Saying “Davka” to Power

“In Hebrew, “Davka” is a gruff, one-word response to someone in authority.

So in Hebrew you might ask an Israeli teenager “Why are you doing that?” and get the answer “Davka”

Because I chose to, because I want to do it this way rather than any other.

Just because.

Davka is about expressing determination, independence and a degree of contempt, all in one word.”
Andrew Taylor, The Greeks Had a Word for It

In thinking about Davka I began to ponder:

In what situations, would an adult desire to use this word?

Then it came to me…

At work.

If you are working for a bad boss…

Now, to be fair, I don’t believe that all bosses are evil!

But just as a teacher often remembers badly-behaved students more than the average pupil in academia, so do we as employees recall more often bad bosses over good.

(Of course, for both the teacher and the employee, if the pupil or boss is exceptionally good, then they may be recalled as rare pearls in our experience.)

So, how do you determine whether your boss, or you as a boss, are good or bad?

Is this person demotivating or demoralizing?

Is nothing done ever good enough?

Is there yelling or tantrums thrown when things do not go the way they should?

Is work an emotional roller-coaster – one moment a cheerful and friendly Dr. Jekyl, the next a downright mean Mr. Hyde?

Does the boss take credit for others’ work or play favourites or worry only about his/her own career?

Is the boss someone whom others just don’t/can’t respect?

Is the boss a negative role model – an example of someone others do NOT want to be like when they manage others?

Then if the answer to any of the last seven questions is “Yes”, then you have yourself a bad boss.

Having a bad boss is a major problem, no matter how much you may like your actual job, your company, or your co-workers.

A bad boss is someone with whom you don’t do your best work or someone you dread seeing when you go to work.

A bad boss is someone you don’t respect and probably don’t like as a person.

A great boss, on the other hand, has a vision, leads by example and takes time to develop the people who work with him/her.

A great boss is competent and motivating.

A great boss makes things happen.

A great boss harnesses energy to set common priorities everyone can get behind.

A great boss is respected by peers, higher-ups and the staff.

Short of “going postal” on your boss’s ass or telling him/her to “take this job and shove it”, how does one face the challenge of a bad boss?

Book Four of my Top Ten Books I would save from a fire is Sherrie Gong Taguchi’s The Career Troubleshooter: Tips and Tools for Overcoming the 21 Most Common Challenges to Success.

(Working for a bad boss is Challenge #7 in her excellent book.)

What follows are her suggestions for dealing with the problem boss:

1. Make sure you are not the problem.

Look critically at yourself, your behaviour and your performance.
Are you doing anything to cause or worsen the problem of your bad relationship with your superior?

2. Fix anything about yourself first.

Get help if you need it – from a mentor either inside or outside the company or by talking things over with a trusted co-worker who knows the ins and outs of the situation.

If it’s truly not you…

3. Write down what is bothering you about your boss and verify the truth of your concerns.

Be sure of your complaints.
Be as specific as possible when describing your difficulties.
Do some fact-finding.
Are other co-workers having similar difficulties with the boss?
What have they done to help their situations?

4. Think about possible solutions.

Spend some quality time thinking about solutions for each problem.
Perhaps there is something each of you can do.

5. Have a pow-wow / meeting with your boss.

6. Aim for a win-win approach.

7. Consider whether you can live with the situation, if your boss doesn’t “get it”, won’t accept it, cannot or will not change.

Consider if you can avoid the boss as much as possible, live with the problems and concentrate on what is positive in your work.

8. Ask someone you trust for help (advice or intervention).

Ideally this person should be someone senior to your boss and someone savvy and adept enough at the company’s internal politics to figure out how you and your career can be helped through this situation.

9. As an absolute last resort, go to the boss’s boss.

This IS extremely risky and potentially deadly to your career.

It is NOT looked on too kindly by most people, because if you can do this to your boss, you could possibly do this to them.

Some folks view this kind of behaviour as the absolute betrayal.

So before taking this drastic step, be absolutely sure of two things:

Will doing this make the situation better?

Are the risks worth it?

If you know your boss’s boss and he/she thinks highly of you…
If you are sure you will be believed…
If you are sure he/she cares enough to do something about the situation…
If your boss and his/her boss are not “best buddies”…
If your boss is not that important in the organization…
If you have soberly considered the worst possible thing your boss could do to you when he/she discovers you went “over his/her head”…
If doing so won’t make your worklife even more hellish than it already is…

Then, and only then, talk to your boss’s boss.

10. Involve HR if needed.

This is also risky, but may lead to your boss receiving more focused development and coaching to become a better manager.

But view HR as you would view your boss’s boss and consider the same questions.

11. Be ready to walk.

Life is too short not to do work that you love.
You need to work with people you truly enjoy, who stimulate and inspire you.

But, in an ideal world, leave if you are reasonably certain that you have a strong track record of performance which others will vouch for.

12. Don’t “trash” the bad boss.

Your new or potential employer will be hesitant to trust you, because he/she is afraid that you don’t get along with people, especially bosses, and that you are just waiting for an opportunity to “bad-mouth” him/her.

You don’t have to accept a bad boss making your worklife intolerable.

Find the teenager inside you and quietly say: Davka.

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