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Horrible bosses: How to get revenge on one

CareerBuilder | July 15, 2011

If you've had one, you know you've thought about it. How to get revenge!

Prior to opening weekend, much of the hype around “Horrible Bosses” — the comedy based around three men who hate, and subsequently decide to kill, their bosses — stemmed from media headlines like “Jennifer Aniston Looks Great in her Underwear.”

While the actress, who had a starring role in the film, certainly did her underwear justice (we can’t deny it), we’ve got a bit of a different take on why the film raked in $28 million during its opening weekend.

Our hypothesis? Boss-aversion is pretty common, and an $8 movie ticket is a pretty cheap therapy session.

Besides the fact that we’ve talked to our fair share of workers about their flirty bosses, bossy bosses, idea-stealing bosses, stupid bosses and downright abusive bosses, empirical data also tells us that a lot of people have boss issues. A recent survey by Office Team found that nearly half of all workers said they’d worked for “unreasonable bosses.” Of these, 59 percent reported staying in their jobs anyway. (No word yet on how many of them hashed murder plots as a result.)

Bad bosses are not only a fairly common problem, but also — as demonstrated in the movie — one that can cause those under their management serious stress. Still — unlike in the movies – sane people don’t usually see murder as a viable problem-solving option. But that also doesn’t mean sane people don’t like to get revenge — they just do it in a more subtle way.

“I was lucky enough to have the best possible retaliation against a boss, a corporate vice president,” says Barry Maher, a motivational speaker and author of the books “Filling the Glass” and “No Lie: Truth is the Ultimate Sales Tool.” “Even though I was one of his top people, when accounting told him I’d been slightly overpaid for a year, he decided the best course of action was to threaten me, throwing his weight around and issuing an ultimatum. Either I either paid the money back or he’d let me go. Since I considered myself underpaid, I simply resigned. Shocked and amazed, he immediately cut the amount of money I supposedly owed in half but I’d was immediately so relieved upon announcing my resignation, that I didn’t budge.”

Mere months later, Maher got the greatest kind of revenge there is in the corporate world — success. “After I left, I immediately began consulting, writing and speaking,” he says. “Within a year, the same company brought me in as a consultant, at a rate several times higher than the ‘overpayment’ rate. And a few years later, that very same VP got to sit in the audience and listen as I delivered the opening keynote at his new employer’s annual conference, for a daily fee that was considerably in excess of what I’d been ‘overpaid’ in a month when working for him.”

Ah, victory.

If you’ve got a terrible boss, doing well for yourself is probably the only kind of revenge you can get without jeopardizing your career (unless you want to be an author, in which case ‘jail time’ might be a nice premise for a memoir).

“Success and empowerment in your current and future job is certainly the sweetest revenge and can elevate you over the bad boss hump,” says Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company that specializes in corporate etiquette training. She offers these tips on how to get revenge the classy way, through success.

1. Don’t be a victim: If your boss is threatening to derail your career (whether she’s literally threatening you, or her actions are starting to compromise your sanity), decide to take your future into your own hands. “[Get a transfer] to another department away from your boss, and take whatever steps (emotionally and physically) to tune out the person’s behavior until you can find another job or corner office away from him or her,” Gottsman says.

2. Find a mentor: Your boss doesn’t have to be the only professional influence in your life. Choose a mentor who can be a positive, supportive figure in your career, as well as someone who can help you develop your skills. Your mentor will also be a valuable connection should you ultimately decide to change jobs.

3. Continue your professional training: Take advantage of any opportunities to expand on your professional skill set, whether it’s finishing your degree, taking a class outside of work, joining a professional group, or even simply reading books or industry publications.

4. Write things down: “If you have a boss that constantly changes the direction of a project, immediately after your meeting, email an overview of his or her directives for confirmation, including a projected date of completion,” Gottsman says. “When your boss changes the terms you can refer to the original request and alter the deadline date as needed, based on the additional time it will take to go in another direction.”

Put these into practice and you’ll up your odds of success despite (and, ultimately,to spite) your horrible boss.

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