Bad Boss

What To Do When You Have A Bad Boss


I generally believe most people mean well, but simply execute their job poorly sometimes.

Sometimes, there are BAD bosses.

Do you know what to do when you have a bad boss? This post is intended to address the most common issues with a bad boss and the steps you can take to reduce the impact on you both personally and professionally.

The problems we face when we have a bad boss are almost too numerous to mention, but the two biggest of these issues are:

  1. They can negatively impact our work performance.
  2. They can make life miserable

These two issues alone make it worth trying to figure out how to work more effectively with our boss, even when they are bad.

There is a catch-all term we use regarding bosses and co-workers called “being difficult.” It’s not too specific to exactly know what the issue is. Sometimes, when we are in the midst of a constant barrage from the bad boss, it’s hard to know exactly where the difficulty may lie. All we know is it is difficult to work successfully with this person.

Here are some suggestions that might help reduce the level of difficulty:

1. Look To Your Own Performance First

You might think they are being difficult, because they are demanding a different level of output from you. Make sure you are clear on what they expect from you.

2. Realize You May Have Opposing Styles

You might be expecting something from your boss that they simply can’t do. You might think they are unfriendly simply because they fail to say “Good Morning.”  To them, that might simply be a waste of time. Examine your own expectations of what you think they should be doing. They may not be very outgoing or simply operate differently than what you’re used to. Reset your expectations.

3. Learn The Boss

Spend some time really observing this person to see what they do that is impacting you. In the process, you might learn that they are getting leaned on by their boss and it’s creating extra stress. You could discover they aren’t a morning person, meaning you should delay important interactions until after lunch. Figure out their rhythms and modify your own.

4. Don’t Shrink

All too often, when we don’t like someone, we go out of your way to avoid them. While I think this tactic can work to keep you under the radar, wait to do that until you clearly have exhausted all your options. You may also find that more, not less, communication can help you with this type of person. Shrinking away into a dark corner won’t help you.

5. Become Indispensable

If you’ve attempted to learn more about the boss, take it to the next level and up your level of problem solving and support. This will help them shine to their own boss and will reduce reasons for finding fault with you. You can become the “go-to” person that they respect and depend on.

6. Let It Roll Off Of You

We will spend a lifetime of running into people that are demanding, critical, and downright volatile. You need to learn the skill of blowing most of it off. Certainly, there will be some of it that will still bother you, but most of the time you can simply not let it penetrate. I’m not suggesting ignoring the boss’s needs or demands; I’m saying to not let their method of delivery be what grabs your attention or reaction.

I have found that even the most difficult of bosses can be tamed or at least subdued. I once worked for a guy who had even the most senior, sage people in tears. When I started working directly for him, I noticed he was quick to engage in verbal battle. If you stood up for yourself, he backed down. I soon figured out that he tested people. If they backed down, he was relentless.

When I told him my observation, he laughed and told me I was the only person who had figured it out. He felt that if you were right about something, you would defend it and if you didn’t defend it, he couldn’t respect you. It was that simple. It was who he was – good or bad, but we always worked well together – and that’s the most important part. You can turn a bad situation around, but it does take work.

Looking to get happy in the job you’re in? Take this quiz to find out.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran, founder of New Chapter New Life, is a career coach, speaker and author. Download her e-workbook called, Should I Stay or Should I Go?


  1. The big question is what to do when you have triedto do all you can and tried to assess self the best and have seeked assistance from all trusted sources but the other party even in utmost power won’t back down and isn’t getting his or her act together? Is there a powerful external source to intervene effectively? The law of karma needs to be upheld and people at all levels need to be treated with respect and dignity.

  2. I recently had a boss who would tell me one thing, such as I would be involved in certain projects and meetings, but then the next day told me there was no reason to go to the meetings and that he was doing the projects. His boss pulled me into his office to assign a creative project which I completed immediately after the meeting. But he came and told me not to bother because she was wacko and was going to ask the same of other people. On Monday morning he said, see I told you, she did it over the weekend. Interestingly, what she had done was the same I had done but he didnt submit to her. I thought things were going to be ok because his boss had just included me on all the team meetings and events – but he became furious when he found out and let me go. His boss didnt even know – actually nobody knew, and he told me up until that time I was doing fine. Not wanting to cry in my soup, I would love to hear some thoughts as to what that was really all about, and what I might have been able to do.

  3. If you like the company, both the organization and the people you work with, and the work you do, I think the best advise is to use you emotional intelligence. As Dorothy said, do not let it bother you, be the best on the job (focused and thorough), and learn how to manage your boss better. One thing is for sure, that boss is not going to be there forever, unless you want that to be the case in your life.

  4. Having a bad boss might really be a pain in life but it might be a good idea if you really first evaluate your own performance and your expectation to your boss. I know most of us has different experience and situations, but proving to them that you’re good enough and you can’t back down might be a good way to tamed your bad boss. You can either perform a review at your boss to improve your working relationship if given a chance, but for those who has been really treated badly, this site may be a good one to review them anonymously:

  5. Andrew Christensen

    Great article Dorothy,

    I am sure that most of us have experienced this type of boss at sometime during our career and how we react to that person(s) will always be a challenge so it is interesting that sometimes by amending our own behaviour we find a agreeable solution.

  6. Just dealt with a pair of bad bosses. Like your article, it trickled down from the company owner to the manager and I felt I was getting hit from both sides. I gave my notice and then they wanted to know why I was leaving and I was a valuable employee. Having nothing to loose and to speak up also for my co-workers, I explained. Apologies were made and I am happy to report that I am staying.

  7. I once experienced this kind of treament during the previous regime. I wish not to experience it again, thank you for raising this important item, Dorothy I hope people would learn from it so as to just their emotions at workplace.

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