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How to Cope with a Boss You Can't Stand

Updated on July 20, 2013
America's cubicle wasteland can become unbearable if you have a terrible boss.
America's cubicle wasteland can become unbearable if you have a terrible boss. | Source

Dealing with a Terrible Boss

Some of us work because we love it, and most of us work to pay the bills. Your job can be a passion, occasionally enjoyable, or merely tolerable. When you have a bad management situation, however, your job can become a living hell.

This may come about as the result of a change in management, a misunderstanding with your boss, or your boss's true colors showing at the end of a rough period at work--regardless, suddenly you're dreading every day and cringing every time your office phone rings or a shadow falls across your cube.

Read on for tips on coping with a boss you can't stand.

A Bad Boss from "Office Space"

Tip #1: Keep Your Head Down

If you're dealing with a bad boss, ask yourself if it's been like this from the beginning and it's just now starting to affect you, or if it's a recent development. If it's a recent development, perhaps your boss is feeling pressure from upper management or is having a personal problem and is unprofessionally passing that stress on to you (it happens). If it's been like this from the beginning, think hard about why it's just starting to rub you the wrong way--are you have more stress at work than usual or personal stress?

Understanding the source might make it more bearable. Either way, just keep doing the highest quality of work that you can and keep your head down so that you're not a target. Turn things in on time, ask what you can do to help with any extra workload, and don't sneak in those extra-long lunches.

Eventually, the situation might blow over and you can go back to enjoying your job. In other cases, though, the situation doesn't seem like it's going to change--then what do you do?

Have you ever had a boss who you couldn't stand?

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Tip #2: Approach Your Boss, If Possible

If your boss is making your life miserable, you may just have different communication styles or different expectations of how people should be treated. Most corporate-type jobs have "one-on-ones" or semi-regular meetings between management and lower-level employees, so when your boss asks if there's anything you'd like to discuss regarding the workplace, try to approach the situation neutrally and develop a management style that's more beneficial for you.

For instance, if you start a discussion about your manager's general management philosophy, you can turn the conversation to how you work best as an employee--do you need more direction? Do you enjoy autonomy? Can you handle a faster pace? Are you so overwhelmed you can barely check your email?

In a perfect world, your boss realizes that happy employees are productive employees, and you have to tailor your management style to each different person. If you can make your boss understand how you work best, you may develop a better relationship with him or her.

If your boss has been unhappy about a certain situation involving you, or certain work product of yours, ask what you can do better--"I feel that you've become a bit frustrated with me over X situation. Can you give me any guidance on how to improve your performance?" Even if you feel like your performance was fine and it hurts your pride to ask, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and take the high road--it may result in a better work environment for you.

The Worst Bosses in Film..."Horrible Bosses"

Tip #3: Go to Human Resources

This tip is a last resort, and should only be used if your boss is verbally abusing you (belittling you, swearing at you) or harassing you in some way and creating a hostile work environment. There's a huge difference between a personality clash with your manager and having a manager who is out to humiliate you or drive you from the workplace.

If you're experiencing that situation and don't want to try to find a new job, take your concerns to HR. Your complaint will be confidential, and while you may be interviewed about the issue by upper management, most companies take such complaints very serious. Retaliation is against the law, so while it's something you may fear and take into consideration, there's no reason that you should suffer under an abusive boss.

Final Tips on Handling a Boss You Can't Stand

Of course, in many situations the reason you don't like a boss may just come down to a personality clash--perhaps you are an introvert, and she's an extrovert. Perhaps you value your family most highly and live for that time, and he doesn't have children and doesn't think anyone should leave the office before he does.

Those situations are just an unfortunate by-product of working, and your option then is to just deal or to start looking for a new position. However, in more extreme situations, you can keep your head down, try to approach your boss neutrally and respectfully, or take it to HR if there's verbal or sexual harassment.


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