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How to Deal With a Bad Boss Bully

Updated on March 28, 2020
Purposeful Ideas profile image

Sandra recognizes it can suck to be an adult. She researches endlessly to find problem solving tactics to the most troubling of situations.

Yup! A good fart makes the ugly stay away.
Yup! A good fart makes the ugly stay away. | Source

How it Started

“Negative jerk, arrogant A-hole, browbeater, intimidator, stealer of joy, psychopath, bully, and the micromanager from hell.” Do any of these phrases sound like your boss?

Wonderful bosses do exist. Ones who exert a positive influence, commend efforts and make a person feel valued. At one time or another, we’ve all had the horror of a bad boss. The question is . . . how do we handle them?

You are not alone. Continue reading.

Fun Fact: Per Forbes magazine, three out of four employees reported their boss was the most stressful aspect of their jobs, and 65 percent would rather have a nicer boss than getting a raise. A Gallop study showed that 50 percent of all workers quit because of ugly chief. How discouraging.

What makes a boss “bad?”

1. Name calling aside, someone viewed to be a bad supervisor usually doesn’t have the skills or experience to lead. Chances are they climbed the career ladder too rapidly, missing important rungs to be knowledgeable in leadership.

2. Ineffective communication abilities tend to be a part of the equation. Worker errors are not generally forgotten, and there’s frequently a lack of courage to work through difficult events.

3. Lack of integrity and dishonesty are traits seen in someone tagged as being bad. Personal obstacles such as a divorce or death can result in anger and direct the leader to lash out against others.

4. Perhaps certain managers are stuck in their position with no way out or are suffering from having their own poor taskmaster.

5. It’s possible they don’t understand that being a manager doesn’t require being “Hitler.” It’s not uncommon to have had a respected co-worker get promoted, only then grow to despise them.

Fun fact: Per Psychology Today, a psychopath is someone who is unable to show empathy, tends to ignore morals, and desires to seek the spotlight . . . even if it means crushing others. Psychopaths don’t usually go on to afflict harm to others, especially if raised in a loving household, but they do often carry a more arrogant persona. An MRI of their brains reflects less activity in the frontal lobe down into the temporal lobes, where emotions and cognition are regulated. By no fault of their own they have a mental defect. By no fault of your own, you may be accurate if you refer to your boss as a psychopath.

Who knew!?
Who knew!? | Source

How to Deal with a Bad Boss Bully

  1. First, make sure you are legitimately dealing with a bad boss. Take a look at yourself with brutal honesty and ask what you might be doing to contribute to conflict. Are you oversensitive? Do you anger easily? Not understanding what is expected on a job assignment? Observe your boss and try to notice what actions he/she takes that are good versus bad. Ask if you are being too harsh on this individual. We all have our moments of over-judging. You want to be sure your insights are clear, not filled with emotion, and are accurate.
  2. Is there anything positive you can learn from this person? Maybe your boss is the least tactful person you’ve ever had the displeasure of knowing, but there may also be “golden nuggets” worth noting. Perhaps they have a writing style that is stellar, despite being so verbally flippant. This is also a good practice in trying to stay positive and seek the other side of the rainbow.
  3. Try not to let it affect your work. Stay steady and on task and remind yourself you are still completing solid, productive work. It’s easy to become forgetful of details and become slower in performance when experiencing anxiety. Fight it. You need to go home at the end of the day remaining aware of your skills, regardless of obstacles.
  4. Set boundaries. This can be difficult, as many don’t understand what boundaries are. Boundaries are established rules of respectful behavior. Someone who curses on a regular basis will usually find others moving away from them. By withholding interaction, this will create an uncomfortable situation for that person. They have the choice to either work alone or change their habit. With a boss, this may be more difficult but not impossible.
  5. Speak in “I” phrases. “I view this strategy impacts my productivity. I would like to try plan B.” “You” phrases often makes a person perceive being attacked, which should be avoided with an individual who already behaves in that fashion. You want to always be clear and not intimidating. It is possible they may see your vision and just once park their broom in a new closet.
  6. When all else fails, set up a meeting with Human Resources . . . but caution here. HR’s job is to protect the employer, not the employee. Yes, you read that correctly. When you do talk to HR bring with bring a plan of action to implement. Don’t take the blame for ANYTHING. Simply state what behaviors are being dealt with, how change is needed, and how this may be possible. No one likes a whiner. Present yourself as a professional you will at least alert a higher authority to a problem taking place.
  7. Prior to the meeting with HR read through the employee handbook including your job description. There is often a section regarding harassment laws and code of conduct. This will heighten the ability to speak more carefully about your rights as an employee. Bring performance evaluations to demonstrate contributions to the company. Additionally, put into writing or e-mail the request to HR of the need for a meeting. Simply state a need for advice on a variety of concerns. Request a summary response from HR in writing or email status post meeting. This will create a paper trail. In the event a job lost occurs or the need to appear in court, documented evidence of attempts to rectify the situation and who else knew will be painfully clear.
  8. Don’t assume your boss -- or anyone else, for that matter -- knows everything. We are all human and no one can know everything. Recognizing deficits will help you realize they are still human. Act as a leader and help others learn new information that you became aware of and, in turn, be the change you want to see in the world. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because the boss is a doofus doesn’t mean you have to be one. Treat others like you want to be treated and try to set a new tone. You might be surprised at who notices and the effect that can trickle around the office.
  9. Be cautious as to who you talk to. To save one’s job, one may turn against another. If you truly have a trusted colleague and they, too, are being affected by the boss, talk to them about also going to HR, perhaps as a team. The more people who speak up, the better change can occur.
  10. Talk to an employment lawyer. Learn about your rights and what you may need to do to prevent any career damage. Do understand it is not illegal to be a jerk. It is illegal to harass regarding race, religion, gender, age, disability or inflict sexual harassment.
  11. Regardless of the situation, we all have the instincts to know when change cannot be implemented. Looking elsewhere may be the only option. Finding a job after an unsettling circumstance is tough. Know that an employer can say anything they want, but they do open themselves up to a potential lawsuit for defamation. They must be able to back up their claims and you must be able to prove otherwise. Try to leave with a confidante contact that can act as your reference. Most employers have policies limiting who and what can be said. Take with you all performance evaluations, notices of kudos, raise information, etc… that can be used to show you were a strong employee. Always stay honest, however, if you had to leave on bad terms, i.e. termination. If in an interview for a new position, talk about what was learned, as well as, any new skills pursued placing a positive spin on occurrences. As a matter of fact, do pursue new skills which will reflect your growth as a professional.

