How to Deal with a Bad Boss


How to deal with a bad boss

If you are working for a bad boss, you have my understanding and empathy.  I have had a couple of bad bosses.  One had no interest in his job and was a roadblock to my career.  The other one was verbally abusive.  In the first case, I left the company for a better opportunity.  In the second case, I adjusted to my supervisor’s difficult behavior.  He promoted me before he went to another job.

Working for long periods of under the stress of a bad boss damages your health and your life.  You can survive the experience of working for a bad boss, but you do need to assess at what price.  According to Swedish researcher Anna Nyberg, a study of 20,000 workers has shown that long periods of bad managerial leadership triggers several negative conditions.

  • Impaired mental ability
  • Fatigue
  • Sickness absenteeism
  • Employee turnover
  • Marital problems
  • Real or mental job insecurity
  • Decreased job performance
  • Physical problems including heart attacks for years after leaving the bad situation
  • Depression and anxiety

There are things you can do to reduce the stress and to work more effectively with a bad boss.

Keep a journal.  Writing about your experience helps you in several ways.  You clarify your thoughts and find solutions.   You process the emotions and reduce the sting of dealing with your boss.  You create a record of the things that your boss says in the event that you need to present your case to human resources or upper management.  You create a record of your accomplishment in response to the things that your boss has said to you.  When the time comes for your performance review, you can use your notes to make your case for a promotion or a pay raise.

Discuss your situation with your mentor or other people you can trust to keep the information private.  Through these discussions, you can find comfort and solutions to handle the situation and reduce the stress of working for your boss.

Me My Boss

Do not retaliate.  If your boss criticizes you, criticizing your boss in turn will create greater tension.  If your boss yells at you, yelling back will only heighten the confrontation.  Reply to your boss in a normal tone.  Listen to the criticism and say that you will make the changes your boss is telling you to make.

Develop skills to work with your boss.  Learn the way that your boss wants things done.  Steve Jobs was a very difficult boss.  Everything people presented to him was either worthless or it was perfect.  Design genius Jony Ive would bring Steve Jobs 10 or 20 models of each new product to enable Jobs to create his own idea of how the finished product should look and work.  For many people, Steve Jobs was a bad boss.  For people who thought the way Jobs thought, he was the best boss on earth.

Seek support within your company.  Going over your boss’s head is not always a good idea.  At some companies, bosses will fire you for going to their supervisor or other people in the company.  The ill will alone can cost you support for pay raises and promotions.  However, building relationships and learning how other people are working with your boss can help you.  Chances are that you are not alone.  Some of the other people in your company, perhaps people above your boss or at the same level as your boss, may have found ways to work more successfully with your boss.  You can learn from these people.

Find opportunities to give your boss credit and support.  The reason that a supervisor benefits from an employee doing a great job is that the results benefit the boss.  Whenever your boss deserves credit, push the credit and support that direction.

When bosses do things that hurt them or hurt the company, you need to let them know.  Say that you feel that you owe it to them to let them know of an issue that can hurt them.

Remember some things about the temporary nature of working relationships.  Bosses come and go.  Do not ruin a career over a passing situation.  Try to see the bright side of things.  Your boss cannot eat you.  He or she may even promote you or give you a pay raise.  Eventually, your boss may just go away.

Explore your options.  If there appears no end to the madness of dealing with a bad boss, look for opportunities to transfer within your own company or ways to get another job.

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