills (and I hope they do) , they will not adopt new behavior unless THEY are motivated to learn new techniques. You are pretty limited as to how much you can develop your boss. Even the boss’s boss is going to be limited in their ability to obtain behavior change.

You will be better served if you can give up the fantasy of what you want and focus on what you’ve actually got. It doesn’t mean you have to be happy if your boss never coaches or always complains, but after a while, it’s just not news any more.

Instead, if you are not going to exercise your freedom and find a job that is, in some very important ways, better than the one you have now, try this:

  1. Focus on what your boss does well.
  2. Increase the amount of time you are exposed to those things
  3. Figure out what your boss doesn’t do well
  4. Limit the amount of exposure to those things.

Repeat steps 1-4 as often as necessary.

Forget about the fantasy of having a boss who supports your success. Figure out how to obtain success either on your own or with an internal or external mentor.

Forget about a happy bus accident; they don’t happen.

Figure out how to be happy NOW.

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