As many people in industry today well know, the comic strip Dilbert skewers corporate life brilliantly. His self-impressed boss doesn't have a clue, often demanding ridiculous projects and killing sensible ones. I'm sure nothing like that ever happens at your company, but many people in the corporate world think it hits darn close to home.

Such managers are comical indeed--until such a person stands in the way of one of your major projects. That's when you begin to see your life as a sort of sitcom. Surprisingly, 'lost-in-the-fog' managers are a relatively new phenomenon. Sure, there have always been incompetent managers, just as there have been inept plumbers, doctors, drivers, and the list goes on. But a dramatic development began about a decade or so ago.

Until then, a manager with many years experience tended to know just about everything in his/her particular field. The pace of change was manageable. You could even stay on top of fields where change was on-going, such as accounting, law medicine, and . . . safety and environment. Today, with rapid changes in regulations and governmental requirements, the Internet, and proliferating computer technology, it requires much more work to keep abreast. And many managers can't keep up.

Maybe you have a boss who doesn't know what's going on. Or there are other difficulties, perhaps personality clashes. What do you do?

Have faith in yourself

Difficult bosses rarely give feedback. When they do, it's negative bordering on castigating. You walk away feeling incompetent. In this case you've got no choice, you've got to believe in yourself.

No one feels 100 percent secure 100 percent of the time. Many of us at one time or another in our careers felt like imposters who sooner or later will be unmasked as not knowing what we're doing. Remember how you felt the first day on your first job? Dilbert-like bosses make us feel this way most of the time. They're egomaniacal, domineering, derisive toward subordinates, and loners who do it all themselves. Beneath the suface, though, many of them are insecure. So they put others down, and always assert control. They want to know all the details, micro-manage your every decision, then complain about why you aren't done yet.

If you're laboring under this kind of boss, I suggest getting another opinion of your work. I was once berated for my writing style and ability. After repeatedly getting beat about the head and neck on this, I sent a draft to three disinterested parties (a colleague, an editor, and an English teacher) and asked for honest evaluations. All three offered encouragement, and they put all those negative comments from my boss in perspective.

Assess your own strengths and weaknesses along with soliciting input from others. Once you complete this audit, don't file it away. Build on your strengths and take definitive steps to improve your weaknesses. Then, review your baseline evaluation every six months for progress. Believe it or not, this will build your faith in yourself.

Have hope in the future

Nothing lasts forever, good or bad. One day your boss will change. Until then, persevere, hunker down, and just get through it. During this time you've got to have hope. Watch your attitude and your thoughts--how you think about the future affects you today. Believe that the future can improve and you'll take steps to bring it about. If you believe that nothing improves, you'll do nothing to change it.

For example, I was in a planning meeting once where one person kept illustrating how everything we suggested would fail. This person had no confidence. I'd prefer to take Thomas Edison's approach. After he had failed for the 990th time to discover a filament to work in the light bulb, a colleague commented, "We will never find a filament that works." Edison retorted, "We have successfully discovered, with confidence, 990 filaments that do not work. Soon we will know which filament will work."

Trust in others

Bosses straight out of Dilbert never develop a fundamental trust in anyone. As a result, they go it alone, complaining all the while that no one else pulls their own weight. They look for evidence to confirm this belief, and it isn't too hard to find. Do you ever catch yourself saying that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself?

But in today's rapidly changing business world the Lone Ranger style doesn't work. Today, most companies see people as their greatest asset and resource. Relationships and teamwork are important in workplaces. To improve your own trust quotient, select a task to delegate, choose someone to handle it, give them all the information they need to do a good job, and then mentor them. You'll be surprised what people can do if you give the freedom to be creative. Plus, you will have created supporting relationships to help you deal with that difficult boss.

Faith, hope, and trust are three strategies for coping with a bad boss. They are also at the heart of good personal and business relationships. Put them to work for you and soon you'll reap the rewards.