Work Nightmare #1: The Very Bad Boss
This question requires an unnatural act: a brutally candid conversation with yourself. Bad bosses obviously exist, but most managers are not critical, bullying, or withholding with people they like and respect. If your boss is being a jerk to you, the first thing you need to do is ask yourself if there is something about your performance or attitude that is engendering the behavior.
Start with the monster in the middle of the room—your results. If you're not performing up to expectations, even if you believe something outside your control is to blame, know that your boss has had to explain your underperformance to his bosses, an unpleasant experience that can quickly turn to resentment toward you.
Next you need to double-check your self-examination by tactfully extracting information about your performance from your boss. Prepare to be shocked. I once had a coworker with tremendous results who complained to our boss that she felt underappreciated. She emerged from the meeting reeling. “He said I lied to him three years ago,” she said, “about a little thing on my expense account. He never forgave me.”
On the other hand, you might come out of your review having been told that your performance is acceptable. He may even say he likes you, and be completely unaware that his disorganization or temper is a problem for you. Nevertheless, you've confirmed that your boss's behavior is not about you. He or she is just a bad boss, and you must ask the following question...