Coping strategies to reduce/eliminate negative thoughts about my boss
May 13, 2016 9:15 PM   Subscribe

I need help to stop hating my boss. I don't think that my boss is a bad person. I do think they are a terrible leader and that their actions are directly impeding both my ability to be effective in my role and to advance my career along the path I have been (wildly successfully) on. I also think that they, consciously or subconsciously, are working to sabotage me, or at the least smother me with power-plays and microaggressions to "keep me in my place" and under their control.

One of the reasons that our relationship is so poor is because around 8 mos ago I misjudged our relationship and tried to open a conversation with my boss about some of my concerns, and did so in a way that ruined all trust they had in me. I learned a lot from that, but we have not been able to move on from that conflict and it has become their defining moment for me as a person and as a direct report.

I am being proactive to either find a new position within my organization that would not report to them or change careers. I'm doing a pretty good job seeing this as a positive, but can't quite get to the point that I am grateful to (rather than resenting) my boss for catalyzing me into action.

Something I am struggling with is the desire I have for the world to be just -- there is no good way for me to point out to people in power that my boss is terrible at their job, but I can't stop feeling like it is my responsibility to do something to fix the situation. I know this is a terrible idea. I know I would burn bridges, lose my good reputation, and probably not effect change. I am working on convincing myself that they're not the worst boss ever, we're just a terrible fit, but my closest coworker shares the same low opinion of our boss's abilities and with that constant reinforcement it's difficult to shake that smug self-righteous certainty.

All of this is causing me a lot of stress. I'd like to at the very least leave that stress at work, and to stop the angry and unkind thoughts I have about this person. I'm losing sleep, letting these negative feelings impact my mood in my free time, and spending too much mental energy being uncharitable and frustrated and/or worried about the future.

Are there exercises or meditations that have helped others with similar situations? Other advice or coping strategies?

Thank you, hive mind!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Working on your Resume and sending it out to various places is best exercise in this situation.
posted by ovvl at 10:07 PM on May 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

I have found The Cow in the Parking Lot a useful book for letting go of inappropriate anger.
posted by frumiousb at 10:33 PM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you been on a real vacation since then? For, say, at least two weeks, preferably more? I'd encourage you to take a break and get out of town and immerse yourself in something completely new and different for a while.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:41 PM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

I was you back in the day. I just KNEW how flawed my bosses were and how they prevented me from flourishing and I was so angry about how unfairly things were being handled. I'd work my ass off on things ,out-sell everyone and my quotas would be raised so I wouldn't be adequately compensated. I was a ball of stress and anger and righteous indignation.

What I've since learned is that my anxiety was a large part of the frustration. Instead of realizing that bosses are in their positions for reasons, I thought I was Captain-Save-A-Ho, charged with revealing the man behind the curtain. I succeeded in my career in spite of my actions, and made it really hard for myself in the bargain.

So I'm going to suggest taking an on-line test. Mostly to see if this is even a thing. You might be unaware that your actions and beliefs might be functions of anxiety. If it indicates that your feelings are manifestations of anxiety taking something like Celexa might help. It changed my life. Worth talking to your GP about at any rate.

To relieve stress, leave every day on time. Take your breaks and lunch outside of your building. Exercise and practice meditation. Get interests outside of work. DON'T hang out and bitch with co-workers. I did that and it just increased my frustration and dissatisfaction.

Basically, don't be me. You can actually rehab your relationship and you just need to let it go, be nice and friendly. So you have to update the presentation font from Ariel to Garamond. Big deal, you're at work, you have to be doing something, why not that?

Don't let the bastards grind you down.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:08 AM on May 14, 2016 [9 favorites]

Can you start caring less and mentally moving on from your position? You're looking for something new. Focus on that. This is no longer your problem to fix. Once you're no longer in this position, there is no longer any reason for you to stay up at night thinking about your boss. So embrace having one foot out the door. Maybe you're right about everything, maybe your boss sucks and is ruining the organization, but you need to stop seeing this as your responsibility. Everyone hates the phrase "it is what it is," but that could be your new mantra -- your job now is to just get through the day and look for a better situation.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:11 AM on May 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a hunch that the after-the-fact processing that will get you to a place of "oh well, my boss has their own problems and issues, and this whole experience was actually positive because it got me to a better place" will happen when it is truly after the fact. Meaning -the reason that you haven't been able to "get to the point that I am grateful to (rather than resenting) my boss for catalyzing me into action" is because you're still stuck in that situation.