Fun Fact: A 2016 Time Magazine gave us a user and abuse list of the top 10 worst bosses which included George Pullman, Marge Schott, Jeff Skilling, Isaac Harris, Naomi Campbell, and Leona Helmsley. Take a look here for the full list and what made them so famous for being so unique.

I got this!
I got this! | Source


It is not uncommon to fight depression and anger after leaving a toxic job position. Now it is necessary to start a process of recovery.

1. Try to leave on a positive note. Don’t leave with threats. Keep smiling. Don’t become what you are leaving BEHIND you. Don’t gossip. Show good leadership. This also gives you a chance to leave with your good graces and integrity intact. Make a list of anything that was positive in the experience, no matter how minuscule it may have been.

2. Design a plan. Knowing what you don’t like, how would you dream the next job - - correction, career opportunity? What are you interested in and what steps do you need to get there? Include what kind of work schedule you’d like to try, size of the organization, for-profit or non-profit, the mission of the company. Think outside the box and go broad with ideas. Be sure to write everything down.

3. Forge a personal plan. Our jobs are only a part of who we are. There is much more and that is often lost when having experienced a degrading situation. Are there any activities, rock climbing, for example, you’ve always wanted to try? Now would be a good time. As a matter of fact, trying something completely off-the-wall may be just what you need to get your mojo back. It can be quite enlightening and confidence boosting to work with something you thought you could never do.

4. Collect mentors. These mentors should be those appropriate to your career and for personal interests. Mentors can have ideas you’ve never thought of as well as being the needed “cheerleader.” Join organizations associated with your profession to find current trends as well as mentors. College alumni career service centers often have groups that talk about job-seeking tactics and experienced professionals to hook up with. Facebook also has professional organizations to participate in. Use these resources for network development. Networking often leads to that next awesome opportunity, as well as collecting much needed support and advice.

Bully Boss Poll

Has your boss been a bully?

See results



Forbes: How a Bad Boss Can Make You Sick

The Balance: What Makes a Bad Boss Bad?

Psychology Today: What is a Psychopath?

The Muse: Ten Brilliant Tips for Dealing with a Difficult Boss

Lighthouse: Five Reasons Good People Become Bad Bosses

Wiki How: How to Defend Yourself Against a Bad Boss

Careen Merrick: A Six Step Plan to Recover from a Toxic Boss


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    Post Comment
    • Purposeful Ideas profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandra Carlson 

      2 days ago from Southern California

      Hello Farrah!

      Thank you for your comment. I was beginning to believe I was the only one to experience this situation until I did my research. And hearing your words I now don't feel as though I'm nuts. God bless!!

    • Isivwe Muobo profile image

      Farrah Young 

      3 days ago from Nigeria

      I have had a few bad bosses and I can relate in saying they can make you hate your existence or the very thought of going to work.

      You raised a few good points on dealing with the situation as and in one of the cases I have had to leave the job to keep my sanity.


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