Horrible Bosses

Make sure you're not the problem with your boss

September 8, 2011: 9:51 AM ET

If you believe your boss is terrible, there are a few questions you should answer before you do anything drastic like quitting -- or worse.

By Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback, contributors

FORTUNE -- There's a decent chance you saw the movie "Horrible Bosses" this summer. A comedy about three men in different jobs who decide to murder their awful bosses, it was one of the season's surprise hits. On its opening weekend, it was the second-highest grossing film. It has become the highest-grossing dark comedy of all time worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.

Obviously, the film struck a chord. Who hasn't suffered an awful boss somewhere along the line? We've yet to meet anyone who disagrees with the truism that people join companies but quit bosses.

But in our experience, not every instance of a "horrible boss" is entirely the fault of the boss. In fact, many instances are not. Most bosses, we've found, usually mean well, more or less, but they don't often do well. The difference is usually driven by ignorance of what they should be doing and how people are responding to their words and actions. In fact, bosses and their staff often tumble into a downward spiral of action-misunderstanding-reaction that feeds on itself and ultimately produces a relationship so toxic it can't be recovered.

If you believe your boss is horrible, we propose some questions you should answer before you do anything drastic like quitting -- or worse.

Are you performing up to expectations?

If not, why would you expect to have a great relationship with someone who must explain your shortcomings to his or her superiors? If you're falling short, you and your boss need to talk about why that's the case, what you can do about it, and what really should be expected of you. If you haven't done that, you should take responsibility and initiate that discussion.

What emotional baggage are you bringing into the relationship? More

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