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I've had five terrible bosses in a row — is it me?

HI, I live in Anchorage and am a management consultant and writer. I'm founder of™, and I'm author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. I author...

How to stop getting stuck with bad bosses

Today I'm answering a question from someone who had one great boss — and then several awful ones. She wants to know, how do I get a good boss again?


I've had bad luck with bosses. In ten years, I've had only one good boss who knew how to treat employees. He gave regular raises, a Christmas bonus and gave me purchasing power within my department and control over my schedule.

Since working for him, I've been fired from one job and left three because I wasn't well-supervised. I don't think I expect too much. I want to be paid what I'm worth and to be shown tangible respect by being given decision-making authority in areas important to me.

In my current job, I work for a control freak. I'm stifled and underutilized. I'm trying to gut it out, but I'm not sure how much longer I can stand it here. Should I stay? And if I leave, how do I find a good boss the next time around?


From what you've written, you've worked for five less-than-stellar bosses and held six jobs in 10 years. Further, you don't like your boss. Employees who don't like their supervisors often learn the feeling is mutual — their supervisors rarely like them. This means that the raises, flexibility and positive comments you long for won't materialize.

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Should you stay? Not without a change. Consider what will be true if you remain another six to 12 months in a situation you find intensely frustrating. Will you be a better person or employee for the experience? Or will your attitude further erode?

Clearly something has to change, and since you can't change your boss, you need to consider what's within your power to change. After all, what if some of your job problem is you? Although poor supervisors exist, how did you happen to find five in a row? Were you unlucky? Were you so desperate to find a new job that you jumped into one before realizing how high-risk the supervisor was?

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Or, worse, are you an employee who brings out the worst in supervisors? You want decision-making authority. What have you done to earn your boss's trust — or have you simply expected to be given authority?

Here's what I know. When you place full responsibility for the problem at the feet of your supervisor, you keep yourself a victim. If there aren't ways in which you can improve, and even if your boss creates 100 percent of the current problem, you can change only yourself — and by doing so, impact the situation.

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You ask an important second question. When you next search out a new job, do so with eyes wide open. What vibe do you get from the other employees in the office? Do they smile? Are they engrossed in their jobs? If a support staff leads you back to interview with a manager, notice how the manager treats that staff member. What types of questions get asked of you in the interview? How are you listened to? When you ask questions, are the answers straightforward?

Most employers ask applicants, "What puts you in the job market?" You can absolutely ask an employer, "How did I get so lucky that you have a job opening?" and "Please tell me what would tell you that you'd selected the right new employee to hire."

© 2016, Lynne Curry. If you have a career questions you'd like Lynne to answer, write her @ Lynne is an executive coach and author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. You can follow Lynne through her other posts on, via,™ or @lynnecurry10 on Twitter.

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