So that's all the more reason to focus on getting out, so that you can get to that place where you will be able to process that faster. Head down, focus on your work, focus on the resume and the interviews. This is not your problem to fix any more; yes, I know that they're a bad boss and the company is being affected, but sometimes some people can only be helped once they've screwed up so bad that it is obvious they need help. So letting them fall is a kindness.

Eyes on your own paper, focus on getting your oxygen mask on, and then when you're off the plane you can get to that point of "oh well".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:27 AM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

My mom used to do a lovingkindness meditation (which may be two words) about people she didn't like that were in her head too much.

This conflict between you and your boss has interesting dramatic potential for a story or novel. Simple jealousy could be one cause of resentment, but a more sympathetic reason might be that Boss has angst from being not the favorite child growing up and you evoke that painful feeling of diminishment. Maybe you can think of three or four more possibilities. Maybe they've been burned once and think people who are conspicuously successful or are successful at a young age must have cheated.
posted by puddledork at 6:57 AM on May 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

One of the reasons that our relationship is so poor is because around 8 mos ago I misjudged our relationship and tried to open a conversation with my boss about some of my concerns, and did so in a way that ruined all trust they had in me.

A) Do your best to figure out what went wrong on your end and learn from it.
B) Do your best to try to prove yourself to your boss instead of blaming them for seeing you in a certain light.

There is no justice in the world. But your own actions largely created this situation. That doesn't mean you should now give yourself hell over it, but it isn't really fair to say "I did a thing and it went over poorly and he is an asshole for letting that color his view of me."

If you do not use this as a learning opportunity, changing bosses may not help as much as you hope. Yes, keep looking for another position, but also try to figure out how to not repeat this mistake, whatever it was.
posted by Michele in California at 11:20 AM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's sounding like there's nothing at work you can bite your teeth into and get away from your manager. I can only recommend that you look for a management job next, so that you never encounter this again. It may put you back professionally. Or, see how you can do field work until you find a new job or are reassigned. The only way to sleep better is to make your decision and stick to it. I also had success early but eventually you either discover you're management material or your not, or, you get squashed into something that others think works for you to stay happy. It's possible you will not find it here.
posted by parmanparman at 3:10 PM on May 14, 2016

Wow. I could have written this post, word for word, substituting "boss" for "faculty advisor." It's uncanny. I did the same thing, trying to open up constructive lines of communication about how to improve, and it blew up in my face spectacularly. I too suffer from all-consuming frustration coupled with feelings that range from blind fury to resigned apathy.

I KNOW this is not MY problem to solve per se, but I also don't know who will do anything if I don't. I'm hoping other commenters could weigh in on the larger implications of leaving a situation like this unaddressed. To me it seems there are Reasons to Let It Go: 1) your mental health 2) the fact that the problem may be unsolvable and Reasons to Do Something: 1) the problem persists for others 2) moral obligation of some sort? Isn't this an example of some analog to Tragedy of the Commons/Little Red Hen/Someone Else's Problem? I have such a visceral aversion to ignoring problems so that I can sleep better at night. On a much larger scale, it would seem to me that this attitude leads to social and political apathy.

In conclusion, you have my utmost sympathies. Good luck.
posted by AFittingTitle at 8:29 PM on May 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I spent nearly two years trying to do this and the end result was detrimental to my emotional and physical health. Sometimes someone is awful and you just aren't meant to have to deal with them, no matter how much you try. I made the decision to just leave my job and I'm still in recovery and still forgiving my old boss. But now that I'm not there anymore there's a lot of "out of sight, out of mind". My friends and family have told me the difference is so, so palpable and that I look like I'm getting back to normal. For a long time I was an angry live-wire because my work situation was so shitty.

One of the things my therapist told me in regards to the situation was to stop fighting myself internally because it was contributing to my negative feelings. I used to beat myself up about not being able to handle her when it was an unwinnable situation. As my therapist told me, sometimes you are just in a pit of snakes. You can't just sit there and get attacked by the snakes (who will attack you just because you're in their pit: it's their nature) and positive think or meditate your way out of it. Sometimes you just need to get out of the damn pit of snakes. It took me a really long time to take that advice because I was convinced I could make the situation better, and once I finally realized I couldn't, and got OUT of the pit of snakes, I really saw the wisdom of it.
posted by raw sugar at 2:57 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

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